A True Ghost Story from August 2000

My Brush with Something Supernatural

A True Story

Documented on 9 August 2000 on Yucca Street in Hollywood CA 90028

By Daniel S. Duvall

Something just passed through my apartment, I’m pretty sure.

This literally just happened minutes ago.

Like all of my encounters with anomalous phenomena, this event was unexpected, unpredictable, and unnerving.

It’s about 5 AM. (I’ve been keeping nocturnal hours lately.) I’d just finished brushing my teeth when I noticed Alley Cat peering intently into the kitchen, tense, poised, on alert. He sometimes gets that way if he spots a bug, so I assumed there was a spider or something nearby. I turned on the kitchen light and followed his gaze — nothing. An empty floor, spot-free walls. I checked again to see where he was looking. He crept toward the kitchen and just stared into the open air of the doorway.

That’s when I noticed I was getting cold. There’s a reason that old cliche exists in so many ghost stories, I think. In the space of 5 seconds, I developed goosebumps, and my shirtless torso was suddenly chilled to the bone. Granted, the early morning hours get cooler here in L.A., but this felt like I was standing outdoors in an Ohio December.

And the rational part of my brain shut off, and I thought, “Oh, something’s here.”

Alley Cat continued to gaze at the empty doorway — and then he stretched his head and neck forward the way he does when someone scratches him between his ears.

My heart’s still pounding at triple its normal rate.

I retreated to my desk chair about 4 yards from the kitchen and watched as Alley Cat interacted with empty air for about twenty seconds. I remained chilled — and suddenly I was warm again, and Alley Cat blinked, sat down, and turned to look at me. I got down on the floor, and he sauntered over and rubbed against me and asked “Meow?” I scratched his head and rubbed his neck and said, “I don’t know what it was.” I noticed his neck & back muscles were still exceptionally tense. He stretched out beside me, looked back at the kitchen door, apparently no longer saw whatever had been there, and licked my nose. Back to normal.

Shortly after I moved into this apartment, I had 2 experiences with a clock radio that made me wonder about the location: one night the radio switched itself off while I was in the room–

Ah, shit. He’s getting squirrelly and checking out the kitchen doorway again– and here come the goosebumps holy God there was just a thump against the door frame.

Chill lasted about 30 seconds that time. AC crept to the doorway, stared at empty air again, then whirled around as if following something move toward the hallway. Chill then went away.

I’m seriously spooked. Will finish report momentarily. Going to visit with AC on floor.

Okay, AC feels safe enough to dig and pee in his litter box, and the chill’s been gone a few minutes. However, I did see something out of the corner of my eye just after the chill went away: a blur of white flitting from the hallway to the bedroom.

Anyhow, the radio. One night it switched itself off, and we’re talkin’ about the kind of switch that takes effort to slide from the left to the right. It clicks and locks into place at each position (on/alarm/off).

Several nights later, the radio was again sitting on the floor to my left as I worked on the computer (this was before I had furniture, so everything was on the floor). I got up and went to the bathroom, but I could still hear the radio – which suddenly got all muffled. When I came back into the room, I found it facedown in the carpet – and it hadn’t been balanced precariously or anything before.

Those events were over a year ago, and nothing odd has happened here since, until this morning.

I’ve been thinking about holding a séance here. Seems like the time is right.

Advertisements
Standard

Culture Shock: Life in Los Angeles

Culture Shock: Life In Los Angeles

March 1999 – June 2000

journal entries written by Daniel S. Duvall

© 2019 Daniel S. Duvall – all rights reserved

PREFACE – July 2017

In May of 2005, I returned from Los Angeles to my native Northeast Ohio. I’ve been prolific in recent years and have had five short stories published in anthologies from various outlets including Robbed of Sleep and Nosetouch Press. I’ve also continued to craft speculative feature film screenplays.

I spent May of 2017 writing a 101-page dramedy with supernatural aspects. I’d begun brainstorming this script’s characters and the tale’s broad structure (in traditional Syd-Field-style three-act form) on April 23, then commenced work on the actual scenes on May 4. I had a polished draft done on June 3.

Only one of my screenplays took me less time to write; I jammed out a first draft of that other project in two weeks and am keenly aware that it needs much revision and elbow grease before I’ll feel comfortable presenting it to any film industry allies (other than the two who have already read it). At the other extreme, I once took three years to write one script, and it’s quite a foul stinker, though I like its experimental structure.

The new dramedy, on the other hand, seems solid in its current form, and for that I credit Alley Cat Duvall, who passed away on April 6 at the age of seventeen years and five months. His death fueled the grief and anguish that infuses the screenplay. There’s much to be said for pouring emotion into one’s art.

I adopted Alley Cat on the 1st of May in the year 2000. He was (until I carried him inside) a scrawny, flea-covered stray who scrounged for food behind the apartment building where I rented a one-bedroom unit at the corner of Yucca & Argyle in Hollywood. The “alley” he lived in was technically a driveway, but “Driveway Cat” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Alley Cat swiftly adapted to the comforts of life indoors, and within two weeks he began sleeping atop my comforter whenever I dozed. A handsome sandy-brown fellow, this feline had a distinct and pleasant personality and a gentle disposition.

Approximately one year after I took AC off the streets, I adopted a six-week-old Turkish Van cat who I named Thalia. She stayed quarantined in the kitchen until she got a clean bill of health from a veterinarian, and then I introduced her to the apartment’s other kitty.

Within two weeks, Alley Cat and Thalia had bonded and often shared the couch, which meant I had to sleep on the floor (I had no bed in all of the years I lived in that rental unit). The three of us lived in comfortable symbiosis, and both cats traveled via airplane with me in late May of 2005 when I relocated back to my native Northeast Ohio.

Alley Cat’s death was a profound seismic shock to my psyche. When it became apparent that he wasn’t long for this world, I stayed awake all night talking with him as he rested comfortably on the floor in front of my chair. He’d lost his mobility by then, though he did at one point move all four of his limbs as if imagining that he was walking. He left his flesh early in the afternoon on Thursday, April 6, but he’d stopped perceiving anything on this side of the veil a couple of hours before he stopped breathing.

I infused my latest dramedy screenplay with the raw pain I felt in the wake of my old friend’s passing. It’s my most emotionally honest work ever.

Thalia passed away on June 18 (Father’s Day), and I’m still reeling. I’m not ready to process her death by pouring my soul into another work of fiction quite yet. But I will do so.

The absence of both cats has evoked a flood of memories from my years in Hollywood. What better time to dredge up my old journal entries about that era?

Please enjoy these vintage glimpses of my mind from the spring of 1999 through June of 2000. I’ll see you again at the end of this document for an afterword.

March 1999

Should Aspiring Screenwriters Live in Los Angeles?

“Should I move to Los Angeles?”

This question haunts many screenwriters who live far from The Industry. Why abandon a comfortable routine only to venture into the smog-enshrouded, crime-riddled earthquake magnet that Hunter S. Thompson wisely labeled “the Freak Kingdom”?

I uprooted from Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Los Angeles seven months ago. L.A. is in many areas not a pretty city. Gaunt, vacant-eyed figures shuffle from one street corner to the next like Romero zombies, mumbling and scratching absently. Smog chokes the joggers. Busloads of aspiring actors arrive every ten minutes, loaded down with suitcases of head shots and demo tapes. Many of them, within the year, will end up shuffling from one corner to the next, scratching and mumbling and bumping into the busloads of aspiring screenwriters, who outnumber them and lug suitcases full of spec scripts.

But aesthetics aside, there are practical reasons for screenwriters to live here. Los Angeles offers screenwriters access to two important flavors of muse chow: screenplays and movies.

An aspiring screenwriter who never reads scripts is like an aspiring composer who shuns sheet music. Thanks to interlibrary loans and the growing film reference sections of many bookstores, it is possible to obtain some screenplays outside of Los Angeles. Online and published scripts are often out of proper format, however, thereby limiting their value as learning tools, and the title selection is limited. In Cleveland, I once waited six weeks to obtain a copy of the Poltergeist screenplay via interlibrary loan. My first week in Los Angeles, I found and read three different drafts of it. I’m now swimming in copies of scripts for films to be released later this year: outside of Southern California, such current scripts are either totally inaccessible or wildly overpriced by underground mail order sources.

Okay,” you say, “I’ll brave the airborne carcinogens and mumbling street denizens for easy access to scripts. Where in Los Angeles do I get them?”

The Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library is a great place to start: its collection of over 60,000 screenplays is available to the public, though all materials are non-circulating. For scripts that you can sign out, try the Los Angeles Public Library. Or plug yourself into The Industry at any level, and you’ll soon encounter the bustling network of script collectors who trade screenplays like baseball cards. You can also purchase scripts from retailers. Enroll in any of this town’s premiere film schools, and you’ll gain access to additional fine script collections. The UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, for example, gives its students free access to hundreds of current and seminal scripts. For a small quarterly library fee, students can also access UCLA’s library system, including the Charles E. Young Research Library, wherein the Department of Special Collections offers access to thousands of scripts, including rare drafts of many titles.

Just as aspiring composers must listen to music, so must aspiring screenwriters absorb movies in theaters as often as their schedules and budgets allow. Watching videos at home is of course necessary for extensive study of specific scenes and sequences: in a theater, you can’t yell at the projection booth, “Hey, run that sequence a couple of times and then bring up the lights while I scribble some notes.” But don’t totally forsake seeing films in theaters in favor of home videos. Aside from the tremendous increase in picture and sound quality, theaters offer the chance to feel the vibe of audience reaction, to develop a reflexive sense of what will and won’t work in a cinematic story.

Los Angeles has some of the finest movie theaters in the world. I was accustomed to the tiny mulitplex screens of Cleveland malls: I had no idea what a real movie theater is until I wandered into the Cinerama Dome and Chinese Theatre. The Westwood neighborhood is packed with excellent theaters within walking distance of each other; my first couple of weeks in town, I explored on foot and discovered new theaters every day, all showing different movies. Some have cool late-night screenings of older films. I’ve recently enjoyed theatrical screenings of The Godfather, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Taxi Driver, The Spanish Prisoner, The Omen, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tootsie, Easy Rider, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man, these last two hosted in person by Gloria Stuart and James Curtis.

So should you move to Los Angeles? Only you can answer that question. Meanwhile, I’ll wade through the smog and seek out as many excellent resources for aspiring screenwriters as I can find in this town, and I’ll report about them.

April 1999

Learn From The Masters

Before I moved here, I thought of Los Angeles as being much like Middle Earth: a mythical, magical world, totally inaccessible to mortals from the Midwest. Living, breathing screenwriters were like Hobbits and Centaurs: fascinating to read about, but certainly nothing one actually runs across in the real world.

Though I have yet to see any Hobbits or Centaurs (except out of the corner of my eye after long stretches of sleep deprivation), I have encountered many professional screenwriters in the eight months I’ve lived here. Believe it or not, writers are flesh-and-blood, generally approachable, and often generous with their time and wisdom. Consider Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and Linda Woolverton (The Lion King), who spoke to an audience of about 150 members of the public in a small Westwood lecture hall last month at a Humanitas seminar.

Imitate the masters. Learn from the masters,” Zaillian advised the crowd. Among the screenplays he considers seminal are The Godfather and Chinatown. He also suggested that screenwriters should enjoy quality novels, citing To Kill A Mockingbird as one of his favorites. His favorite films? “The 400 Blows and The Bicycle Thief.”

Zaillian and Woolverton discussed their differing approaches to screenwriting. “I honestly don’t analyze the themes of my films unless I’m forced to, like tonight,” Zaillian revealed, whereas Woolverton very consciously considers her themes. She said, “I always start with theme. The characters evolve from that, and the plot radiates out from there.” She works in a home office and prefers to write directly on a computer, unlike Zaillian, who writes his first drafts by hand in an office away from home. Woolverton, who performed uncredited rewrites on early drafts of Mulan, said, “I can do a first draft in three or four months… [including] a detailed outline.” These timelines apply to her assignment work; she recently completed a first draft of a spec script in eight weeks. Zaillian’s first drafts take longer: “I’m really lucky to get a first draft out in six months,” he said. “More like nine months, usually.”

Zaillian went on to describe part of his writing process. “Thinking and note-taking… is like doodling. Trying to see the whole thing. Most of the good stuff comes in the first draft. Then I’ll rewrite for a year.” Before he begins a draft, he prepares scene cards: “I’ll lay cards out on the floor… and make sure that the signpost scenes, the important scenes, are there. You can only plan so much, and then you have to do it.” He says that many flawed scripts halt their plots for scenes that only introduce characters: “I consciously make a point of introducing my characters as the story is being told.” Once he’s into a script, “It’s a matter of the writer inhabiting the character and trying to see things from his point-of-view… it’s about imagining the scene that’s taking place as if I was in it.” He tends to write long first drafts that he pares down in rewrites. A notable exception was Schindler’s List: his first draft was about 140 pages, but “Spielberg wanted more.” The shooting script ultimately weighed in around 190 pages.

On Spielberg, Zaillian commented, “He’s very much in touch with himself and his audience. He’s very good at [story]. There are a handful of directors who pride themselves on being good on story. He’s one of them.”

Zaillian stressed the importance of a quality script in the filmmaking process: “If it’s not good on the page, it can only get worse.”

Both screenwriters kept their Development Hell stories to a minimum, though Woolverton did reveal, “I had a difficult time working with Bob Weinstein and Miramax. It was war.” The project in question? Woolverton’s adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle novel A Wrinkle in Time. “The book is really about communism. I had to dig deep down and find something relevant for today,” Woolverton explained. After she crafted “three or four drafts,” Miramax abandoned the project. Francis Ford Coppola then acquired the rights and wanted to make it as an animated film. Miramax has since reacquired the rights, though Woolverton says the project may soon shift to Miramax’s parent company, Disney. On the development process, she added, “I’ve always worked with studios, so I get a lot of notes. You have to dig through those and look for the gems.”

Zaillian says his Hollywood career has been mostly positive: “I haven’t had too many bad experiences.” He cites his worst experience as a showdown over a significant script change that he thought would adversely affect the story: “I was sitting down with a director, and he said, ‘Let’s cut to the chase. If you don’t do [the rewrite], I’ll do it myself.’ I couldn’t believe anyone would be that rude.”

Both writers encouraged aspiring screenwriters to be persistent. Woolverton said, “You can’t let the defeats defeat you. Just press on.” Zaillian agreed: “Every new project is another chance.”

May 1999

Jedi Training with Tom Fontana & John Markus

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s description of the Mos Eisley spaceport in the original Star Wars at times seems applicable to Los Angeles, though the Chamber of Commerce routinely ignores my suggestions to add it to their promotional tourist literature. Jawa-like scavengers raid the dumpsters on Sunset Boulevard. Bounty hunters roam the streets in search of their prey. Edgy patrons in half-lit bars brag about their status as wanted criminals. The economy is largely in the hands of gangsters. Parts of Los Angeles even physically resemble Tatooine: I half-expect to see droids scurrying among the adobe apartments across the street from the east edge of the Paramount lot.

Never were Mos Eisley and Los Angeles more alike than the evening of Tuesday, May 18th, in the final hours before the midnight opening of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, where costumed fans lined Hollywood Boulevard. Hooded Sith Lords skulked around with shining lightsabers. Jedi Knights, Wookies, and the occasional Naboo handmaiden flooded the neighborhood. Stormtroopers (well, okay, just normal Hollywood cops) busted bootleg t-shirt dealers, warning them to clear out or get a sales permit. (I swear I heard one bootlegger respond, “These aren’t the shirts you’re looking for. Move along.”) Gleaming metal airships (media helicopters) circled overhead with blinking lights. The overall gestalt was more surreal than many of the computer-generated landscapes in the film itself.

Like Tatooine, Los Angeles has its share of decent folk among the scum and villainy. Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wise mentor willing to share his experience with others, has many real-life counterparts. Last month, for example, veteran television writers Tom Fontana (St. Elsewhere, Homicide, Oz) and John Markus (The Cosby Show, The Larry Sanders Show, LateLine) spoke to roughly two-hundred wisdom-hungry apprentices at a Humanitas seminar in Westwood. They even paid their own way and flew in from Coruscant (er, I mean, New York City) specifically for their free five-hour seminar.

“My only goal at this point in my career is to constantly be better than I’ve ever been,” said Fontana. Markus also challenges himself to hit new heights: “The success of [The Cosby Show] gave us tremendous freedom from the network… I still aspire to do things that haven’t been seen before.”

Fontana’s commitment to innovative storytelling compelled him to lunge at the chance to develop Homicide with Barry Levinson. He explained, “Levinson called and said, ‘I want to do a cop show with no car chases and no gun battles.’ I said, ‘That’s impossible. I’ll be right out.’”

A solid concept like Homicide requires equally solid characters to flesh it out. Fontana stressed the importance of strong characters in screenwriting. “To me what’s always interesting,” he said, “is when a character says ‘this is what I believe.’ And then what makes a good story… is when those beliefs are put into jeopardy.” He later added, “What’s important is to write a character not in a one-sided way… On Homicide, the story is written [around] character and the theme. We always start with characters and let them lead us through the story.” He and the staff at HBO’s Oz approach the creation of antagonists the same way he did on Homicide: with sympathy. “We never write anybody as a villain. That person always has real human motivations.”

Markus, who recently signed a three-year development deal with Paramount, plans to continue writing comedies, and he revealed his very Zen approach to crafting jokes: “I laugh and then work backwards.” He admires the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, but lamented, “So much crap is made every year.” He believes that television networks place more constraints on writers now than in the 1980s. “It’s linked completely to the advertisers,” he explained, “[There is now] more business-related fear.” Because The Cosby Show quickly gained a reputation as an envelope-pushing show, critics expected them to tackle specific issues. Markus recalled, “During the first season, I was getting a lot of calls from the press asking when we would deal with interracial dating… Bill [Cosby] said, ‘Tell the press we’re leaving all the racial issues to Newhart.’”

Fontana, known for his critically-acclaimed dramas, believes in weaving humor into even the most serious of stories: “It’s important to find the humor in each character you write when you’re doing a drama. Through the humor, you reveal as much about their humanity as through the dramatic situations.”

Both men know with clarity when they’re ready to begin a script. “If I can tell someone the story that I’m about to write, and I can stay interested,” said Markus, “then I know it’s going to work.” Fontana, who writes for an average of five hours per day beginning around 5:30 in the morning, described his scripts’ origins: “Every story that I do comes… when I experience something that just seems at the core of what it is to be human. It’s a thing that only writers really understand.”

As the seminar neared its end, Markus advised the attentive padawan audience, “Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. Always ask yourself of what you’re writing, ‘What is it about?’”

Like many in the crowd that day, I ventured back into the world eager to apply Markus’ and Fontana’s shared wisdom by crafting stronger scripts, humanizing my antagonists, and defending the Republic from evil Sith Lords.

June & July 1999

An Eyewitness Report: Writers and Directors are Real Flesh and Blood People

“I do not think of The Exorcist as a horror film. It’s a film about the mystery of faith,” director William Friedkin commented to an appreciative audience at the Egyptian Theatre the evening of June 5, 1999. Friedkin fielded questions from the crowd after a screening of a new 35-mm print of his 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel.

The opportunity to hear filmmakers speak about their craft is a huge perk of living in Los Angeles. Last fall, after a screening of Vampires at UCLA, the audience engaged in a lengthy question-and-answer session with John Carpenter and the film’s stars, Sheryl Lee & James Woods. Screenwriter Pamela Gray also spoke at UCLA after a screening of Walk on the Moon (not to be confused with this winter’s Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon), and she testified about the importance of persistence and patience in the lives of aspiring scribes. Gray rewrote her script (originally titled The Blouse Man) countless times for myriad producers before it finally got made. She also encouraged writers to be passionately interested in at least one non-writing activity, both to stay in touch with the real world and to stave off depression until a script sells. Gray survived many lean years, but is now working regularly: she scripted Wes Craven’s upcoming drama Music of The Heart (formerly known as 50 Violins), and has enough projects on her agenda to keep her booked up for a couple of years.

Also in June, screenwriter Millard Kaufman (no relation to Andy) spoke after a screening of Bad Day at Black Rock, and director Matthew Bright showed up to chat after the L.A. premiere of the uncut, pre-NC-17 version of his film Freeway.

Glance at the calendar section of almost any edition of LA Weekly, or check the schedule of upcoming events at the Egyptian Theatre, and you’re bound to find numerous opportunities to speak with filmmakers after screenings of their films and learn the answers to burning questions like:

If The Exorcist is not a horror film, what is? “Rosemary’s Baby is a great horror film,” Friedkin said, “Alien is a great horror film. Psycho is an absolutely marvelous horror film. I didn’t care for The Omen.”

Nor does Friedkin care for the first sequel to The Exorcist: he called part II “the worst film I’ve ever seen. It trashed Blatty’s great story and characters.”

Friedkin emphasized the importance of the screenplay in the success of The Exorcist. He described it as “just a great story… brilliantly written by Bill Blatty… it was irresistible to me.” It was, however, resistible to Stanley Kubrick, Mike Nichols, and Arthur Penn, three of the directors who turned down the chance to film Blatty’s tale of demonic possession, according to Friedkin.

Readers of Blatty’s screenplay (based on his own novel) know of several scenes that do not appear in the extant film. The most infamous is known as the “spider-walking scene,” in which the possessed girl scurries down her staircase on all fours, face up with her back bowed. This scene and several others were filmed but not used, until now: Friedkin revealed that the film will be re-released theatrically this Halloween with roughly fifteen minutes of previously unseen material. “Over the years as we’ve aged and mellowed, I’ve decided to do this for Billy [Blatty],” said Friedkin. Blatty objected to the removal of the scenes when the film was originally edited. Friedkin says he cut the material “for reasons of pacing,” but he remembers Blatty defending the scenes as “essential.”

Living in Los Angeles also affords one a chance to chat with screenwriters in private, not just at public events like those described above. At a friend’s backyard picnic, I met a staff writer from Suddenly Susan who offered some off-the-record insights into the daily routine of television scripting. On the record, she stressed tenacity and persistence as a key to breaking through; she kicked around town for years before landing her first professional screenwriting gig. As a freelance journalist, I’ve also been privileged to chat with and interview screenwriters. Most recently, I visited David Koepp (Stir of Echoes, Jurassic Park, and more) in his Santa Monica office. I can’t stress just how remarkably cool it was to see a glass-cased velociraptor model with a signed card from Steven Spielberg outside his inner office door. A dry-erase board held a broad outline for his Spider-Man feature script (based in part on the treatment by James Cameron), which was encouraging to see; some successful, working writers start with the same three-act outlining process that aspiring writers go through with specs. Koepp’s board essentially held a Syd-Field-style diagram with an inciting incident, end of Act One, midpoint, end of Act Two, and resolution. (Don’t worry, Mr. Koepp: I’m totally mute about what I read in the outline. Not even the pleas and bribe offers from my friends have gotten any details out of me, partially because my friends are also aspiring screenwriters and therefore incapable of scraping together anything resembling a serious bribe.)

So has Los Angeles hit me with true culture shock? Most shocking is how generous so many working filmmakers are with their time and wisdom.

August 1999

The Art of The Meeting, or Why Screenwriters Should Live in Hollywood

In a world where fax machines and speaker phones now outnumber Spinal Tap fans, shouldn’t screenwriters be able to live anywhere? E-mail can whisk a script to an agent’s printer, right? Isn’t the quality of a spec script more important than a zip code that begins with 90?

Sure, there are some screenwriters who get their Big Break while living far away from the needle-strewn beaches of southern California. For one such success story, check out Laura Schiff’s interview with New Jersey denizen Bryan Lynch (The Next Muppet Movie) in the Stanley Kubrick issue (July/August 1999) of Creative Screenwriting. Also, Kevin Smith (Dogma) still lives in Jersey, his home when Clerks found its audience. The filmmakers behind The Blair Witch Project are based in Florida. It’s certainly empirically possible to catch the attention of The Industry without relocating to Los Angeles.

However, all the producers, agents, and working writers I’ve encountered agree that aspiring screenwriters increase their odds of success exponentially if they grab an oxygen mask and dive into Smogville. All other things being equal, producers will offer assignments to writers they can meet. Wouldn’t you rather get a sense of someone in person before forking over a sizable check if you were in their calfskin Oxford shoes?

I recently enjoyed my first face-to-face meeting with a producer in a swank Beverly Hills café. This is a guy with a lengthy track record of producing and directing television movies: Variety recently announced his attachment to an upcoming NBC movie-of-the-week. He’s for real, as opposed to the many bottom-feeding Bowfingers who slink around town in search of writers who won’t demand unreasonable amenities like paychecks.

“How,” I’ll insist you ask so that this essay may logically continue, “did you land this meeting?” Well, first I spent dozens of hours crafting some decent sample scripts. Then I spent hundreds of hours refining, honing, and polishing them before I dared to query anyone. A very wise screenwriter named Richard Hoblock (Central Park West and the Mira Sorvino film Tarantella) advised me to “never never never never never” show any scripts until they’re really, truly ready. It’s excellent advice.

So, Step One: WRITE A GOOD SCRIPT so that you’ll be perceived as a serious writer when an opportunity arises to show your work. Worry about how to find or create those opportunities AFTER you have a portfolio.

One of my scripts placed as 1 of 233 quarterfinalists out of 4,446 entries in the 1998 Nicholl Fellowship competition, so I felt reasonably confident about using it as a writing sample. I gradually trickled some query letters into The Industry in search of producers who might want to read it.

Query letters? Who needs them? I ended up bumping into a producer when I went to see Payback at the Chinese Theatre. He was sitting nearby and noticed me reading a script Steve Martin’s Bowfinger) before the film started. We struck up a conversation, and he gave me his card and offered to read one of my scripts.

So, Step Two: MAKE INITIAL CONTACT with producers through any means necessary. Query letters, seminars, schmoozing at parties. It helps if you live in Los Angeles and can bump into them in movie theaters.

I promptly sent a polite e-mail thanking him for the pre-film conversation, and then I popped my spec script in the mail. This is why it’s essential to have a strong portfolio before worrying about networking: this opportunity would have been wasted if I had no writing samples to show him.

A few weeks later, I got an encouraging fax: he liked my script and promised to arrange a meeting to discuss potential writing assignments.

Eventually the call came. Could I meet him at his Beverly Hills office that week? Certainly.

Step Three: BE PATIENT. It was several months from initial contact to scheduled meeting. In the meantime, I kept writing, expanding my portfolio. I also made initial contact with some other producers during this time and sent out sample scripts to two of them.

My meeting went reasonably well, and the producer gave me the current draft of a movie-of-the-week he’s developing. He described how he’d like it to evolve in a rewrite. He asked me to read the script and schedule a follow-up meeting with another producer he works with to discuss potential revisions. That meeting ended with the second producer, who is shepherding this project, offering to read one of my sample scripts to get a sense of whether or not I might be right for this assignment. Which brings us back to Step Three: BE PATIENT. I might be on the verge of getting my first professional screenwriting assignment. Or I might be on the verge of a polite “thanks, but we’re handing this gig to someone else.” While I wait for the verdict, all I can do is keep plugging away at my specs. It’s quite an agreeable way to pass the time.

October 1999

Halloween in Smogtown

Wandering down Sunset Boulevard during Halloween weekend, it’s impossible to distinguish the actual homicidal maniacs from the costumed revelers. The streets of Los Angeles are not so much a melting pot as a diversely-stocked buffet table that has been overturned and sprinkled with mad cow disease. And that’s on a normal night. On Halloween, the weirdness is magnified exponentially. Masks encourage people to cut loose.

The evening of October 30, I enjoyed a Fairport Convention concert at the Roxy Theatre. After, I found the sidewalks of Hollywood clogged with demons and clowns, aliens and reapers. Outside the Chateau Marmont, vampires danced with astronauts and pirates. Ghosts carried leering pumpkins. Mutants shambled. Hobgoblins gawked. Tourists recoiled in fear.

Weaving my way through the costumed masses, I was struck by what a wonderful town Los Angeles is for people-watching. We writers spend so much time isolated in our caves, filling notebooks and typing. We immerse ourselves in our make-believe worlds for days on end. Halloween on Sunset reminded me of how important it is to get out and stay in touch with human nature. How are we to imbue our characters with realistic souls if most of our sensory input consists of our own words on our computer screens?

As I strolled past a gaggle of cheerleaders outside the House of Blues, I reflected on some of the people I’d observed at the Fairport Convention concert. At one table, a weary father played cards with his wife and two teenaged sons before the music began: I wondered how his family had ended up at this show. I imagined the conversation between the parents the previous night: “What shall we do for family night this week?” “Let’s take the kids to see some middle-aged British guys who sing about murder and adultery!”

As the band performed some fast-paced tunes, an Irish dancer in the audience jigged around the floor like a leprechaun who had overdosed on caffeine. Where had she learned to dance so well? Why had she pursued Irish dancing instead of, say, watercolor painting as a creative outlet? Had she practiced these moves to Fairport albums in the privacy of her living room, or was she just swept up in the spirit of rhythms she’d never heard before?

The dancer zipped past a waitress who would probably have enjoyed the concert a lot more if she were not on the clock. She served drinks to two yuppies who were on different wavelengths: one wanted to hear the music, while the other wanted to nap.

Meanwhile, I wandered to the edge of the stage so I could gawk at Dave Pegg’s fingers as they glided across the neck of his bass. Dozens of people are walking past this club, I thought, with no idea that one of the world’s best musicians is working magic on a bass guitar inside. Would they care even if they knew? Would they stop to listen to his melodic bass lines, or would they totally tune out the bass and focus on the lyrics or the violin? Would they tune out all of the music and just gawk at the Irish dancer? Would they just hurry on home to watch sitcom reruns?

I fleetingly wondered what the protagonist in my current script would think of the concert. “Stop writing,” I scolded myself. “You’re here to enjoy the music.” The Muse scampered back down into my subconscious. Doesn’t the Muse ever need a vacation?

Just in that tiny club for those three hours, there was so much raw humanity on display. Ecstatic faces, depressed faces, body language for a thousand occasions. After, as I walked down the Halloween-drenched sidewalk, I reflected on all I’d seen. Some of those raw observations may eventually serve as fodder for future screenplays. Some will just end up as fond memories of a great concert. Others will vanish from my conscious memory altogether, perhaps to re-emerge in a dream a decade from now.

But the important lesson of the night will remain in my thoughts: stay in touch with the human condition. Live. Breathe. Then return to the cave for a stretch of writing before absorbing more of the real world.

November 1999

Cable Network Pitchin’: A Gonzo Report

I recently survived a pitch meeting in the executive suites of a national cable network. Many of the How to Write and Market Script Your Script books stress that a solid writing sample can open many doors. I’m happy to report that this theoretical advice works in practice. I landed this pitch meeting when one of my specs caught the attention of a cable development executive: she called to tell me that my script is too high-budget for the original TV movies her network produces, but she loved the writing. “Why don’t you come in and pitch some other ideas?” I maintained a calm, civilized tone while I performed a hyper-kinetic victory dance on my sofa. “Sure,” I replied. “I’ll work out a few ideas.” She asked me to call and schedule an appointment whenever I was ready.

I promptly hopped on the Internet and dug up as much information as I could find on every original movie her network had ever aired. I wanted a deep sense of acceptable genres and stories. Thanks to the Internet Movie Database and the network’s own site, I quickly assembled a detailed dossier on the network’s original feature programming.

I shelved my current spec script and spent two weeks brainstorming and fleshing out potential pitches. I narrowed down the ideas to three that I really liked, and I developed each as double-spaced two-page summaries. I took another week to hone, reword, refine, and practice until I could verbally present each idea from beginning to end in under five minutes.

After a couple of days of phone tag, I set my appointment. A few days later, I was on the sidewalk gazing up at the cable network’s skyscraper headquarters.

Maybe it was the half-pot of Irish Breakfast Tea I’d gulped down in ninety seconds before I left my apartment. Maybe it was the intoxicating bus fumes. Whatever, I was suddenly terrified. Butterflies? I had mutant bats in my stomach, clawing and biting and buffeting their wings against my innards.

I located a coffee shop and decided to ride the wave of nervousness out to the end. If I accelerate this phase, I thought, it’ll pass sooner. So I guzzled additional caffeine in the form of a 20-ounce café au lait. When the fire is raging, I reasoned, what are a couple more gallons of gasoline?

I mentally ran through my pitches over and over to make sure I hadn’t forgotten them. Nope. My rehearsals had paid off. Fifteen minutes before my scheduled meeting, I ventured into the network headquarters.

The security guards glanced at my recently-washed hair, my yuppie-style briefcase and designer eye glasses. I strode to the elevator bank unaccosted.

Upstairs, I made small talk with the temp who was staffing the executive suite reception area after he notified The Office that The Appointment Has Arrived. He guessed I was a writer. I asked how he could tell. “You kind of look like a writer,” he said. Hmmm.

Then – the door opened. “Dan?” I managed to find my feet, smile, and shake the exec’s hand. I think I vocalized an articulate greeting. It’s all a blur.

Once I was actually seated in the office, the stomach bats went away. I was fine. Enjoyed myself, even. The exec spoke at length about her network’s development process.

Then, the ride began: “Do you have anything you want to pitch today?” I took a deep breath and launched into my heavily-refined but spontaneous-sounding patter. That high school Drama Club training finally paid off.

She summarily shot down my first two pitches. Those were the ones I really liked and had invested the most time in.

She was intrigued by pitch number three. I wonder if, had I told them in a different order, she still would have liked pitch number three. Perhaps it was a test to see how I responded to her comments on the first two. I guess I passed, because she asked me to write up the third one as a three-page treatment and e-mail it to her.

So… a foot firmly in another door. I hope I made enough of an impression that, down the line, I’ll be able to set up additional pitch meetings even if she doesn’t like this particular three-page summary.

Meanwhile, I’ll resume work on my spec scripts. As always, it’s an agreeable way to pass the time.

December 1999

The Architecture of the Contemporary Script Page

I generally don’t like to discuss the minutiae of screenplay formatting: if you have a format question, look for precedents in extant scripts or create a solution that makes sense to you. However, I’ve received several email inquiries about the nature of modern format. So let’s roll up our sleeves and dissect the “architecture of the page” (a term I first heard from screenwriter Richard Hoblock, though I’m not sure who coined it). Once you’ve taken the time to outline a brilliant story, make sure you craft each scene in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Below are some pointers I gleaned at a December 4 seminar by UCLA screenwriting chairman Richard Walter plus examples I’ve observed in current scripts.

ECONOMY OF WORDS / SLUGLINES

“If you’re not sure if you need a line, you don’t need the line,” advises Richard Walter. “When in doubt, throw it out.” Walter refers not just to lines of dialogue, but descriptions and actions. Indeed, this advice is timeless: there will never come a day when readers crave scripts that are padded with extraneous, repetitive descriptions and dialogue.

Walter suggests this litmus test: remove any given element, sentence, or word from your script. Does its absence make a difference in the meaning of what you’ve written? If not, lose it. Use your words economically. Walter says writers should pretend that the toner in their printers is worth a fortune: put no ink on the page that need not be there.

On the subject of sluglines, Walter takes his “save your ink” advice to the extreme: he suggests removing all periods and dashes from sluglines, though he acknowledges that many contemporary scripts do still include them. For example:

INT. MUSEUM – DAY

VS.

INT MUSEUM DAY

(Walter suggests five spaces in lieu of the periods and dashes.)

I’ve observed many variations in slugline format from script to script. Just make sure you consistently use the same format within any given screenplay. Some examples:

INT. ANDY’S APARTMENT – NIGHT [Man on the Moon]

INT – PAUL’S HOUSE – NIGHT [The Green Mile]

EXT. PARKING LOT – DAY (DAY 2) [Dawson’s Creek “The All-Nighter”]

INT. GAS-STATION GARAGE. MOMENTS LATER – NIGHT [eXistenZ]

ALL CAPS

When should screenwriters capitalize entire words? “Use all caps sparingly,” says Walter. Appropriate uses include important sound effects, important props, and a character’s name the first time that character appears in the script. This last advice is an update: several years ago, Walter advocated capitalizing character names every time the characters entered a new scene.

Of course, try foisting this advice off on David Mamet. His adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Hannibal is written entirely in caps (except for the dialogue).

PARENTHETICALS

Richard Walter recommends removing almost all parentheticals from your scripts. I suggest you read as many scripts as you can and make your own observations about appropriate use of parentheticals. I tend to use them only to clarify who a character is speaking to when that information is germane, but you’ll find actions and adverbs in parentheticals throughout many contemporary scripts. For example, from page 83 of the first draft of The Green Mile:

COFFEY

(points vaguely)

Ran down there. Don’t think he’ll

be back.

(beat)

Awful tired now, boss. Dog tired.

And from the Charmed episode “Déjà vu All Over Again” (page 12):

PIPER

Can’t believe what a klutz I am.

(takes dress bag)

I thought I was going to have to

pull a Celine Dion and wear my

outfit backwards.

 

PHOEBE

Piper, listen to me —

(sotto)

— I had a premonition. Of Andy…

dying.

SENTENCE FRAGMENTS

Agent Leslie Kallen describes fragments as “tedious for the reader.” Plentiful fragments “grow numbing,” she opines. Indeed, descriptions of action in modern scripts tend to be in complete sentences. Fragments were more acceptable several years ago: here’s a fragment-peppered excerpt from William Goldman’s 1997 adaptation of the David Baldacci novel Absolute Power:

COINS. Antique ones. They disappear into the duffel.

 

CUT TO

 

STAMP BOOKS. Gone into the swelling duffel.

 

CUT TO

 

LUTHER as he hears the distant laughter.

 

Not so perfect.

 

He moves quickly out of the vault, takes a step toward the door – the giggling is getting louder, closer. Two people. A MAN AND A WOMAN.

FINAL MINUTIAE

Remember: established professionals play by different rules. An early draft of Sleepy Hollow includes an illustration of the round birdcage token that delights young Ichabod Crane. David Koepp’s script Stir of Echoes includes a page with nothing but the word “DIG” in a huge font. But when you’re a new writer hoping to impress a producer or agent, err toward the conservative.

Of course, individual readers have individual tastes, and William Goldman’s most famous quotation certainly applies to the architecture of the script page: “Nobody knows anything.” If you write an incredible story, readers will forgive minor deviations from contemporary format.

January 2000

Two Carters, One Hurricane, Zero Looters

As the clock approached midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1999, I peeked out the window for any early signs of rioting and looting. If Y2K was going to turn the streets of Los Angeles into a primal Trigger Effect style nightmare, I was prepared to defend my stash of bottled water, precious caffeine, and other supplies. I’d rigged a wireless battery-operated surveillance camera in the hallway outside my apartment to give me a heads-up on any marauders.

To take my mind off the imminent collapse of civilization, I looked over some notes I’d taken at a December 14 Humanitas Seminar at which the guests were X-Files creator Chris Carter and his frequent collaborator Frank Spotnitz.

“The truth is that people want to buy good material,” Spotnitz had told the crowd when asked about the difficulty of selling screenplays.

I wondered what the value of a great script would be in a post-Y2K society in which canned food would be the currency of choice.

Another writer at the seminar asked about common mistakes in X-Files spec scripts. “Entry into the story is something people don’t understand,” Carter said. “Setup is so important.”

He also said few writers seem to grasp the dynamics between lead characters Mulder and Scully: “It is not a combative relationship.” Spotnitz added, “[Scully’s] voice is the one that is most injured by people who don’t really know the show.”

All of this information will be useless, I thought, when the streets are flooded with starving citizens.

Just in case the alarmists were wrong about Y2K, I read over Carter’s comments on the convoluted UFO/alien mythology of the show: “I had a big idea. It’s played out in ways I’ve never imagined. You make choices as you go. The mythology started to tell itself. It began to thread together perfectly. I didn’t have it all worked out [in the beginning], but the big idea is still in place.” He added, “The show is about faith. That is a thematic constant.”

The year 2000 arrived. The computers didn’t crash or evolve into a sentient Skynet menace. I yawned, listened to the Art Bell radio show until three in the morning, and fell asleep. Society was still intact when I woke up, so I called some friends to ask about any upcoming events of interest to screenwriters. A UCLA buddy tipped me off: Hurricane producers/co-writers Dan Gordon & Armyan Bernstein would be screening their film and speaking on campus on the 24th.

“Writing is the closest place I’ve even been to heaven,” Bernstein told the dozens of students, instructors, and professionals who showed up for the event. “It’s such a noble and worthwhile profession. But it will break your heart and test your character.”

Bernstein fought for years to produce a film based on the life of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. He phoned Rubin Carter and implored, “You can’t get off the phone until you’re convinced that I’m the right guy to do this.” After his passion persuaded Rubin Carter to let the project move forward, Bernstein wrote a 267-page first draft by himself. He recognized that he needed help to cut and refine the story into a more efficient form, so he enlisted the help of Dan Gordon.

“Dan is a ‘let’s-get-down-to-work-and-get-it-done’ kind of guy,” Bernstein explained.

“I don’t know of any other writer in this business who would ever turn over anything they’ve written to another writer,” said Gordon. “That act of humanity and transcendence astounded me. It transcended ego, craft, and art.” Gordon warned the screenwriting students that Bernstein’s attitude is a rare exception in the Industry. “There are very few people in his position who are heroes. Most are slime. Get ready for that.”

Both men are proud of the finished film. Bernstein says it “reminds you of what’s best in all of us.” Surprisingly, the studio wasn’t confident about his first choice for a director. Bernstein “offered Norman Jewison the job, and he jumped at it. Almost everybody at the studio encouraged us to get a young MTV director.”

A gray-haired gentleman in the audience asked Bernstein about alleged ageism is the Industry. “Your passion doesn’t get old. Your talent doesn’t get old,” Bernstein responded.

I returned home and crafted several pages in my current spec script with renewed vigor. Society will probably be around for at least another millenium, and the studios will need a lot of movies to fill all that time.

February 2000

UCLA Exercises (Part One)

Before I moved to Los Angeles, I wrote spec scripts in Cleveland. I also devised exercises that I imagined might be similar to lessons taught in film schools. I’d watch a favorite movie scene-by-scene, stopping the tape to jot notes and reverse-engineer an outline. I’d read the movie’s screenplay scene-by-scene, too, noting major differences from the film. I’d then puzzle over my notes, dig up interviews with the screenwriter, reflect, and enjoy epiphanies about the nature of story structure.

Screenwriting is a pursuit in which self-motivation is essential. No one is going to craft 100 engrossing pages for you, but you can create a first draft in under two months if you write as few as three pages per day, five days per week.

While everyone’s creative process is different, I’ve found that my daily page output improves significantly when I take the time to develop a coherent beat outline.

When I got to the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, I found that I’d already done much of my homework; students were encouraged to reverse-engineer a beat outline of a favorite movie by writing one or two concise sentences to describe each scene. Once you see that a movie can be distilled down to about fifty or sixty beats, the prospect of outlining an original screenplay seems less intimidating.

If you’ve never set aside a few hours to examine a movie beat-by-beat with pen and paper in hand, I highly recommend the experience. Below is the beat outline I reverse-engineered while I watched Jaws scene-by-scene.

  1. At a bonfire beach party, two intoxicated TEENS flirt.

  2. The teen boy, too drunk to swim, flops onto his back while the girl dives into the ocean.

  3. Far from shore, something pulls the flailing, screaming girl under the water.

  4. Police Chief BRODY receives a phone call at home while his wife cleans a cut in their older son’s hand.

  5. Brody and the teen boy from the opening trot down the beach in response to a deputy’s whistle; the swimmer’s corpse has washed ashore.

  6. At his office, Brody types “SHARK ATTACK” on his report about the girl’s death.

  7. Assorted townsfolk intercept Brody with petty concerns as he retrieves materials to make “NO SWIMMING” signs.

  8. Brody, en route to warn a group of swimming Boy Scouts, is intercepted by the MAYOR, who insists that the beaches must stay open to attract tourist dollars.

  9. As Brody watches from a crowded beach, a young boy’s raft explodes in a spray of blood.

  10. At a town meeting, after the Mayor announces over Brody’s protests that the beaches will only be closed for 24 hours, a weathered old fisherman (QUINT) offers to catch and kill the shark for $10,000.

  11. Brody reads up on shark behavior.

  12. Two fishermen chain a giant hook to a dock, bait it with a roast, and toss it into the water.

  13. Brody stays up late reading more about sharks.

  14. The fishermen barely escape alive when the shark takes their bait and pulls the whole dock into the water.

  15. As dozens of hunting teams set out haphazardly in their boats, shark expert MATT HOOPER arrives and introduces himself to Brody.

  16. The hunters dump huge quantities of blood and chum into the ocean.

  17. Hooper examines the remains of the first victim and announces that she died from an attack by a shark much larger than normal for those waters.

  18. One of the hunting teams poses with a dead tiger shark, much to the delight of the mayor, though Hooper expresses doubts that it’s THE shark.

  19. Hooper shows up at Brody’s house that night and says that it’s likely the shark has become territorial: it will continue to feed in the area until its food supply is gone.

  20. Hooper and Brody slice open the tiger shark to be sure it’s not the one that killed the little boy on the raft.

  21. Hooper and Brody find the wrecked boat and corpse of another fisherman in the stretch of water where the shark has been feeding. Hooper finds (but loses) the tooth of a great white shark.

  22. Hooper and Brody plead with the Mayor, who insists the beaches will be open for the 4th of July weekend.

  23. Thousands of tourists arrive as Brody phones for extra help to serve as shark spotters.

  24. The Mayor notices that nobody is swimming, so he coerces one family into swimming.

  25. As helicopters and boats of shark spotters keep an eye on the water, the tourists swim.

  26. Brody’s son Michael and his friends go boating in The Pond, an area connected to the ocean.

  27. A fin in the water creates a panic, and tourists trample over each other to get out of the water.

  28. Armed shark spotters surround the fin, which turns out to be a cardboard prank propelled by two young divers.

  29. A lone girl calls for help when she spots the real shark heading into the pond.

  30. Brody races to the pond as hundreds of witnesses watch the shark swallow a boater.

  31. Brody’s son, in shock from watching the boater’s death ten feet away, goes to the hospital.

  32. Brody coerces the Mayor into signing a voucher to pay Quint to kill the shark.

  33. At Quint’s place, Brody insists that Hooper will come along on the expedition, despite Quint’s protest that Hooper has “city hands” and has been counting money all his life.

  34. Quint, Hooper, and Brody load equipment onto Quint’s boat (The Orca), including an anti-shark cage that Quint observes couldn’t possibly hold up against THEIR shark.

  35. Brody’s wife bids him a tearful farewell.

  36. Brody throws chum and blood into the water, then nearly blows up the boat when he disturbs a tank of compressed oxygen.

  37. The line on Quint’s giant fishing pole plays out quickly, and moments before the line snaps, Quint declares that the “smart big fish” has gone under the boat.

  38. As Brody throws more chum, the shark surfaces and snaps its jaws near him.

  39. The shark charges the boat, affording all three men their first good look at it, and Quint proclaims that it’s a 3-ton 25-footer.

  40. Quint shoots a harpoon (attached to a barrel) into the shark.

  41. The men pursue the barrel, but the shark disappears.

  42. In the cabin, the men bond while trading scar stories and singing songs moments before the shark slams into the hull.

  43. Quint shoots at the circling shark with his rifle.

  44. The next morning, as Hooper and Quint work on fixing the hull & engine damage, Brody spots the resurfaced barrel, and the shark again rears out of the water snapping.

  45. Quint smashes the radio when Brody tries to contact the Coast Guard.

  46. Quint shoots another barrel into the shark.

  47. Brody shoots the shark with his pistol while Quint shoots a third barrel-harpoon into it.

  48. Brody and Hooper tie the barrel-lines to the rear of the boat, but the shark starts to tow them out to sea.

  49. The ropes snap off after the boat takes on much water.

  50. The shark pursues the boat as Quint pilots it back toward shore, pushing the engine harder and harder until it burns out.

  51. Hooper proposes that he go into the water in his anti-shark cage and try to inject the shark with poison.

  52. The men build the shark cage.

  53. Hooper drops his poison and flees to the ocean floor after the shark tears his cage to pieces.

  54. Moments after Quint and Brody haul up the ruined cage, the shark lunges onto the back of the sinking Orca and swallows Quint.

  55. Brody shoves a tank of compressed oxygen into the shark’s mouth.

  56. Brody climbs the crow’s nest of the rapidly-sinking ship and fires at the shark with his rifle.

  57. Moments before the shark reaches him, Brody shoots the oxygen tank in its mouth and blows it up.

  58. Hooper resurfaces. He and Brody swim toward shore.

March 2000

UCLA Exercises (Part Two)

In the last column, I described the “beat outline” exercise encouraged by UCLA to help you uncover the concise spines of your favorite films. Another UCLA exercise in reverse-engineering of stories is the Ackerman Two-Pager. For the first quarter of his Professional Program lecture class, Hal Ackerman requires each student to distill one film per week into a two-page (or slightly less) double-spaced 12-point font outline.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Try it. One point of the lesson is to illustrate how difficult it is to write concisely. Generally, my first drafts of these “two-pagers” were four or five pages long. In deciding what to cut and what to keep, I gained more insight into what makes up the very core of a story, and the outlines I created for my original specs became more focused and coherent.

Below are the two-pagers I reverse-engineered while I watched two excellent horror films that I’ve enjoyed repeatedly across many years: Poltergeist (written by Steven Spielberg & Michael Grais & Mark Victor) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (written by Wes Craven).

POLTERGEIST [1982 version]

ACT ONE In an upscale suburban home, STEVEN FREELING (late 30s) dozes in front of the TV as a local station signs off for the night. As the TV goes to static, the family dog wanders the house, visiting all the sleeping Freelings: DIANE (late 30s) the mom, eldest daughter DANA (15), son BOBBY (11), and youngest daughter CAROL ANNE, who awakens and wanders downstairs to the TV. She wakes the rest of the family as she shouts at the static-filled TV, “Talk louder! I can’t hear you!”

The next night, a thunderstorm scares Bobby and Carol Anne into sleeping in their parents’ bed. They all doze with the TV on. When it goes to static, Carol Anne reaches for the screen… and a GHOSTLY HAND reaches back. She watches as eerie phantasmal mists stream out of the TV and into the wall. A rumble like an earthquake wakes the others: Carol Anne announces, “They’re here.”

After breakfast, Diane pushes all the chairs in around the kitchen table, turns her back for six seconds, and turns back to find all the chairs stacked on top of the table. Carol Anne attributes the stacking to “the TV people.” That night, chairs are pulled from one circle on the kitchen floor to another by an unseen force. Steve and Diane vow to keep this mystery “in the family.”

ACT TWO During a thunderstorm that night, Bobby’s tree crashes through his window and pulls him outside. When the family races outside to save him, a blinding light erupts in Carol Anne’s closet and sucks her in. The family searches for her. Bobby hears her voice coming from the television.

Steve invites three parapsychologists to help the family recover Carol Anne. As they inspect the house, jewelry and dirt materialize in a flash of light. That night, the team captures on videotape a procession of spirit-lights parading down the staircase. Diane talks with Carol Anne through the TV set; Carol Anne screams that someone is in there with her.

Steve learns through a conversation with his boss that the whole neighborhood was built where a cemetery once stood. It was moved to make way for the houses. Steve’s boss wants to move another cemetery to expand the development.

The team invites TANGINA (late 50s), a psychic, to lead a rescue attempt. Tangina explains that a terrible spirit is using Carol Anne to keep other spirits restrained. The team tosses a rope into the spectral light in Carol Anne’s closet – “the way in.” The rope emerges from thin air in the living room – “the way out.” Diane ventures into the light. She emerges in the living room clutching Carol Anne, both covered in ectoplasmic slime. Carol Anne’s eyes bounce open: “Hi Daddy.” Tangina pronounces the house clean.

ACT THREE The family loads a moving van. That night, with only Diane and the two youngest kids home, the spectral light reappears in the closet. As Diane struggles to rescue Bobby and Carol Anne from being sucked into the light, CORPSES spontaneously erupt from the yard. Steve and his boss return to the house after a meeting. Steve collars his boss, who spearheaded the construction of the neighborhood: “You moved the headstones, but you left the bodies.” Diane and the kids rush out of the house. The family piles into their car as more and more bodies erupt from the yard. Dana arrives home and lunges into the car with her family. As they speed out of the neighborhood, the house collapses in on itself and vanishes into the spectral light.

The family, together and safe in a motel room, shoves the TV set out into the rain.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET [1984 version]

ACT ONE TINA, 16, wakes from a nightmare. She joins her friend HEATHER at school, who also reports a bad dream. That night at a sleepover party, Tina dreams of a scarred man with a knife-glove chasing her. Her boyfriend ROD wakes to her screams. Unseen blades slice and kill her. Rod flees. Heather’s father, the SHERIFF, finds and arrests him. In class, Heather drifts off to sleep. She dreams of the scarred man (FREDDY) chasing her through a boiler room. She wakes to her own screams.

ACT TWO Heather visits Rod in jail. He reports a nightmare about a man with knives for fingers. That night, she falls asleep in the tub and dreams about Freddy pulling her under the water. She asks her boyfriend GLEN to watch her while she sleeps and wake her up if she seems distressed. In her dream, she sees Freddy hovering over Rod in his jail cell. Freddy then pursues her and nearly slices her with his knives. Her alarm clock wakes her: Glen drifted off to sleep. Heather races to the jail and begs her father to check on Rod. Meanwhile, Rod’s bedsheet is knotting itself around his throat. It pulls him up and hangs him moments before the Sheriff and Heather arrive. At a sleep disorder lab, doctors monitor Heather while she sleeps. She thrashes around while her brainwaves indicate a state between dreaming and waking. A doctor wakes her up. She produces Freddy’s tattered brown hat from beneath the covers: she pulled it out of her dream, and she has a bad cut on her arm. Back home, her mother (who has now put bars on the windows) explains that neighborhood parents cornered and burned a child killer named Fred Krueger after he went free due to a paperwork technicality. She shows Heather the knife-glove he used in his murders. Across the street, Glen drifts off to sleep and is pulled into his bed. His mother watches as a torrent of blood erupts out of his mattress.

ACT THREE Heather watches as the police swarm Glen’s house across the street. She prepares a series of traps in her house and drifts off to sleep with her alarm set to wake her in ten minutes. She pulls Freddy out of her dream and into the real world. Her booby-trap hammer swings and smashes into his torso. She flees to the front door, but the bars and locks keep her in; her parents anticipated that she would try to sneak over to Glen’s house. She douses Freddy with gasoline and ignites him. Her father races to the house; he and Heather find a trail of fire-footprints leading upstairs. Freddy kills Heather’s mother. Freddy reappears when Heather is alone. She turns her back on him and wills him to vanish. Heather dreams of being trapped in a car with a roof painted like Freddy’s sweater. The car vanishes down the street while kids playing jump-rope chant a warning about Freddy.

Culture Shock: Life in Los Angeles

April 2000

Recommended Reading

In my ongoing efforts to comprehend the strange rituals of the film industry, I have just read three books by wise guerrilla anthropologists who have examined the culture of Southern California for decades. The books are Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman, The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood and Other Essays (also by William Goldman), and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind.

Everywhere I turn, Industry professionals are already quoting William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell? Since a common frame-of-reference often serves as an ice-breaker at pitch meetings and schmooze-worthy parties, this is a handy book to read so you can begin conversations thus: “I read the greatest anecdote in the new Goldman book.” But the book is an excellent read even if you never intend to discuss it with anyone; when a writer as talented and successful as Goldman offers observations about the craft and business of screenwriting, take the time to pay attention.

The book is divided into four sections: More Adventures, Heffalumps, Stories, and THE BIG A. The common element that bonds one section to another is Goldman’s wry humor: it’s hard to put down a book that keeps you laughing so heartily and so often.

My only complaint about the More Adventures section is that much of the material was previously published in the essays within Goldman’s Four Screenplays, Five Screenplays, Absolute Power, and The Ghost and the Darkness. The section traces Goldman’s interactions with the blank page, studio executives, directors, and stars as he wrote the following films between 1986 and 1997: Memoirs of an Invisible Man, The Princess Bride, Misery, The Year of the Comet, Maverick, The Ghost and the Darkness, and Absolute Power. His experiences convey the fluid, collaborative nature of filmmaking: don’t become deeply emotionally invested in the draft of your script that sells, for as Goldman’s anecdotes illustrate, the pages are going to change before (and while) the cameras roll.

In the Heffalumps section, Goldman examines six of his favorite scenes from scripts by other writers (plus one of his own). Goldman often breaks down the scenes line-by-line, moment by moment, and he points out how each component thickens the plot. This section alone is worth the price of the book; if Goldman wasn’t such a talented screenwriter, he could have become the world’s best development executive. The examined scenes come from There’s Something About Mary, When Harry Met Sally, North by Northwest, The Seventh Seal, Chinatown, Fargo, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The Stories section explores Goldman’s process of sorting the gold from the dirt when he brainstorms ideas for new scripts. He describes the genesis of four ideas that may or may not make interesting screenplays, and he rambles pleasantly about whether or not the concepts could be expanded into fully-functional blueprints for films.

THE BIG A section offers multiple professional perspectives on a Goldman script fragment: you read about half of a new original Goldman script (THE BIG A) followed by commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of the story up to that point. The commentators are the Farrelly brothers, Scott Frank, Tony Gilroy, Callie Khouri, and John Patrick Shanley. Their lucid notes are a great reminder that no matter how much experience and talent is behind an early script draft, it’s still a rough lump of clay in need of painstaking sculpting.

Which Lie Did I Tell is packed with wisdom from the trenches of the screenwriting profession. Before you venture to the front lines, consider the observations of those who have gone before you. They may just save you from stepping on a landmine or snagging your arm on some rusted barbed wire.

In The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood and Other Essays (a collection of articles that were originally published in Premiere, The Daily News, New York Magazine and Los Angeles Magazine), Goldman offers advice like, “Remember that Hollywood makes no sense. Remember that movies began as entertainment for illiterates.” The essays span the nineties and comment on dozens of studio films that were released in that decade.

The book is laced with Goldman’s humor and frank honesty: when he has a problem with a film, he pulls no punches. On Saving Private Ryan, for example, Goldman writes, “What the movie has to do is simple: get the rescue squad going after the kid. The Spielberg of Raiders of the Lost Ark would’ve taken maybe a minute to set that up… after more uninteresting stuff, forty minutes the movie, Hanks’ squad finally sets off on their odyssey to find Private Ryan.” He raves about the ensuing hour, then opines, “Guess what: the rest of the movie is a disgrace.” He deconstructs the inconsistent motivations of the characters, puzzles over the dying words of the Hanks character (“My only explanation is this: Spielberg was up half the night before reading Philosophy for Dummies and he wanted to inject that nugget into his flick”), and points out why it is absolutely impossible for the Matt Damon character to be the old man at the cemetery in the bookend scenes. Ouch.

Some of the essays offer glimpses into the minds of studio execs: Goldman conducts informal surveys every year before and after the Oscars to get predictions and hindsight commentary from various unnamed Players. Goldman concludes that more than ever, “Nobody knows anything.”

Even more than the Goldman books, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind (an exploration of Hollywood politics) is a vivid reminder that screenplays do not exist in a theoretical void. Movies are made by real human beings who are sometimes brilliant, sometimes flawed, and always susceptible to stress and pressure.

Biskind investigates the major Players from the late sixties to the early eighties. Based largely on lengthy firsthand interviews, the book more often than not delves into tabloid-style scandals: Coppola’s taste for multiple girlfriends on location while making Apocalypse Now, the crushing low morale throughout the filming of Jaws, and such. No matter which anecdotes you perceive as apocryphal, the book offers a sharp contrast to the glittering front that Hollywood shows the public via studio tram rides and press releases.

May 2000

Hollywood Parties: A Schmoozing Taxonomy

“If you’ll excuse me, I should really be talking to people who are somebody.” This bit of dialogue punctuates a scene from the television series Angel. Cordelia, an aspiring actress at a swank Hollywood party, delivers the line just before she vanishes into the crowd to schmooze anew. I was reminded of the scene at a party in Beverly Hills this weekend: an aspiring actress chatted with me for approximately twenty-three seconds, found out I was a writer, and swiftly merged back into the crowd in search of producers and casting agents.

I don’t blame her. There is no distinction between working and socializing in Hollywood. Every party is a chance to meet people who can advance your career, and a common belief is that it’s healthy (if not polite) to extricate yourself from conversations the moment you ascertain that you don’t want the business card of your new acquaintance. I take the more diplomatic approach of talking and joking with whoever’s around… after I’ve collected a business card or two. After all, today’s bartender may be tomorrow’s studio exec with Greenlight Authority. Karma is magnified within the coyote-infested Hollywood Hills.

Below, I have sketched three different types of parties and my experiences therein. Of course, schmoozing is hardly an exact science, and most parties are variations on these broad profiles.

1) THE ALLY POW-WOW: A small, intimate gathering of friends and acquaintances with few or no outsiders.

A friend was recently house-sitting for a producer, and she invited a half-dozen

fellow writers over for a poolside dinner. The Black Tower loomed a few blocks away, and the Universal Studios logo hung in the sky like a second moon after the sun went down. We chatted and laughed about non-industry matters for the majority of the evening, but vital tidbits of info were traded here and there. I’d recently spoken with a producer who was looking for historical dramas, a genre in which I don’t write, but I passed along the tip to a friend with an amazing historical spec in her portfolio. (She followed the lead, sent a query, and got the producer to read the script.) Someone else’s friend had just become an agent at a well-respected boutique. We swapped opinions about the managers who had participated in a panel discussion at UCLA that week. We debated which films in current release are must-sees and which are wastes of valuable time. (The Virgin Suicides got high marks from most present.)

These casual get-togethers are useful for pouring good karma (in the form of useful contacts and other information) into a pool of communal resources. In return, you receive information from your trusted allies.

2) THE MINGLER: A larger affair with many strangers, some of whom are worth querying with letters that begin “We met at so-and-so’s party Friday night.”

These are the parties where efficient, cordial conversations can yield many fresh contacts. Make a good impression, and try to carry on intelligent discourse about something other than movies. Save the film-chat for the query letter you’ll mail out the next day.

3) THE POWER ZONE: Much like the Mingler above, but with a higher concentration of well-connected executives, producers, directors, and writers.

Recently, I attended the premiere of a studio film. At the post-screening party in a swank Westwood bar, I mostly just mingled silently and eavesdropped, catching snippets of conversation like: “We’re finally on hiatus, so I can finish up my feature script and shop it around.” “That guy over there: what’s his name? He played the science teacher in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” “They offered you how many points? What an insult!”

The night turned out better than I could have hoped when a filmmaker I admire (and had spoken with before) extended an offer to read one of my scripts. I was floored, and I thanked him. “You hear so many stories of Hollywood being so cold and inaccessible,” I said. He’d observed my respectful, professional behavior for several months, and so he was treating me with respect in return.

It takes dozens of hours of networking to get to such moments, but the visceral thrill is worth it. Move west and pan for gold. Get out there and schmooze, and drop me an invitation to your next party.

June 2000

A Night of Staged Performances at the UCLA MFA Showcase

I can smell free food from up to seven miles away. Platters of free cheese, crackers, croissants, and grapes have distinctive scents that cut through the Los Angeles smog and activate special receptors in my nose.

Unfortunately I live more than seven miles from the Geffen Playhouse on Le Conte Avenue in Westwood, but my friend Fernley invited me to the June 12 UCLA Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting Showcase. I would have gone even without the promise of free cheese and gourmet coffee, for UCLA events are fun schmoozing free-for-alls somewhere between Type Two and Type Three (see the May 2000 operational definitions). Also, the Showcase itself sounded cool. It’s an annual event in which excerpts from five screenplays are performed on stage for the benefit of studio executives, producers, agents, managers, and other interested parties. The scripts are selected in a competition among the students in the UCLA MFA in Screenwriting program. (A script that won in 1996, The Affair of the Necklace by John Sweet is now in production with Hilary Swank starring.) The scheduled host was Mike Werb (co-writer of Face/Off). In 1999, James Cameron was a featured speaker.

I cancelled my plans to play “toss the toy mouse” with Alley Cat that evening and headed into Westwood.

Before the event started, the lobby was awash with pro writers and agents. UCLA veteran Sacha Gerasi (The Big Tease) worked the crowd and joked around, as did Screenwriting Department Chair Richard Walter. Fernley (who won the UCLA Advanced Professional Program in Screenwriting competition) spotted Michael Colleary, with whom he had studied in a workshop class.

I eyed the empty tables along the far wall. The free food apparently would not be dispensed until after the event.

Minutes later, the doors opened, and the crowd filled the auditorium.

Richard Walter and Dean Bob Rosen greeted the crowd and then turned the microphone over to Mike Werb, who made a few jokes at the expense of studio executives. Adopting the tone of Haley Joel Osment (the actor who plays the kid in The Sixth Sense), he said, “I see illiterate people. They’re all around. They don’t know they can’t read.” He explained that Showcase offers a chance for non-reading execs to actually see the material performed by actors. If they like what they see, they can have their assistants read the complete scripts.

Each performance lasted approximately fifteen minutes, or about to the end of the first act if you subscribe to the Lew Hunter paradigm of seventeen-page Act Ones.

In between the staged performances, host Mike Werb implored the producers and execs in the audience to snatch up the material. After the final performance, Werb introduced this year’s recipients of UCLA’s lifetime achievement awards. Standing ovations greeted Madelyn Pugh Davis & Bob Carroll Jr. (most famous as the creators and writers of I Love Lucy) and Ernest Lehman (screenwriter of North by Northwest, Family Plot, The King & I, The Sound of Music, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Inside Story, Black Sunday, and many others).

Bob Carroll Jr. joked that after fifty-three years of writing together, he and Madelyn had nearly split up the previous night while bickering over what sort of remarks to make to the UCLA crowd.

Lehman addressed the aspiring screenwriters in the audience; he said he wished he could impart a magic shortcut to success, but there is none. “I hope you’re lucky enough to lose all the right battles,” he said.

Werb then invited everyone to enjoy the “marginal food and even more marginal booze,” and the crowd flooded the lobby.

I enjoyed plenty of brie, brin, and bresse bleu. The cheese was so good that I cursed myself for not bringing Tupperware n my briefcase. Still, it would’ve been a fine night even without the refreshments. How often do you see an auditorium full of people who have gathered to honor screenwriters?

AFTERWORD – July 2017

As you process the rambling advice that I dispersed throughout Culture Shock: Life in Los Angeles, keep in mind that some of these insights remain relevant while other observations are outdated now, over one and a half decades beyond the turn of the millennium.

The UCLA exercises that I describe in the February & March 2000 sections are still useful thought experiments for those who seek insight into the construction of tales for the screen.

Those who seek to earn a living in the film industry can still gain a substantial edge by living in Los Angeles, though in this era of PDFs and email and Skype and cell phones, it’s more possible than ever to write and network and have a career as a screenwriter from anywhere on the globe.

I miss the atmosphere of Hollywood. I miss the copious revival screenings and other events at venues like The Egyptian Theatre. I miss the corner of Franklin & Tamarind (where The Bourgeois Pig coffee shop still sells an array of beverages and foods). I miss the comrades I met at UCLA. I sure miss those Humanitas seminars.

Most relevant in the present: my October 1999 advice about the need to experience life now and then (when not holed up in front of the computer writing fresh scenes or pacing and muttering while jotting handwritten notes). If I had my time in California to do all over again, I would enjoy more live music, more spontaneous conversations with strangers, and additional hikes through Griffith Park. I would spend less time hunkered down in my rental unit for days on end, reading and writing and watching movies. Ironic that I dispense such advice from my native Ohio in 2017, as I now lean toward staying in as much as possible. Hell, I’m 46 years old and have aching muscles and mental traumas to process; I was young when I wrote these journal entries, and some would say that 46 isn’t all that old, but I feel ancient and often snarky. I crave and require solitude more than ever.

I’m glad that I wrote the May 1999 piece about the atmosphere in the streets during the final hours before The Phantom Menace premiered. Reading that section brought back memories that I didn’t document at the time, memories of striding down Hollywood Boulevard just before sunrise after I’d attending a 3 AM screening of the first Star Wars prequel. Here in my twilight years (mid-40s), I no longer have the courage for such antics; I dread the thought of ever setting foot in California again, for I fear the inevitable massive earthquake that some seismologists predict. If I were in my old neighborhood again, I sure wouldn’t stride alone down Hollywood or Sunset in the wee morning hours. What was I thinking? The canister of pepper spray that I kept in my pocket back then gave me a sense of security, and I feel fortunate that I never had to douse any muggers. I roamed around on foot (and used public transportation) throughout most of my seven years out west; I owned a car for part of 2001 but ultimately found I liked walking and taking the bus better than driving.

I still love cinema, and in 2017 I’m wiser than I was during my 90028 existence.

I’m thrilled that home video technology has advanced so much since the bygone days of square televisions and VCRs. The modern Internet? Fabulous!

As I reflect on my journey from Ohio to Southern California and back, I have few regrets.

Now get the hell off my lawn while I hole up and craft some fresh scenes.

THE END

Standard

An 11,000-word Essay About the HALLOWEEN Franchise

The Character Arc of Laurie Strode from Halloween to H20

an essay written by Daniel S. Duvall

© 2017-2019 Daniel S. Duvall – all rights reserved

The 1998 film Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later is a character-driven drama cloaked in the vestments of a late-seventies slasher film, its nature as difficult to recognize on the surface as a remorseless killer disguised as a six-year-old clown.

Laurie Strode, H20‘s protagonist, has a backstory that spans two films (the original Halloween and its first sequel), both of which take place mostly on October 31, 1978. Unaware of the intense, life-defining trauma that she’ll endure after dark, Laurie commences that day by obediently taking a key from her father (who works in real estate) and walking to a long-abandoned two-story fixer-upper abode: the Myers house, where fifteen years earlier a six-year-old child named Michael Myers stabbed his teenage sister Judith to death. Laurie leaves the key on the front porch despite the protests of Tommy Doyle (a kid she’ll babysit that evening), who has heard from a peer, “That’s a haunted house… real awful stuff happened there once.”

Thus begins a set of fateful autumn hours that lead to an apprehensive Laurie discovering the fresh corpse of her friend Annie (positioned on a bed on which the gravestone of Judith Myers sits). In that same room, moments later, Laurie encounters two more bodies including that of her friend Lynda.

Then Laurie comes face-to-mask with the knife-wielding trickster who left the corpses for her to discover. Michael Myers slices open Laurie’s left arm, and Laurie plummets over a staircase railing, and the trauma that defines the Laurie Strode character’s backstory intensifies from there. If you’re reading this essay, you are likely quite familiar with Halloween.

As the twentieth anniversary of the events depicted in John Carpenter’s Halloween approached, horror fans learned that Laurie Strode would appear in a new film for a 1998 showdown with boogeyman Michael Myers.

The creative team behind this anniversary project faced the daunting task of crafting a movie that would inevitably be measured against the much-loved 1978 film in which the Strode/Myers legend began. Would the new story be compelling enough to appease die-hard fans and/or casual horror buffs?

Halloween and its Reception

The original Halloween has garnered substantive critical acclaim. John Kenneth Muir opines, “Simply phrased, John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the greatest horror films ever made, in any decade… On virtually every criterion imaginable, Halloween is a successful film that transcends its genre… From acting and music to cinematography and screenplay, the film’s elements are managed superbly…”i Adam Rockoff calls John Carpenter’s Halloween “an almost perfect exercise in terror.”ii Bruce McClelland writes, “Halloween is one of the most totally involving movies ever made.”iii Michael Gingold observes, “What the film does so well is right on the surface… It is pure, it is primal, and it is terrifying.”iv Tim Lucas notes, “The movie conjures an atmosphere of palpably superstitious unease, which is skillfully interwoven with the sexual unease of its shyly maturing heroine.”v

Anne Billson gives this back-handed compliment: “Halloween is little more than a well-oiled machine designed to make its audience jump; but by stripping its story to the bone, Carpenter invests it with the quality of urban myth.”vi

The Halloween Screenplay

Culture-changing art need not take long to create; John Carpenter says, “Halloween was written in approximately ten days by Debra Hill and myself. It was based on an idea by Irwin Yablans about a killer who stalks babysitters, tentatively titled The Babysitter Murders until Yablans suggested that the story could take place on October 31…”vii

Irwin Yablans recalls, “I wanted to do a horror film, so I started to think about how to do this for the limited amount of money we had, and it occurred to me that if we did a movie about babysitters it would work, because everybody had either been a babysitter or been a baby… one night would be the best way to do it, and Halloween just popped into my mind…”viii

Carpenter yammered about the origin of Halloween with journalists Blake Mitchell & James Ferguson for a 1980 interview. Carpenter says, “Irwin Yablans… came up with $300,000 and had an idea to do a film about a babysitter murderer, which was a standard type of exploitation film… he came up with the idea of setting it on Halloween night, and then his next sentence was, ‘Do you think it’s too crass to call it Halloween?’ This was before the script had been written, and there was this ‘Ah!'”ix

Producer and co-writer Debra Hill says, “When [Yablans] called and came up with the brilliant idea of using the themes of Halloween to tell our story, it was like a gold mine.”x

In issue #138 of Fangoria, Hill says, “I worked on the structure and Laurie’s character, and John rewrote me and put in Dr. Loomis. He also drove the movie with the whole through-line about evil.”xi Hill recalls, “I was a babysitter, and I knew what it was like to be, you know, all those characters, and I really contributed the girls’ dialogue… John really is, I would say, the developer of the whole ‘evil’ concept. He gave Michael Myers that sense of foreboding…”xii

The original Halloween screenplay by John Carpenter & Debra Hill takes place mostly on October 31, 1978 and transitions from day to night at the very bottom of page 35 (out of 98). The final two-thirds of the pages follow the after-dark events.

The opening prologue (October 31 in 1963) commences at the bottom of page 1 and ends on page 4. Pages 5 through the first half of page 10 detail the escape of Michael Myers on October 30, 1978, and then the tale moves to the next morning.

At the bottom of page 10, the screenplay describes the protagonist as “17 and pretty in a quiet sort of way… Her face has a soft, innocent quality, her eyes bright and alive.”

Pages 11-16 follow Laurie throughout a block of daylight hours (before and during her time at Haddonfield High).

The top of page 17 includes a detail not in the final film; at the end of the classroom scene in which Laurie waxes poetic about fate, the viewer sees that Laurie has written “LAURIE STRODE IS LONELY” in a notebook.

There’s a two-page scene featuring Sam Loomis (the psychiatrist of Michael Myers), and then we see bullies picking on Tommy Doyle (the kid Laurie will be babysitting that night). Not until page 19 do we see Laurie again; here, she’s walking home from school with her friend Lynda (who Michael Myers later strangles with a telephone cord). Their friend Annie joins them, unaware that she’ll be choked and have her throat slit before November arrives. En route to their homes, the girls notice a station wagon moving up the street. Lynda speculates that the driver might be “Devon Graham,” but Laurie says “I don’t think so” and (in the words of the Carpenter & Hill screenplay on page 21), the protagonist “stares at the station wagon as it moves past. She looks directly at the shape inside. There is a quick glimpse of him, a strange pale face staring back.”

At the bottom of page 25, Laurie is alone on the sidewalk. Distracted, she collides with Sheriff Lee Brackett (Annie’s father) at the top of page 26, then arrives outside her home. She observes costumed children trick-or-treating and delivers this cryptic line: “Well, kiddo, I thought you outgrew superstition.”

The top of page 27 sports a scene in which Laurie’s mother, a character never seen in the finished film, prepares candied apples.

The rest of page 27 details the first part of a scene in which Laurie looks out her bedroom window and sees the station wagon driver standing in her yard between sheets on a clothesline – but only for a moment. Pages 28 and most of 29 consist of the end of the scene (Laurie gets two phone calls from Annie but doesn’t know at first who is calling).

Then Loomis goes to the cemetery and finds evidence that convinces him that Michael Myers did indeed come home to Haddonfield; someone stole the gravestone of Judith Myers, who met the wrong end of the antagonist’s knife fifteen years earlier.

Most of page 31 involves Laurie walking toward the curb, then getting in Annie’s car. The final line of dialogue on that page after Annie offers a joint: “We just have time.” Pages 32, 33, 34, and the top of 35 involve part of the drive to the homes where Laurie and Annie will be babysitting their respective charges (Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace). En route, the girls stop by the hardware store where Annie’s father reports, “Someone broke into the hardware store. Probably kids… The only things missing were some Halloween masks, rope, and a set of knives.”

After Annie drives away with Laurie in the passenger seat, Loomis asks Brackett to talk. Brackett, oblivious to the predator whose path will soon intersect with his daughter, delays the conversation by saying, “May be a few minutes. I gotta stick around here… Ten minutes.”

And then at the bottom of page 35, night arrives.

John Carpenter gives this insight into the film’s structure: “It’s an old county-fair haunted house movie. You say to the audience, ‘You’re going to see something that’s going to scare you. Now get ready. I’m not going to tell you when it’s going to come… but here it comes!’ It’s programmed right in, just laying it on. But you can’t let them know that you’re doing it. You’ve got to put them on edge. And you can’t gross them out.”xiii

Tommy Lee Wallace (who wore many hats on the Halloween crew) says, “One thing I love about Halloween is… we’re not talking about a gore fest here. It is a creation of expectation and then being toyed with over and over again: now you see it, now you don’t… It’s extremely well-done. And let’s remember it started with a really simple, effective script.”xiv

Before Michael’s first on-camera 1978 kill occurs (in the first half of page 56 in the screenplay), 20 pages describe an evening of entertaining babysitting non-action interspersed with scenes of an obsessed Loomis and a skeptical Brackett searching for Myers.

Then on the top of page 56, Michael sits up in the back seat of Annie’s car before she even turns the key in the ignition; she was en route to pick up Paul, her boyfriend.

Journalist Ralph Appelbaum notes that Halloween‘s “narrative is sparse,” and John Carpenter agrees: “I didn’t care about the narrative too much. It was very loosely drawn. The point of the film is not the exposition. The exposition is rather foolish, and there’s a lot of holes in it. I could have worked out every minute detail. That’s not the point. The point was to get on with it.”xv

Fifteen suspenseful pages precede the next death, when Myers uses a single knife-thrust to kill Lynda’s boyfriend Bob (whose surname, according to the screenplay but not the film, is Simms). Michael grabs Bob by the throat on page 70. The blade ends Bob’s life in the middle of page 71. Exactly three pages later (the middle of page 74), the boogeyman wraps a telephone cord around Lynda’s neck and strangles her to death while Laurie, not sure what she’s hearing, listens via phone. Michael (always referred to as “the shape” in the descriptions within the screenplay) picks up the phone receiver the moment Lynda is dead. Michael hears Laurie’s voice. Laurie then hears the line go dead. On page 76, she steps outside and looks across the street at the Wallace house.

On page 77, she walks across the street toward what has become the boogeyman’s lair. The ensuing pages contain scenes that evoke dread, angst, and eventually outright terror.

John Carpenter observes, “The strongest emotion is fear. The oldest emotion is fear. We all have it, and it is a very deep pool inside every human being on the planet.”xvi

Debra Hill describes more about the crafting of the Halloween screenplay: “John and I write separately… We work out the idea together, then I usually sit down and write the treatment or first draft… I really have to have total seclusion…”xvii She also says, “We work out the plot of the story. What happens now, what happens next, and on and on… Little boy kills sister… escapes from institution, doctor goes after him, he rides into small town, follows three girls… we think up great scares and then integrate them… it’s not so much the plot that matters in a film like Halloween, but the structure of the scares and how the suspense manipulates the audience…”xviii Hill remembers, “Right from the beginning, we decided to write it small. So we wrote it for five characters, and we wrote it to be filmed at night most of the time…”xix

In a testimonial within the documentary Halloween Unmasked 2000, Hill says, “I wrote the first draft, laying in the kids, the teenagers, the teenage talk, the girl talk amongst each other, and John came back with a pass for the Sam Loomis character… all the stuff about evil and everything is really John’s.”xx

When Carpenter and Hill created the characters of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, they could not have foreseen the impact of their film on the horror genre.

Influence

The 1978 iteration of Halloween is arguably the most imitated horror movie in history, having inspired the 1980s slasher film wave that in turn informs the early 21st-century cycle of remakes, sequels, and reboots. Ian Conrich observes, “Halloween gave the slasher film sub-genre, to a degree, its style of prowling camera, the voyeuristic camera positions, the fluid camera movement, the relentless stalker and the threatened teenagers.”xxi

In the early 1980s, William Goldman reported that “sixty clones of Halloween are for sale today from all around the world if anyone in Hollywood wants to buy them.”xxii Vera Dika notes that “as a highly successful and profitable low-budget film, [Halloween] was closely copied by a number of subsequent filmmakers…”xxiii David E. Williams describes the 1978 project as “the trendsetting shocker that virtually kick-started the slasher-film cycle.”xxiv Michelle Le Blanc & Colin Odell observe, “This is the film which launched a genre and formed a template for many, many more horrors to come, so it is difficult to view Halloween objectively…”xxv

According to Mark Jancovich, “Carpenter could not have seen Halloween as a slasher movie because there was no such category at the time. His film became the template for the slasher only retrospectively, after imitators had cashed in on its spectacular success.”xxvi

Ken Gelder counters, “The slasher film is sometimes traced back to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast (1963)… but the point of origin of the slasher genre itself is usually taken to be Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)…”xxvii

Adam Rockoff says, “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Halloween. Many of the conventions which have become staples of the slasher – the subjective camera, the Final Girl, the significant date setting – were either pioneered or perfected in the film. It is the blueprint for all slashers and the model against which all subsequent films are judged.”xxviii Kenneth Nelson writes, “The film’s success quickly ushered in the most famous of horror subgenres, the slasher flick, inspiring countless knockoffs and imitations in the decade that followed. Though some of the films would prove to endure the test of time, to this day Halloween remains the quintessential slasher film…”xxix

Jeremy Dyson observes, “…this scary tale of a prowling murderer on the loose proved so successful at the box office that it inspired a whole new genre most commonly known as ‘stalk and slash.'”xxx

Dean Cundey (director of photography on Halloween & Halloween II) notes, “[Halloween] was sort of the first of this, you know, new take on the genre…”xxxi

Tommy Lee Wallace says, “You can see the evolution, or devolution, if you wish, from the time of [Halloween] to the time that Halloween II got made… in that time, [there were] so many imitators and other movies for which the doors opened at that point… immediately there was a sort of inflation of violence. Each movie felt it had to outdo and get gorier and rougher…”xxxii

Les Daniels points out that the opening sequence alone influenced the direction of horror cinema: “The homicidal child at the start of Halloween had a few imitators…”xxxiii

Bruce Lanier Wright opines, “Halloween led inevitably to Friday the 13th parts I through XVII… and reams of other drivel… I’d rather be boiled in owl urine than write about this stuff.”xxxiv

Between Halloween and H20

Critics and commentators have not been kind to the Halloween sequels that precede H20.

John Carpenter & Debra Hill wrote Halloween II, and Carpenter says, “The second film stinks. It’s just the same movie over again.”xxxv

In his review of the film, Stephen Rebello wrote that “…Halloween II takes on all the snap of week-old candy… [Producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill] blunder the intensive space-and-time formula that they exploited so relentlessly in their first opus.”xxxvi

Kim Newman concurs: “Even Carpenter and Hill dropped the ball in Halloween II.”xxxvii

Rick Rosenthal, who directed Halloween II, recalls the reaction of the screenwriting duo (Carpenter & Hill) after they watched his initial cut of the film: “They didn’t think the film was terribly good…”xxxviii

John Carpenter says, “I produced Halloween II and saw the first cut. It was about as frightening as an episode of Quincy. It just didn’t work. There was nothing frightening about it. They had all these grotesque, gory deaths in there, yet the film itself was just not scary at all.”xxxix

Roger Ebert opines, “The plot of Halloween II absolutely depends, of course, on our old friend the Idiot Plot which requires that everyone in the movie behave at all times like an idiot.”xl

Michelle Le Blanc & Colin Odell note, “Where Halloween played with the audience in terms of expectation and suspense, Halloween II just drags after the opening murder until it reaches a tired selection of relatively tension-free but graphic slayings.”xli

Tom Shales drives a knife through the heart of Halloween II by describing it as “a splashily bloody, tediously idiotic, doggedly inevitable sequel… it’s a startle movie, not a horror movie, and suffocatingly silly even on that level.”xlii

Jamie Lee Curtis laments the passiveness of Laurie Strode in the sequel; in a 1981 interview, she said, “I have about ten lines in the entire film… I don’t like being drugged for half the movie – I think it’s a waste of a wonderful character.”xliii

Debra Hill remembers, “John Carpenter and I agreed to write Halloween II and produce it… after we were in the midst of shooting it, we realized we had the lead character of Laurie Strode comatose in a bed. She was not proactive, and it really didn’t work in my opinion.”xliv

In 1998, Jamie Lee Curtis said, “…the sequels all pretty much sucked.”xlv Also in 1998, she said, “…quite frankly, Halloween II stinks. It’s a terrible movie. I should never have done it.”xlvi

Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with the Michael Myers story, so I’ll skip any discussion of its critical reception.

As I continue to quote reactions to the Halloween sequels up through part 6, keep in mind that H20 is a direct sequel to Halloween II and the events of 4, 5, and 6 are not part of the canonical Laurie Strode timeline.

Richard Harrington calls Halloween 4 “a cheap knockoff of its prototype” and Halloween 5 “a film so bad it took even the boogeyman six years to recover,” and he describes the sixth film (The Curse of Michael Myers) as “dully predictable.”xlvii The Overlook Film Encyclopedia describes the fifth film as “weak”xlviii while Alan Jones (in the BFI Companion to Horror) lumps 4, 5, and 6 together as “plodding follow-ups.”xlix Ian Calcutt describes part five as “astonishingly awful, worse even than Halloween II” and concludes that “Halloween 5 is an insult to the spirit of Carpenter’s original and an insult to the horror genre, confirming that the series has fully exhausted itself.”l Rod Gudino notes that the fifth film is “commonly reviled as the worst in the series” and calls it “a failed attempt to make the Myers storyline more interesting.”li Adam Rockoff describes the fourth film as “a rather tepid entry,” the fifth as “the bloodiest and, some would say, most offensive of the Halloween films,” and the sixth as “a film so bad and disrespectful to the series that it’s a mystery how anyone could have even allowed it to be made… it is an impenetrable jumble of random ideas and impossible coincidences…”lii

Ian Calcutt quite rightly rants in issue #26 of Samhain, “Halloween 5 is a stupid film… The clumsily devised storyline is both tedious and aimless. A cheapened version of the Myers tradition, his modus operandi is this time closer to Jason… and the moment when he briefly removes his mask is a disappointing cheat… There isn’t even a distinct atmosphere to Halloween 5.”liii

Stephen King (who lists the original Halloween as a “personal favorite”liv) says, “I didn’t see the sixth Halloween.”lv Moustapha Akkad (godfather of the Halloween franchise) in 1998 described the sixth movie as “a major disappointment.”lvi

In his review of 6, Marc Savlov laments, “Tired, silly, and ridiculously overwrought, the Halloween franchise has limped long past its natural running time…”lvii

Marc Shapiro quotes Jamie Lee Curtis in a 1998 issue of Fangoria: “I never saw 4, 5, or 6…”lviii

John Carpenter feels that the original Halloween should not have spawned a franchise, though he was initially optimistic about Halloween II once he overcame his reluctance to be creatively involved with the sequel. In a 1981 interview with Bob Martin, Carpenter said, “…there was the challenge of it – what could we do with a sequel to Halloween? Could it be exciting and scary? …after thinking about it a long time, I thought that there really might be another story in it, and I thought it really might be a lot of fun.”lix

Beer

Carpenter changed his tune once he and Debra Hill actually commenced work on the sequel’s screenplay. He recalls, “I didn’t think there was any more story after the first one. That story was over with. The second one, Debra [Hill] and I got stuck writing the screenplay, and it was horrible for me. There was no story there, and I made up this crap about Michael being her brother. I don’t know where that came from. I’m sure in the middle of the night I had a six-pack trying to come up with an idea going, ‘Help me, God, with an idea.’ I realized there was no more story to this…”lx He told interviewer Loris Curci, “When I sat down to write Halloween II, I realized, ‘We don’t have a story. We have the same story. There is no more story; there really isn’t. We’re done.’”lxi

In a telephone interview with Murray Leeder in either 2012 or 2013, Carpenter spoke of his alcohol intake’s influence on the decision to make Michael and Laurie siblings: “That was purely a function of having decided to become involved in the sequel to this movie where I didn’t think there was really much of a story left… That night’s done, that story’s over… The second script… mainly dealt with a lot of beer sitting in front of a typewriter saying, ‘What the fuck am I doing? I don’t know.’ …[The sibling twist] makes no sense. It’s just silly. Foolish.”lxii

The 2014 book On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker includes this John Carpenter quotation: “Stupidly, I decided to produce Halloween II… It was such a pain writing that thing; six packs of beer a night… I tried to turn the shit out and… it was awful. That’s probably why it was awful; my heart wasn’t in it.”lxiii

In the documentary Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, Carpenter says, “What got me through writing [the sequel] was Budweiser: a six-pack of beer a night sitting in front of the typewriter saying, ‘What in the hell can I put down? I have no idea. We’re remaking the same film, only not as good.'”lxiv

H20 and its Roots

Given the negativity that permeates so many reviews of the Halloween sequels, what creative impetus could spark the crafting of a seventh film? Nothing less than the return of Laurie Strode (the protagonist portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two Halloween movies).

In Newsday, Liz Smith quoted Jamie Lee Curtis about her reprisal of the role: “This was my call. I wanted this… It made perfect sense to pick up where we left off. I was totally ready for it.”lxv

Curtis contacted producers to express her interest in reprising her character twenty years after her unstoppable knife-wielding antagonist first stalked her. She first set out to persuade Debra Hill and John Carpenter to join the twentieth anniversary project’s creative team. On an H20 audio commentary track, Jamie Lee Curtis says, “It was coming up on twenty years after the original movie, and I called John Carpenter and Debra Hill. We had lunch. We talked about the fact that the three of us were still in show business, and wouldn’t that be interesting to revisit these people twenty years later… there was a little bit of talk that it was gonna happen, and then John decided not to do it…”lxvi

John Carpenter recalls, “Debra, Jamie Lee, and I had a really nice meeting, and we talked about it… Jamie Lee said… ‘I’d love to do another movie with you, and I’d love to kick the Shape’s ass…’ I stewed about it and stewed about it. As much as I’d like to work with Jamie again and have her finally undo the Shape, I thought, ‘I just can’t do it.’ I just couldn’t find it in my heart to make it.”lxvii

Steve Miner says, “Thirty seconds after I introduced Jamie and Kevin [Williamson], they started talking about doing the [Halloween] sequel.”lxviii

Jamie Lee Curtis recalls, “…ultimately Dimension decided then to hire Kevin Williamson to write it. Steve Miner came on as director, and Debra [Hill] sort of dropped off as producer… my thought from the beginning was, this poor girl has been terrorized for twenty years. She’s been on the run. Her life has been ruined by the trauma she suffered, and let’s meet someone in that shape, and then ultimately let’s have a to-the-death battle.”lxix

Curtis discussed her vision of Laurie as a nightmare-haunted alcoholic with Kevin Williamson, who crafted a treatment based on her ideas. “She had a lot of insight into where her character is twenty years later,” Williamson told Fangoria magazine.lxx

Screenwriter Robert Zappia ran with the treatment and developed a script (later rewritten by Matt Greenberg and an uncredited Williamson) that served as the basis for the project.

The H20 story traces Laurie’s struggle to overcome her alcoholism, purge her traumatic memories, and find peace in her professional and personal lives. “As she would in any sort of twelve-step program, she learns that she has to confront it, her brother,” Curtis explains.lxxi She also states, “We’re showing that Laurie Strode did not go off after the events of the first two movies and live a life unscathed by the horror she experienced. She married an abusive methadone addict, she had a son who barely tolerates her, and she has become an alcoholic. She’s a functioning non-functioning human being.”lxxii

Jamie Lee Curtis also says, “It’s a survivor’s story. This man stole her soul twenty years ago. She needs to get her soul back…”lxxiii She expressed a similar notion in Total Film magazine: “She has no soul. That’s what was ripped from her.”lxxiv Curtis told Amy Wallace, “This woman was a survivor, but the truth is that there is no surviving an attack like that. She had lost her soul. That is how I pitched the movie: regaining the soul by facing your own fear.”lxxv

In the introduction to his book Writing The Character-Centered Screenplay, Andrew Horton distinguishes character-centered scripts from narrative-driven scripts with a checklist of six characteristics. Of the six, it is the first that is most prominent in H20: “The character-centered script portrays character not as a static state of being but as a dynamic process of becoming which we will call the carnivalesque: in brief, the carnivalesque describes an ongoing, ever-changing state in which character is recognized as being made up of many ‘voices’ within us, each with its own history, needs, flavors, limitations, joys, and rhythms.”lxxvi

In H20, Laurie’s need to confront her past drives her to become an active, empowered individual. She is driven by multiple internal “voices,” some compelling her to escape through booze, others demanding that she live up to her responsibilities as a mother and professional educator, still others whispering that she will never be safe from Michael Myers. Laurie Strode is a complex and neurotic character, nothing like a standard slasher film protagonist.

“The scars are definitely still with her,” says Jamie Lee Curtis. “This is a very faithful return for Laurie because she’s totally repressed.”lxxvii

The creative team opted to make H20 a direct sequel to the first two movies in the series; David J. Skal observes, “The filmmakers gave little worry to the fact that [Laurie Strode] had been killed off after the second film. Instead, they just pretended that all the other Halloween films never existed. All the previous story lines after Halloween II were simply wiped clean.”lxxviii

Traditional Halloween elements pepper screenwriter Robert Zappia’s second draft of H20‘s script (substantially rewritten prior to filming by Matt Greenberg and an uncredited Kevin Williamson). Doors slowly open behind unsuspecting victims. Nubile teens die gruesome deaths (this draft includes the discovery of a body with an ice skate embedded in its face). Michael Myers prowls around in his robotic and unrelenting manner.

Woven into the archetypal slasher-film framework of the Zappia script is the transformation of Laurie Strode from a frightened alcoholic to a fully-empowered controller of her own fate.

Laurie Strode in October of 1978

To appreciate the tremendous degree of change in Laurie’s character, consider how disempowered she was in the screenplays for the first two films. When we first meet Laurie in Halloween, her entire day is mapped out by the wishes of others. Her time is out of her control. As she walks to school, her father (a real-estate broker) orders her to drop off a key for some prospective clients at the Myers house. She then bumps into Tommy Doyle, the eight-year-old boy she is scheduled to babysit that evening. Tommy proceeds to dictate Laurie’s agenda for the evening, and she agrees to his every request: “Can we make Jack-O-Lanterns? Can we watch the monster movies? Will you read to me? Can we make popcorn?”

Subsequent scenes reinforce Laurie’s role as a disempowered character. She is the passive passenger in a car while her friend Annie drives. When they pull over to ask Annie’s father about a break-in at a hardware store, Laurie sits quietly while Annie does all the talking. Later, Annie coerces Laurie into babysitting an additional child, thereby freeing Annie to embark on a rendezvous with her boyfriend (though she ultimately never even starts her car, for she’s intercepted by the masked killer). Laurie’s disempowered demeanor does not waver even in the third act (when Michael Myers stalks her). She discovers the bodies of her friends and flees across the street (pursued by Myers) to the house where she was babysitting. Back inside with the door locked, Laurie soon realizes that the killer may have gotten in. At the moment of realization, her reaction is again one of passivity. The screenplay includes this bit of business: “Laurie doesn’t move. She begins crying softly, her eyes wide with fear.”

A more empowered character might have immediately fled the house, searched for a weapon, or bellowed threats toward the stalker. Laurie, true to character, froze and cried.

In Halloween’s final scene, it is the psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (not Laurie) who vanquishes Myers by shooting him repeatedly until he topples out of a second-story window.

Even by the climax of Halloween II (which Curtis called “a horrible movie” during an April 1998 appearance on the Regis & Kathy Lee talk show), Laurie remains an essentially disempowered individual. It is again Dr. Loomis, not Laurie, who vanquishes the boogeyman, this time by striking a lighter in an oxygen-filled hospital room. Laurie passively cowers in a corner through much of the scene leading to this moment.

These first two films establish a character who changes from being disempowered but essentially content with her life to being severely traumatized while remaining disempowered. Debra Hill opines, “I think that’s why audiences responded so well: she really loses control. She doesn’t have control of the situation.”lxxix

Michael Myers

Nothing robs a cinematic hero of control more effectively than an unstoppable antagonist, which is what Hill & Carpenter designed Myers to be; John Carpenter told George Hickenlooper, “The whole idea of the Michael character… being evil which cannot be killed was very appealing.”lxxx In the documentary Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, Carpenter says, “This guy is a human, but he’s not. He’s more than that. He’s not exactly supernatural, but maybe he is. Who knows how he got that way… you don’t give much of an explanation… It’s much more terrifying.”lxxxi

The first image after the title on page 1 of the original Halloween screenplay turns out to be “…a Halloween mask. It is a large, full-head platex rubber mask, not a monster or ghoul, but the pale, neutral features of a man weirdly distorted by the rubber.” (The underlining appears in the script.) The main title sequence of the finished film features a jack-o’-lantern rather than the mask.

On one Halloween commentary track, Tommy Lee Wallace says, “You gotta wonder what Michael Myers was thinking about when he found that mask or created it, you know, and then that’s always a sticky set of questions to get into.”lxxxii

In the Halloween Unmasked 2000 featurette, John Carpenter recalls, “What I thought about doing was not giving the antagonist, Michael Myers, really much of a backstory but kind of kicking him up into a kind of legendary kind of a situation, where he’s much more like an element of nature… I thought that would be more frightening… make him almost a force. So then the mask, which ties in with Halloween, would blank out his human features for most of the film, making him then just some sort of force of evil that is irrational, unstoppable.”lxxxiii

In an interview via telephone with Murray Leeder, John Carpenter said, “…we’re saying in the movie that Michael Myers is in fact a human being, but I wanted to bleach humanity out of him. I wanted him to be nothing, just like a vessel onto which we could project things… he’s a human shape and he’s an absence of humanity…”lxxxiv

In a 1994 issue, Fangoria magazine quoted Debra Hill: “The idea was that you couldn’t kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived.”lxxxv

John Carpenter told Jason Zinoman, “All you are dealing with is something that’s pure evil. We strip everything down to a purity. He’s not wearing anything distinguishable… He’s a blank. We stripped away the particulars, the details.”lxxxvi

The antagonist of the final film had exactly the effect on audiences that John Carpenter and Debra Hill intended, as evidence by the diverse perspectives on Michael Myers below.

Tom Allen calls Myers “a faceless psychopath of terrifying strength and preternatural ubiquity.”lxxxvii Tim Lucas describes the Shape as a “killer who operates without governing laws of existence.”lxxxviii Walter Metz says, “The film posits that Michael Myers is a supernatural manifestation of evil, not just a boy driven insane by family romances.”lxxxix

Chris Durand (who played “the Shape” in H20) says, “What makes this guy so frightening is that under the costume and mask, he is a very determined human being.”xc

Kendall R. Phillips posits that Michael Myers “is a force of nature, an embodiment of some transcendent fate.”xci

In his doctoral dissertation, Aaron C. Anderson writes, “Myers is both an insider and an outsider in humanity and humanness and an insider and outsider of the small town of Haddonfield. He is both a piece of reality and a piece of nightmarish fantasy… he does not bear the markers of mortality that a human normally carries.”xcii

Peter Hutchings says, “…when in Halloween the serial killer Michael Myers survives being stabbed in the neck, in the eye and in the chest and, shortly thereafter, being shot six times at point blank range and falling out of an upstairs bedroom window, something very fundamental is being said not just about this particular serial killer but also about monsterdom in general, and that is that monsters… always come back.”xciii

Jonathan Rosenbaum notes that John Carpenter plays “a subtle guessing-game with us as to whether the elliptically-glimpsed and masked psychopath is actually human or not.”xciv

Anthony C. Ferrante reports that the Michael Myers known to fans of the first film nearly manifested in an altogether different shape. Ferrante writes, “According to [Debra] Hill, the scripting process began with sitting down and writing out as many Halloween scares as they could come up with. Next came the story; [Carpenter & Hill] tinkered with the idea of the father of one child being the killer, taking girls home and seducing them. Though Hill admits the murderer could have been anyone from a parent or teacher to another kid from school, the key always came down to telling the story from the teenagers’ point of view and dealing with ‘things that go bump in the night.’”xcv

Journalist Robert Martin reports that early plans for Michael Myers & Laurie Strode as they’d appear in Halloween II differed drastically from the screenplay for the sequel that John Carpenter & Debra Hill ultimately wrote. Martin notes, “[Producer] Irwin Yablans first announced preparations for the sequel [in 1980]. According to Yablans, the second film would take place several years later. Jamie Lee Curtis would repeat her role as Laurie Strode, a little more grown up and now living in a tight-security modern high-rise apartment complex. On another Halloween night, [Michael Myers] would reappear…”xcvi

In issue #8 of Fangoria, David P. Nichols reports, “Yablans reveals that Jamie Lee Curtis will continue the story of the victimized school girl who moves to a new town and resides in a luxury apartment complex. Donald Pleasence will be on hand as the killer’s nemesis, once again trying to save the population from the Boogeyman on Halloween night.”xcvii

Robert Martin continues, “However, when Carpenter and Hill sat down to write [the sequel], Yablans’s conception of the story was quickly abandoned. ‘It would have been absolutely ludicrous to do the film several years later,’ says [Debra] Hill. ‘Where has the Shape been? He hasn’t spoken a word since he was six years old, he’s not schooled… so where has he been all that time?’”xcviii

In 1998, Roger Ebert wondered, “How does Michael Myers support himself in the long years between his slashing outbreaks? I picture him working in a fast-food joint. ‘He never spoke much, but boy, could he dice those onions!’ …Maybe he is a mime when he’s not slashing.”xcix

Repression

John Carpenter reveals, “The killer in Halloween is sexually repressed. That’s his problem. There’s a connection between the killer and the virginal heroine. They’re both repressed.”c

Robert B. Winning writes in his doctoral dissertation, “Michael’s arrival in Haddonfield and his stalking of Laurie and her friends coincides with Laurie’s personal dilemma about her awakening sexuality. In this way Michael becomes a personification of that which Laurie is repressing about her sexuality.”ci

Rick Worland describes Laurie Strode as “…a virgin, albeit a reluctant one dismayed by her lack of social skills and sexual experience relative to her brash, promiscuous friends… in one of many needling references to virginity, Annie jokes that Laurie ‘must have a fortune stashed away in babysitting money,’ her repression channeled into rigid responsibility as a mother in training.”cii

Robin Wood attempts to get inside the head of Michael Myers when he speculates that “Laurie is the killer’s real quarry throughout… because she is for him the reincarnation of the sister he murdered as a child.”ciii

In his doctoral thesis, Alan Rogers discusses the sequence set in 1963 in which six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his teenage sister Judith: “The prologue suggests that Michael’s psychosis is triggered by some obscure reaction to sex. The sexual overtones of the scene are so strong as to inevitably affect perceptions of the entire narrative.”civ

J.P. Telotte writes that young Michael “is a viewer himself, cut off from that which he sees, as he stands outside his house, voyeuristically watching his sister ‘make out’ with her boyfriend. Afterwards, he inexplicably – perhaps through possession, madness, or even frustration – carries out his own assault on his sister, attacking her with a long, phallic knife in a horrifying travesty of the sexual encounter he has only partially witnessed and totally misunderstood.”cv

Morris Dickstein asserts, “The murderer is a voyeur enraged by his own excitement…”cvi

William Paul says, “…commentary on the film does generally attribute a sexual motivation to this sequence… I have yet to read any commentary that is particularly concerned by the fact that the murderer is a six-year-old boy. Reading sexual desire into this without accounting for the age of the child seems to me only slightly less perverse than the sequence itself.”cvii

Reynold Humphries posits, “To evoke sexuality… when discussing a child of six means that we take literally the notion of repression and the unconscious. Michael has no idea of why he kills his sister. For a start, Michael is not present in the bedroom; he goes up to kill her only after the boyfriend has left… Unconsciously Michael is killing, not his sister, but his mother for choosing someone else.”cviii

Discussing the adult Michael Myers, Steve Neal calls attention to the figurative elephant in the room: “Each killing involves either strangulation and/or stabbing with a huge, phallic knife… each killing implies punishment of a woman who asserted a sexual appetite.”cix

In her book Misfit Sisters: Screen Horror as Female Rites of Passage, Sue Short writes, “Despite being presented as a sexually naive bookworm who is mocked by her female peers, Laurie affirms that boys are intimidated by her intelligence.” Short then notes, “It is this trait that contributes further towards saving her than her piety. Indeed, although numerous critics have seen the slasher as an attempt to regulate female sexuality, it is equally possible to argue that it provides a positive affirmation of female capability, non-conformity, and a refusal to ‘put out’ simply to keep a man…”cx

John Carpenter elaborates on the link he sees between Michael and Laurie Strode. In an interview with Todd McCarthy, Carpenter said, “The one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing this guy with a long knife. She’s the most sexually frustrated… all that repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy… She and the killer have a certain link: sexual repression. She’s lonely, she doesn’t have a boyfriend, so she’s looking around. And she finds someone – him.”cxi

Carol J. Clover cites some of the above quotation in her seminal book Men, Women, and Chain Saws, and Clover writes, “…the ‘certain link’ that puts killer and Final Girl on terms, at least briefly, is more than ‘sexual repression.’ It is also a shared masculinity, materialized in ‘all those phallic symbols’ – and it is also a shared femininity, materialized in what comes next… the castration, literal or symbolic, of the killer at her hands.”cxii

John McCarthy counters John Carpenter’s remarks about Laurie and Michael having sexual repression in common by writing, “Curiously, Carpenter’s defense only makes matters worse because it still connects sex with violent retribution… Carpenter might better have let things go by stating the obvious… Halloween is nothing more than an updated fairy tale…”cxiii

In an interview conducted around the turn of the millennium, John Carpenter told Gilles Boulenger, “…the story starts out with a little boy seeing his sister fucking her boyfriend upstairs and killing her for it. So it seems to me that part of what he’s doing is getting vengeance on her because of an Oedipal or incestual thing.”cxiv

Murray Leeder writes, “…the film’s psychological elements are a critical stumbling block, since the film actively resists any attempt to see Michael in terms of any identifiable human pathology… A verisimilitudinous depiction of mental illness was not on Carpenter’s agenda; the creation of a cosmic threat beyond rational explanation, psychological or otherwise, was.”cxv

Vincent Canby asserts, “We never really get to know anything about the killer. Analysis has no place here.”cxvi

John Kenneth Muir says, “Michael Myers cannot be explained rationally in terms of psychology. He does not suffer from a specific, diagnosable or treatable disorder, and Dr. Loomis describes the monster unscientifically just as one of our ancestors at the dawn of time might have: Myers is purely and simply evil.”cxvii

In an interview with Jordan R. Fox, John Carpenter says, “Halloween is not about a crazy guy killing people. That’s the story, but not what it’s about. The movie is about evil, and it’s about sex. In my opinion, evil never dies.”cxviii

Laurie Strode opts to test that hypothesis on the twentieth anniversary of her trauma when Michael Myers resurfaces.

Laurie Strode in October of 1998

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later traces Laurie’s path to empowerment, continuing the character arc that began in the first two films (both of which depict the trauma that Michael Myers inflicted upon her on October 31, 1978). Laurie Strode was 17 years old that Halloween.

The H20 script introduces Laurie (age 37) in the throes of a nightmare, establishing that she has not coped well with her past.

With a new identity (Keri Tate) and a solid career as head administrator at a private school, Laurie remains haunted. Once controlled by her family and friends, she is now controlled by nightmares and alcohol. Instead of actively exerting control over her own life, she strives to control her 17-year-old son (John).

Consider a scene in which John offers to address Laurie as “Mom” instead of “Keri” in exchange for the right to move out. He concedes “I’ll call you Mom” and asks if he can live in a dormitory, and Laurie tells him no. She says, “I took the padlock off your door. What more do you want?” As John exits, Laurie asks where he’s going. He replies, “To the bathroom. Can I do that alone or do you want to watch?”cxix

In Halloween H20 (the finished film), Laurie’s control of John first manifests as her adamant refusal to let him leave the school grounds for a weekend Halloween party with his fellow students. In both the film and Robert Zappia’s second draft of the script (which differs significantly from the movie), Laurie displaces her need for control onto her son. The “overprotective mother” scene in the film immediately follows one of Laurie’s nightmares, making the connection between her past trauma and her need for control more clear than it may have been on the page.

In Zappia’s second draft, and in the film, Laurie experiences terrifying hallucinations of Michael Myers as the anniversary of her trauma approaches. These visions eventually push her to overcome her alcoholism in order to better cope with her fears. She first imagines the killer when she ventures outside the safety of the school’s gated fence for groceries. Laurie’s reaction to the vision, freezing immobile, is an echo of her behavior in the first film when she realizes that Michael may be in the Doyle house. This beat introduces the catalyst for Laurie’s change while showing that no change has yet occurred; she still feels powerless in the presence of Michael.

That evening, Laurie again imagines Michael in his mask, and then she has a third intense hallucination the next morning. These visions propel Laurie/Keri to take the first step on her path to empowerment: she pours a bottle of Vodka down the sink.

Though she resists the lure of the bottle, her need to control her son remains solid until the very end of the story. Significant character transformation in a believable screenplay is the result of many small changes spurred by narrative events. The arrival of Michael on school grounds serves as a major narrative catalyst that accelerates Laurie’s change. Her disempowered demeanor begins to crumble, and she takes action to protect her son, herself, and others.

In Zappia’s second draft, Laurie realizes that Michael is back when she sees him through her office window approaching John’s girlfriend (Molly). Laurie immediately charges out of the office in an attempt to save her. Though she fails, she has discovered that she need not be paralyzed with fear.

In H20 (the film), Laurie’s major empowerment-catalyst again is the confirmation that Michael is back. Instead of spotting him at a distance as in the second draft, she sees him inches away through the window in a door she has just slammed shut. She refuses to let fear paralyze her as in the past, and instead she barks instructions to three individuals: her boyfriend Will, her son John, and John’s girlfriend Molly. Molly and John hide while Will and Laurie, armed with a gun, seek out Michael. Will accidentally shoots the campus security guard. Michael appears and kills Will, at which point Laurie again takes charge; she orders John and Molly to take the car and leave the school grounds.

With John and Molly gone, Laurie is left alone in the school with the killer who has haunted her for twenty years. There is no one left to protect her. Laurie realizes only she can conquer her personal demons.

At this crucial turning point, she could easily give up under the stress and flee or cower until Michael kills her. Instead, she earns the title of hero and seeks out her brother for a climactic confrontation.

Jamie Lee Curtis observes, “There had to be a moment where Laurie could get away, but instead she recognizes that the only possible way for her to live is to face Michael Myers and risk dying.”cxx

Laurie’s transformation into an empowered character is complete when she begins actively hunting Michael on the school grounds. She even forsakes the element of surprise that she could have had by sneaking up on him, choosing instead to bellow his name in a primal scream before she sets out on her hunt.

As she confronts Michael face-to-mask in the climax, her behavior again demonstrates how far she has come since her days as a cowering teenager in Haddonfield. She is active, alert, and in control, focused on her task of vanquishing the Boogeyman.

Laurie Strode no longer needs Dr. Loomis or anyone else to save her; at long last, she is willing and able to save herself.

Epilogue

In lesser slasher films such as Happy Birthday to Me, The Burning, and Hell Night, the protagonist’s nature remains static. There is no growth, no learning, no comment upon the human condition. Halloween H20 manages to layer a believable and engaging transformation of its hero over an atmospheric, tense story. By portraying a traumatized alcoholic’s struggle to regain control of her life without slowing the pace or suspense that horror fans expect, H20 proves that it is still very possible to creatively explore the slasher genre in the post-Scream era.

Is the seventh film in the original Halloween series groundbreaking? No. Is it more carefully-crafted than ninety-nine percent of the slasher films cranked out in the past few decades? Absolutely.

H20 struck a chord with fans (newcomers and longtime Halloween aficionados) when it opened on Wednesday, August 5th in 1998. That first day alone, H20 earned over five million dollars at the box office. By the end of November that year, the film had grossed more than fifty-five million dollars. The well-crafted continuation of the Strode/Myers legend resonated with viewers and has garnered substantial critical acclaim.

In Variety, Dennis Harvey writes, “…[H20] belongs to Curtis, and care has been taken to make her character one credible, battle-scarred survivor. Laurie here is a caustic divorcee… a caring but oppressive parent whose understandable paranoia no pill can ease.”cxxi Maitland McDonagh says, “…Kevin Williamson, a true-blue Halloween fan, revitalized the moribund stalk-and-slash genre with clever dialogue, self-referential irony, and a healthy respect for horror traditions. Although he’s not credited as a screenwriter on H20… Williamson’s hand is all over it… and it’s a blast.”cxxii In The Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas proclaims that H20 “…brings back a stunning Jamie Lee Curtis in the role that made her a star, and it’s a work of superior craftsmanship in all aspects… it’s hard to imagine Curtis participating in a Halloween sequel unless her part was exceptional, and it is.”cxxiii

Bob Graham raves, “H20 is not a routine cut-and-paste horror but a full-fledged revenge fantasy – and a completely satisfying one… H20 may even be better than John Carpenter’s original, and that’s going some, because it capitalizes on the Laurie Strode character’s history. It makes her much more complicated and even archetypal.”cxxiv

At least one fellow apparently half-dozed through H20 as evidenced by his failure to mind the most basic details of seminal horror film iconography. In The New York Times, Lawrence Van Gelder describes Michael Myers as “the hockey-masked slasher of the 1978 John Carpenter horror hit Halloween…”cxxv Perhaps this critic accidentally wandered into a revival screening of director Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III and just assumed he had watched a Halloween film. Hockey-masked? Really?

Jamie Lee Curtis fondly remembers her character (who Michael Myers ultimately killed in the lamentable Halloween: Resurrection): “Laurie Strode was a complex person. She was intelligent. She was sensitive. She was vulnerable. She was funny, and she was a heroine.”cxxvi

Halloween H20 was never going to win an Oscar, but it may inspire filmmakers to find new ways to layer nuanced character transformations into their stories (even in genres not known for character-centered scripts).

Daniel S. Duvall

www.DanDuvall.com

i John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1970s (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002), pp. 536-537.

ii Adam Rockoff, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986 (McFarland & Company Inc, 2002), p. 50.

iii Bruce McClelland, “Someone’s Watching You: the Cinema of John Carpenter,” Cinemacabre #3 (summer 1980), pp. 14-23 with this bit on p. 21.

iv Michael Gingold, “Halloween: an Enduring Treat,” Fangoria Legends #2 (2013), pp. 18-19.

v Tim Lucas, “The Panavision World of John Carpenter,” Video Watchdog #27 (1995), pp. 49-55 with this bit on p. 54.

vi Anne Billson in The BFI Companion to Horror (Cassell, 1996), p. 57.

vii John Carpenter, “On Composing for Halloween,” Fangoria #30 (October 1983), pp. 38-39.

viii Irwin Yablans in a testimonial within the “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest” documentary.

ix John Carpenter quoted by Blake Mitchell & James Ferguson in “John Carpenter, Natch,” Fantastic Films Volume 3, Number 2 (July 1980), pp. 17-24, 73, 76-77, and 92-93 with this bit about Halloween on page 73.

x Debra Hill in a 1999 video interview used in the 2010 Biography Channel documentary “Halloween: The Inside Story”.

xi Debra Hill quoted by Anthony C. Ferrante, “The Night He Made History,” Fangoria #138 (November 1994), pp. 12-22 & 90 with this bit on page 16.

xii Debra Hill in a testimonial within the “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest” documentary.

xiii John Carpenter quoted by Todd McCarthy, “Trick and Treat,” Film Comment Volume 16 Number 1 (January-February 1980), pp. 17-24 with this bit on page 23.

xiv Tommy Lee Wallace on a Halloween Blu-ray commentary track from the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set from Scream Factory (disc 1).

xv John Carpenter quoted by Ralph Appelbaum (miscredited as Applebaum in the byline), “From Cult Homage to Creative Control,” Films and Filming #297 (Volume 25 Number 9 – June 1979), pp. 10-16.

xvi John Carpenter quoted by Stanley Wiater, Dark Visions (New York: Avon Books, 1992), p. 22.

xvii Debra Hill quoted in Film Comment (January-February 1980) with this bit on p. 21.

xviii Debra Hill quoted by Ralph Appelbaum, “Working with Numbers,” Films and Filming #300 (Volume 25 Number 12 – September 1979), pp. 20-24.

xix Debra Hill quoted by John Brosnan, “Interview: Debra Hill,” Starburst magazine #72 (August 1984), pp. 20-23.

xx Debra Hill in Halloween Unmasked 2000 (a featurette on the Bonus Disc [disc 15] from the deluxe edition of the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set that Scream Factory released).

xxi Ian Conrich, “Killing Time… and Time Again: The Popular Appeal of Carpenter’s Horrors and the Impact of The Thing and Halloween,” The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror (Wallflower Press, 2004), pp. 91-106 with this bit on page 99.

xxii William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade (New York: Warner Books, 1983), p. 584. On page 127 of that same tome, Bill Goldman opines, “You don’t fret a whole lot about subtext if you’re writing Halloween VI.”

xxiii Vera Dika, Games of Terror (Associated University Presses, 1990), p. 53.

xxiv David E. Williams, “In the Mouth of Carpenter,” Film Threat issue 20 (February 1995), pp. 24-27.

xxv Michelle Le Blanc & Colin Odell, John Carpenter (Kamera Books, 2011), p. 42.

xxvi Mark Jancovich, “General Introduction,” Horror, The Film Reader (Routlege, 2002), p. 8.

xxvii Ken Gelder, “Introduction to Part Nine,” The Horror Reader (Routledge, 2000), p. 273.

xxviii Adam Rockoff, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986 (McFarland & Company Inc, 2002), p. 55.

xxix Kenneth Nelson, “Halloween,” HorrorHound Special (November 2012), p. 4.

xxx Jeremy Dyson, “Epilogue,” Bright Darkness: The Lost Art of the Supernatural Horror Film (Cassell, 1997), p. 249.

xxxi Dean Cundey on a Halloween Blu-ray commentary track from the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set from Scream Factory (disc 1).

xxxii Tommy Lee Wallace on a Halloween Blu-ray commentary track from the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set from Scream Factory (disc 1).

xxxiii Les Daniels, “Children and Babies,” The BFI Companion to Horror (Cassell, 1996), p. 65.

xxxiv Bruce Lanier Wright, Gothic Horror Movies: The Modern Era (Taylor Publishing Company, 1995), p. 157.

xxxv John Carpenter quoted by Thomas Nilsson, “All Out of Bubble Gum,” Samhain magazine #26 (April/May 1991), pp. 6-10.

xxxvi Stephen Rebello, “The Second Coming of the Shape is Just a Dull, Dumb Rehash,” Cinefantastique Volume 12 Number 1 (February 1982), p. 52.

xxxvii Kim Newman, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (film review), Sight & Sound (November 1998). Reprinted in editor Kim Newman’s Science Fiction/Horror: A Sight & Sound Reader, pp. 202-204.

xxxviii Rick Rosenthal quoted by Patrick Hobby, “Halloween II: It Wasn’t Shocking Enough for John Carpenter, Who Stepped in to Direct in Postproduction,” Cinefantastique Volume 12 Number 1 (February 1982), p. 9.

xxxix John Carpenter quoted by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier, “John Carpenter: of Fogs and Things,” The Bloody Best of Fangoria Volume #5 (1986), pp. 16-19 with this bit on page 19.

xl Roger Ebert, “Halloween II” (film review), Chicago Sun-Times, January 1, 1981.

xli Michelle Le Blanc & Colin Odell, John Carpenter (Kamera Books, 2011), pp. 135-136.

xlii Tom Shales, “The Blood Puddles of Halloween II,” The Washington Post, October 30, 1981.

xliii Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Bob Martin in “Jamie Lee Curtis,” Fangoria #15 (October 1981), pp. 20-25.

xliv Debra Hill in a testimonial within the “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest” documentary.

xlv Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Marc Shapiro in “Halloween H20: Back in Shape,” Fangoria #176 (September 1998), p. 22.

xlvi Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Marc Shapiro in “Halloween Heroine,” Fangoria #177 (October 1998), pp. 34-37 with this bit on page 36.

xlvii Richard Harrington, Washington Post, October 22, 1988 & January 2, 1995.

xlviii The Overlook Film Encyclopedia (Horror), edited by Phil Hardy. The entry for Halloween 5 can be found on page 446 of an edition from the mid-1990s with an ISBN of 0879516240.

xlix Alan Jones’s encapsulation of the Myers/Strode family saga from The Return of Michael Myers through The Curse of Michael Myers can be found on pages 145 and 146 of the 1996 edition of The BFI Companion To Horror (edited by Kim Newman).

l Ian Calcutt’s review of Halloween 5, Samhain magazine #26 (April/May 1991), p. 32.

li Rod Gudino in “Halloween: the Franchise Series Overview,” Rue Morgue magazine (July/August 2002), p. 20.

lii Adam Rockoff, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986 (McFarland & Company Inc, 2002), pp. 171-173.

liii Ian Calcutt, “Halloween 5,” Samhain issue #26 (April/May 1991), p. 32.

liv Stephen King, Danse Macabre (Berkley Books, 1981), pp. 415-416.

lv Stephen King quoted by Linda Marotta in “Stephen King Shines On,” reprinted in Fangoria Masters Of The Dark edited by Anthony Timpone (New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1997), p. 106.

lvi Moustapha Akkad quoted by Marc Shapiro in “Halloween H20: Back in Shape,” Fangoria #176 (September 1998), p. 22.

lvii Marc Savlov, “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers,” The Austin Chronicle, October 6, 1995.

lviii Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Marc Shapiro in issue #177 (October 1998) of Fangoria.

lix John Carpenter quoted by Bob Martin in “John Carpenter,” Fangoria #14 (August 1981), p. 10.

lx John Carpenter quoted by Anthony C. Ferrante in “Carpenter’s Tools,” Cinescape issue #54 (November 2001), pp. 20-21.

lxi John Carpenter quoted by Loris Curci in Shock Masters of the Cinema (Fantasma Books, 1996), pp. 38-39.

lxii John Carpenter quoted by Murray Leeder in Halloween (Auteur, 2014), pp. 12-13.

lxiii John Carpenter quoted in On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker (Titan Books, 2014), p. 128.

lxiv John Carpenter in a testimonial within the “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest” documentary.

lxv Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Liz Smith in “Aieee! It’s Jamie Lee,” Newsday (Long Island, NY), June 21, 1998, p. A15.

lxvi Jamie Lee Curtis on the Blu-ray commentary track of the H20 disc from the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set from Scream Factory.

lxvii John Carpenter quoted by John Thonen, “Halloween H20: John Carpenter on Why the Sequel Didn’t Shape Up,” Cinefantastique (Volume 30 Number 4 – August 1998), p. 7.

lxviii Steve Miner quoted by Claudia Eller in “Will Lightning Strike Twice?,” Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1998.

lxix Jamie Lee Curtis on the Blu-ray commentary track of the H20 disc from the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set from Scream Factory.

lxx Kevin Williamson quoted by Ian Spelling & Anthony C. Ferrante in “Kevin Williamson’s Latest,” Fangoria #172 (May 1998), pp. 8-9.

lxxi Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Janet Weeks in “Halloween at 20: Facing Ghosts of the Past,” USA Today, April 24, 1998, p. 1E.

lxxii Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Marc Shapiro in “Halloween H20: Back in Shape,” Fangoria #176 (September 1998), pp. 19-24 & 76.

lxxiii Jamie Lee Curtis quoted in JET magazine (August 10, 1998 – Volume 94, Number 11), p. 58.

lxxiv Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by an unspecified contributor in “Halloween H20,” Total Film #22 (November 1998), pp. 66-70.

lxxv Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Amy Wallace, “Horror Comes Full Circle in H20,” Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1998.

lxxvi Andrew Horton, Writing The Character-Centered Screenplay (University of California Press, 1994), pp. 19-20.

lxxvii Curtis quoted by Marc Shapiro, “Halloween Heroine,” Fangoria #177 (October 1998), pp. 34-37.

lxxviii David J. Skal, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2002), p. 180.

lxxix Debra Hill speaking on one of the commentary tracks included in many home video versions of Halloween.

lxxx John Carpenter quoted by George Hickenlooper in Reel Conversations (Citadel Press, 1991), p. 338.

lxxxi John Carpenter in a testimonial within the “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest” documentary.

lxxxii Tommy Lee Wallace on a Halloween Blu-ray commentary track from the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set from Scream Factory (disc 1).

lxxxiii John Carpenter in Halloween Unmasked 2000 (a featurette on the Bonus Disc [disc 15] from the deluxe edition of the “Halloween: The Complete Collection” box set that Scream Factory released).

lxxxiv John Carpenter quoted by Murray Leeder in Halloween (Auteur, 2014), p. 90.

lxxxv Debra Hill quoted by Anthony C. Ferrante, “The Night He Made History,” Fangoria #138 (November 1994), pp. 12-22 & 90 with this bit on page 14.

lxxxvi John Carpenter quoted by Jason Zinoman in Shock Value (Penguin Books, 2011), p. 182.

lxxxvii Tom Allen, “A Sleeper That’s Here to Stay,” The Village Voice, November 6, 1978, pp. 67-70.

lxxxviii Tim Lucas, “Friday The 13th” (film review), Cinefantastique (Volume 10 Number 2), p. 42.

lxxxix Walter Metz, “Toward a Post-structural Influence in Film Genry Study: Intertextuality and The Shining,” Film Criticism (Vol. XXII, No. 1 – Fall 1997), pp. 39-51. The bit about Halloween appears on page 43.

xc Chris Durand quoted by Marc Shapiro in “Halloween H20: Back in Shape,” Fangoria #176 (September 1998), p. 76.

xci Kendall R. Phillips, Projected Fears (Praeger, 2005), p. 137.

xcii Aaron C. Anderson, Rethinking the Slasher Film: Violated Bodies and Spectators in Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, “A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy,” 2013, University of California, San Diego, p. 37.

xciii Peter Hutchings, The Horror Film (Routledge 2013), p. 53.

xciv Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Halloween,” Take One (January 1979), pp. 8-9 with this bit on page 8.

xcv Debra Hill quoted by Anthony C. Ferrante, “The Night He Made History,” Fangoria #138 (November 1994), pp. 12-22 & 90 with this bit on page 14.

xcvi Robert Martin, “Screen Preview: Halloween II,” Twilight Zone magazine (November 1981), pp. 51-54.

xcvii David P. Nichols, “Irwin Yablans: Fade to Halloween 2?,” Fangoria #8 (October 1980), p. 42.

xcviii Robert Martin, “Screen Preview: Halloween II,” Twilight Zone magazine (November 1981), pp. 51-54.

xcix Roger Ebert in his review of H20 (August 5, 1998).

c John Carpenter quoted by James Verniere, “John Carpenter Doing His Own Thing,” Twilight Zone magazine (November 1982), pp. 24-30.

ci Robert B. Winning, Archetypal Images and Motifs from Feminine Mythology in the Film Halloween, “A dissertation submitted to the graduate school in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy,” Northwestern University, June 1987, p. 93.

cii Rick Worland, The Horror Film: an Introduction (Blackwell Publishing, 2007), p. 235.

ciii Robin Wood, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 194. Wood goes on to speculate (elsewhere on page 194) that perhaps “Michael’s evil is what his analyst has been projecting on to him for the past nine years.”

civ Alan Rogers, The Contemporary Horror Film, “A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Council for National Academic Awards for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy,” October 1990, Sheffield City Polytechnic.

cv J.P. Telotte, “Faith and Idolatry” in Planks of Reason (edited by Barry Keith Grant), The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1984, p. 26.

cvi Morris Dickstein, “The Aesthetics of Fright” in Planks of Reason (edited by Barry Keith Grant), The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1984, p. 66.

cvii William Paul, Laughing Screaming (Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 485.

cviii Reynold Humphries, The American Horror Film: an Introduction (Edinburgh University Press Ltd, 2002), p. 140.

cix Steve Neale, “Suspense, Aggression and the Look” in Planks of Reason (edited by Barry Keith Grant), The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1984, p. 332.

cx Sue Short, Misfit Sisters: Screen Horror as Female Rites of Passage (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 46.

cxi John Carpenter quoted by Todd McCarthy, “Trick and Treat,” Film Comment (Volume 16 Number 1, 1980), pp. 17-24 with this bit on pages 23-24.

cxii Carol J. Clover, Men, Woman, and Chain Saws (Princeton University Press, Princeton First Classics edition, 2015), p. 49.

cxiii John McCarthy, “Halloween and the Exploitation Psycho,” Movie Psychos and Madmen (Citadel Press, 1993), pp. 165-188 with this bit on page 168.

cxiv John Carpenter quoted by Gilles Boulenger in John Carpenter the Prince of Darkness (Silman-James Press, 2001), p. 99.

cxv Murray Leeder, Halloween (Auteur, 2014), p. 86.

cxvi Vincent Canby, “Chilling Truths About Scaring,” The New York Times, January 21, 1979, p. 13.

cxvii John Kenneth Muir, The Films of John Carpenter (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2000), p. 76.

cxviii John Carpenter quoted by Jordan R. Fox, “Riding High on Horror,” Cinefantastique (Volume 10 Number 1, summer 1980), pp. 5-10, 40, and 42-44 with this bit on page 40.

cxix Dialogue from the Robert Zappia screenplay Halloween: The Revenge of Laurie Strode (Writer’s Second Draft, Dec. 3, 1997).

cxx Jamie Lee Curtis quoted by Chris Nashawaty, “Final Cut,” Entertainment Weekly #445 (August 14, 1998), pp. 28-32 & 34.

cxxi Dennis Harvey in his H20 review in Variety, August 3, 1998.

cxxii Maitland McDonagh, “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later,” Film Journal International,

cxxiii Kevin Thomas, “Living Up to Its Gory Past,” The Los Angeles Times, August 5, 1998.

cxxiv Bob Graham, “Sweet Revenge,” The San Francisco Chronicle, August 5, 1998.

cxxv Lawrence Van Gelder, “Monster and Victim: Older, Not Wiser,” The New York Times, August 5, 1998.

cxxvi Jamie Lee Curtis at the end of the video documentary “Blood is Thicker than Water: the Making of Halloween H20.”

Standard

The 1982 Slasher Film DEATH SCREAMS (also known as HOUSE OF DEATH)

I watched the first 60 minutes of the 1982 slasher movie DEATH SCREAMS starting around 5 AM EDT on the 21st of April in 2018. 16 hours later, from around 10 PM – 10:30 PM EDT, I watched the balance of the scenes.

Sometime between 8 and 9 PM, I wrote a stream-of-consciousness review of that first hour. After 10:30 PM, I wrote up my thoughts on the denouement. Here are my findings about director David Nelson’s feature film DEATH SCREAMS.

8:20 PM EDT on 21 April 2018 – Impressions of the first hour of the 1982 slasher film DEATH SCREAMS (also known as HOUSE OF DEATH):

The production values are generally on par with the films one sees on MST3K — lots of uninspired shots of talking heads, average lighting, etc. Every so often, you see where the producers spent the money, like a couple of tracking shots while people walk down the sidewalk in a small town (evocative of HALLOWEEN imagery). There’s one really interesting character, a “special needs” young adult who roams around the town and has been known to steal stuff (bats, balls, and even bases) from the community’s baseball field. One of the actresses resembles PJ Soles and seems to be imitating the voice of Lynda from HALLOWEEN, and the character is a similar fun-loving blonde. As a customer at a baked goods booth examines brownies and such at a carnival, a different female character asks “See anything you like?” She then offers the browser a piece of pie. Ah, the carnival — the center of so many goddamn daytime scenes in this movie. Early in the day there, the main characters agree to have a bonfire that night (after which they’ll go tell ghost stories in the cemetery), and I was like, “Yes! That sounds great! Can we get to those scenes already?!” When I stopped the movie an hour in, the bonfire sequence had only barely begun, and there’s maybe 25 minutes of story left before the credits. No sign of the cemetery yet. Apparently the director felt that the sights and sounds of a small-town carnival would be interesting enough to hold viewers through like 40 minutes of the film — he was wrong. Also, the prologue of this flick features the deaths of two lovers, but it’s not clear how they died — there’s just suddenly a close-up of their faces while the guy gurgles blood from his mouth. There are periodic shots of their corpses floating down a creek throughout the rest of the movie — I read somewhere that the core characters spot the bodies in act three. My other complaint about this movie — it takes place across a few days and nights, but apparently the killer only successfully snuffs out the lives of those prologue victims, at least so far, as they’re the only people referenced as “missing” in the town — despite the prowler being out and about on night two, as evidenced by a shot of a hand with a blade slicing open a screen door moments after someone closes it. It’s like, “Well, my prey got away. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.” So, yeah — this one’s not too hot.

10:50 PM EDT on 21 April 2018 – Thoughts about Act III of the 1982 horror film DEATH SCREAMS (alternately titled HOUSE OF DEATH):

The last 18 minutes of this film are actually wildly entertaining, unlike the 67 minutes leading up to that point. The third act would make a decent stand-alone short horror film (albeit with paper-thin characters) if a prologue and/or epilogue got tacked on for some context.

At the 68-minute point, the young adult friends finally get to the cemetery, and one young lady tells a classic urban legend — she got two sentences in, and I was like, “This is one of the ones that ends with a message written on the wall.” Yep – “Maniacs lick hands too.” I called it. Anyhow, that whole section is really well-shot and atmospheric, and then a thunderstorm kicks in, so the group heads to an old abandoned house nearby. One of them has to use an outhouse between the house and the cemetery, and his friends decide to wait a few minutes and then go scare him out there. While that fellow is sitting on the can, a raccoon wanders in, and the guy says, “I’m gonna be constipated for the rest of my life.” Best dialogue in the whole movie. His friends show up, open the outhouse, and find this guy with his throat slit, hanging upside down in front of the toilet. Naturally instead of immediately becoming hyper-alert and arming themselves, they wrangle the corpse back to the house, because the most important thing to do with a murderer lurking about is to contaminate a crime scene.

These characters are all incredibly stupid in terms of basic survival instincts. Three of them have the good sense to stay barricaded inside the house. Three split off (one at a time, mind you) and head back through the cemetery alone at different points – not wise.

In these final 18 minutes, there are some really great deaths with reasonably good practical effects – not like Savini-quality, but well done. One guy falls into an open grave and, while climbing out, gets both hands lopped off by a single swing of a machete. Two others get decapitated (off camera), and the revelations of the heads later are pretty fun.

Then suddenly the killer is at the house’s door, and someone inside goes, “I hear someone!” — and OPENS THE DAMN DOOR. Like, why did you lock it in the first place? Why not prop it open with a doorstop?

The remaining characters see the killer running at them, slam the door, and try to go upstairs, perhaps on the assumption that the blade-wielding killer can’t climb stairs due to fear of heights or something.

One girl falls through the rotting steps and gets stuck.

A guy figures, well, like, “I’ll just climb over her and add more weight to this death trap.” He does so and tries to pull her out, but when he does, she’s been cut in half — because the machete man who moments early was at the door is now UNDER THE STAIRS in a walk-in storage space! Its door flings open while the Final Girl (named “Lily Carpenter” – har har) and the last remaining dumb guy scramble upstairs. I think there’s another character in the mix here too, but I lost track.

The killer bursts into the 2nd-floor room, and for the first time we learn his identity — someone who had been introduced at the carnival as a fellow well-known around town, considered a “good catch” kinda guy by the older ladies who advise the teens about who to date.

Final Girl uses a shard of glass to slit his throat with precision accuracy even though, like, the guy was waving a machete between his throat and Lily.

He drops to the floor.

Outside, the small town’s asshole cop just happens to be wandering by and senses something amiss. He looks at an upstairs window.

The killer springs back to his feet despite the massive blood loss! He lunges at Lily, misses, and crashes through the window!

He lands, impaled on his own machete, right in front of the cop — who, having no idea the context of this event, unloads his gun at the fellow’s head! There’s a split-second shot of a model head exploding.

Then a brief epilogue with ambulances, etc. — and the credits roll!

After the cast credits, there’s a subsection in the scroll labeled “Staff and crew.” The first thing on that list: “Screenplay by Paul C. Elliott.”

Standard

Timeless Tricks in John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN

Timeless Tricks in John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN

an 1,800-word essay written by Daniel S. Duvall

Suburbia, in theory, provides safety through predictability. Why fear your neighbors when you know their schedules as well as your own? Commuters drive to and from their strength-draining jobs five days per week. Lawns are mowed, backyard grills lit, and televisions clicked on with such regularity that a suburban almanac could include entries for these events alongside schedules for sunrise and sunset. Annual events are just as predictable: on Halloween, six-year-old boys dress up as clowns and scamper from porch to porch, politely thanking those who drop concentrated sugar in their stash-sacks.

Except in Haddonfield, Illinois, where one six-year-old clown spontaneously knifes his sister to death.

John Carpenter’s Halloween (written by Carpenter & Debra Hill) succeeds in unnerving viewers by tapping into the natural human fear of the unpredictable. The film defies first-time viewers to predict what the frame will hold and for how long. During Halloween’s initial release in 1978, it’s unlikely that anyone in the audience thought, “I’m sure the first sequence of this low-budget horror film will be a four-minute-long Panaglide point-of-view sequence that climaxes with the knifing of a teenaged girl.” During the knifing, did any viewers anticipate that the murderer would be a child dressed as a clown? When Carpenter finally cuts away from the point-of-view footage to reveal a befuddled, remorseless little kid clutching a blood-stained blade, first-time viewers experience the most intense variety of primal fear: that of unprecedented danger. A shot of a twitching, grimacing hatchet man would seem less unnerving, for there is no frame-of-reference covering prepubescent knife-wielding clowns wired into our fight-or-flight instincts. At least a hatchet man brings instant connotations of danger.

The suburban setting of Halloween is integral to the film’s ability to induce adrenaline rushes in its viewers. The original 1980 Friday the 13th (written by Victor Miller), which producer/director Sean S. Cunningham readily admits was created to cash in on the success of Halloween, takes place at a remote summer camp in the middle of overgrown woods. In such a setting, one expects to find predators and other dangers, from grizzly bears and snakes to horny counselors who may or may not have qualms about date rape. We instinctively become hypersensitive to survival threats when immersed in an environment that, by its nature, is only a few degrees more civilized than the Lord of the Flies island. But the suburbs? Surely we can let our guards down in the protective valleys of shorn lawns, sidewalk paths, and aluminum siding. Friday the 13th loses much impact by activating natural primal fears through its setting, whereas Halloween multiplies its impact exponentially by introducing an unstoppable predator into a world where the greatest baseline fear is that drunken teenagers will smash replaceable mailboxes on a Saturday night.

Haddonfield, judging by the behavior of its denizens, is normally the safest of safe suburbs. Shy high-school student Laurie Strode walks to school unescorted, save for a couple of minutes when an eight-year-old neighbor (perhaps the most ineffectual possible bodyguard if a predator ever swoops into their world) joins her to rattle off his wish list of things to do while she babysits him that night. (“Can we make Jack-O’-lanterns? Can we watch the monster movies? Will you read to me? Can we make popcorn?”) Laurie fearlessly marches up to the porch of the old Myers house (where fifteen years earlier young Michael pulled a Norman Bates on his sister) and drops off a key for prospective buyers. She returns home after school to find an open living room window, though her parents aren’t around to guard the house: business as usual in danger-free Haddonfield. The local Sheriff walks the streets, attributing the theft of masks and knives from a hardware store to “kids.” He is not at all alarmed, for he knows that neighborhood pranksters are especially active on Halloween. Later that night, having spilled butter on her clothes during a babysitting gig, Laurie’s friend Annie (daughter of the Sheriff) strolls sans pants between a house and a backyard laundry shed, confident that her suburban environs are as free of predators as she is of inhibitions.

And so Haddonfield is ill-prepared for the return of that knife-wielding clown-cum-boogeyman, Michael Myers, now age twenty-one, freshly escaped from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and eager to treat the local nubile teens to reenactments of his favorite All Hallow’s Eve trick.

The plot of Halloween unnerves viewers largely because it seems simple enough to predict, just as an apple seems inviting and nutritious until you bite into the razor blade within. An escaped madman determined to carve up as many teens as possible returns to his hometown while his psychiatrist bellows to any who will listen (and many who won’t) that the Haddonfield funeral home will be doing landmark business come the first week of November. Simple. Predictable. The slasher-man will surprise a few babysitters, they’ll scream, blood will flow, and by the end someone will knife the killer to death with his own weapon.

Except Carpenter knows that’s just what we expect, so it’s not at all what actually occurs; he makes us squirm by letting the plot weave right past our predictions until we have no idea when, where, or how lethally the boogeyman will appear.

As Halloween day becomes Halloween dusk, the film’s shy bookworm protagonist Laurie casually shares a joint with her friend Annie as they drive to their babysitting jobs. This simple ritual seems familiar to the characters, perhaps a part of their weekly routine, but it is wholly unexpected by viewers who have already pegged Laurie as a stereotypical model citizen. Laurie is an obedient teenager who runs morning errands for her real-estate-broker father, answers questions when called on by teachers, and provides exemplary babysitting service to neighbors. Everything we have observed about Laurie’s character up until Annie hands her the joint suggests that she would recoil from illegal drugs. Laurie defies all expectations and inhales with the casual ease of a practiced marijuana smoker. Like Michael Myers, the script’s plot, and Carpenter’s framing, Laurie unnerves viewers through unpredictability.

“Laurie was safe. She likes everything safe,” Debra Hill observes on one Halloween home video commentary track. “She doesn’t want to ask the boy out; she doesn’t want to go to the dance. She was looking for safe, and the irony is that it wasn’t safe.”

When darkness falls on Haddonfield, Myers prowls silently outside the houses where Laurie and Annie are preparing popcorn and watching monster movies with their young charges. And he watches. And watches. Then he lurks silently in the shadows and watches some more. This is the same killer who peered through windows at his sister for less than one minute before locating a knife and striding into her bedroom in the film’s opening sequence. Apparently he has evolved into a less hasty predator after fifteen years of staring at sanitarium walls. He is content to observe Annie for twelve minutes as she chats on the phone, spills butter on herself, strips down to her panties, dons a clean shirt, locks herself into the backyard laundry room, gets rescued by Lindsey (the little girl she’s ostensibly babysitting), and escorts Lindsey to the neighboring Doyle residence. During this voyeuristic sequence, the killer appears and vanishes from the frame at irregular intervals, hiding in the night as the shark in Jaws hides in the water. But whereas most of the predator’s off-screen moments in Spielberg’s career-making film were crafted due to a malfunctioning mechanical fish, all of Michael Myers’s off-screen time was consciously crafted by John Carpenter & Debra Hill to keep audiences spooked. Where is he? Why hasn’t he knifed her yet? Such questions haunt Halloween’s viewers as Michael continues to just watch… and watch… and watch.

Just when the audience has grown acclimated to seeing Michael prowling the yards and streets of Haddonfield, he appears inside a parked car with Annie. The camera lingers on her face for an excruciating thirty seconds as he strangles her. His expressionless mask hovers behind her, betraying no reason for the death sentence he has imposed. As a killer named Loomis in the Halloween-homage Scream declares, “It’s a lot scarier when there’s no motive.” It’s also scarier when the killer seems unconcerned with concealing his deed: when Annie’s body slumps against the steering wheel, Michael makes no immediate effort to silence the shrieking car horn. He then openly carries her body across the front yard and into the house while Tommy Doyle, the subject of Laurie’s babysitting gig, watches from a window across the street. Young Tommy gets his first taste of fear derived from the unpredictable when he screams to Laurie that the boogeyman is across the street. He expects her to take action to protect him, but she glances out the window and tells him that nothing is there. “Nobody believes me,” he sighs as he slumps on the couch.

Tommy is a young reflection of Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (gamely portrayed by Donald Pleasence), who can’t convince the Sheriff or anyone that Haddonfield is in danger. “Death has come to your little town. You can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it,” Loomis intones while staking out the old Myers house. The unconvinced Sheriff calls this grim proclamation “fancy talk.” Loomis’s frustration is understandable: he expects other adults to rationally perceive the same danger he does, but everyone dismisses his sky-is-falling rants with no consideration. “I told everybody. Nobody listened,” Loomis bellows when a colleague insinuates that Myers escaped because Loomis didn’t request adequate precautions. Carpenter depicts those expected to protect the public as buck-passers and blindfold-wearers, further unnerving the audience. If mental health care experts and law enforcement professionals won’t stop this predator, who will?

The film plays against expectations right up to its climax. Dr. Loomis saves Laurie by shooting Myers repeatedly in the chest until he topples out of a second-floor window. The antagonist has been vanquished at the appropriate moment in traditional storytelling form, and audience members sigh with relief that the nice Strode girl is okay. Laurie is traumatized, certainly, but she is safe from the immediate danger of having a butcher knife plunged into her. Right?

When Dr. Loomis looks out the window, there is naught but a trampled patch of grass where the killer’s corpse should be.

Happy Halloween.

Decades after Michael Myers first haunted movie theater screens, suburbanites specifically and human beings generally still fear the unpredictable. Michael Myers has become an archetype, a Grim Reaper of the suburbs, a preternatural predator that invades the land of clotheslines and block parties. Halloween remains unnerving and often terrifying. Forty years from now, the film will still evoke primal fear in viewers who experience its shadows for the first time.

Standard

Excerpts from my Dream Journal

Excerpts from Daniel S. Duvall’s Dream Journal

(late January 2000 – late December 2004)

Wading Through My Subconscious Symbol Space

A Longitudinal Study In Metadreaming

written by Daniel S. Duvall

© 2017 Daniel S. Duvall – all rights reserved

January 20, 2000

Stone staircase in the middle of Los Angeles. In the dream context, it was supposed to be near my apartment. There were gas jets spaced evenly on either side; I had a flash of how beautiful the staircase would look at night with these miniature torches all ignited. As I neared the top, I noted how dense the smog was all around me. I could see down into a canal at the base of the stairs, and a single, beautiful golden fish was visible beneath the surface. I watched as it swam from one edge of the canal to the other, and then I trotted down the stairs. I floated across the water, presumably in a boat, though perhaps I was literally floating and thought nothing odd of it. More golden fish flitted about up close. I wiggled my toes in the water, and they came to investigate, along with a larger white fish (perhaps a foot long). Suddenly to my right was a giant war ship, and I was afraid it would block my exit. But I got around it and climbed onto dry land in a block I recognized as being close to my apartment in the dream context, though in reality it looked nothing like my neighborhood.

This dream occurred on the first night in which I was able to sleep naturally (until I woke up without an alarm clock) after four consecutive days of extreme sleep deprivation.

January 31, 2000

I napped after work and dreamed that [REDACTED – one of my friends from college] and I were strolling around a shopping mall at Christmas. We were puzzled by the frenzied consumers. Then suddenly we were walking down a sidewalk at night, and there were these two-foot-tall vases made of brightly-colored translucent glass (red, yellow, green, orange) balanced on top of a short grassy slope to our right. A truck rumbled past on the street, and the vibration caused some of the vases to fall and shatter behind us.

Fleeting memories of another dream in which I was in a dark car in shadows parked on the side of a road on a rainy hill. And another in which a disembodied voice was calling out of the dark outside of my parents’ house.

February 11, 2000

Postman knocked on the door and woke me up in the middle of a dream in which I was sketching [REDACTED] the cat. I think I’m only just now beginning to grieve the absence of [three names REDACTED].

March 4, 2000

Had a weird dream in which I found a movie theater ticket booth inside my apartment. I opened the door, stepped inside, and found a room that was larger on the inside than on the outside (like those tents in old Arabian folk tales as depicted in the Bugs Bunny cartoons that educated me about world culture). Inside was a bed, and under the bed were piles of videotapes: some blank and in shrink-wrap, others of movies (I spotted the Indiana Jones trilogy, but didn’t notice any other titles). As I was scooping the Indiana Jones tapes out from under the bed, a loud vacuum in an adjacent apartment (in the real world) woke me up. This dream occurred during an afternoon nap after a week of sleep deprivation (average 5 hours sleep per night).

April 24, 2000

Weird one. Only fragments remain in memory. Something about a small dog-like animal being frightened by an evil/demonic invisible presence in the B-W [Baldwin Wallace] Student Union (in the stretch of hallway that heads from the lobby to the exit that faces Heritage Hall). Also something about me having a car in storage an hour’s drive from where I was living (which in the dream was not my real apartment). Also in the dream, I had read a novel and was giving advice to one of the novel’s characters (who manifested as a real person) about the direction her life would take given the events of the book. That is, the novel was totally fictional, too (not a book that exists outside of my dream), and I believe it centered around the invisible evil presence that spooked the dog near the start of the dream.

May 24, 2000

This one started in a high school math class taught by [REDACTED], though I was my present age – as were my classmates, all real people with whom I attended school. I knew instantly that we were in some bizarre reunion in which the participants re-enacted high school classes. We then walked to an auditorium to see a play, but the auditorium looked more like the Senate chambers from Phantom Menace than a theater. [REDACTED – a public school classmate of mine from grades 3 – 12] sat to my right. The place was filled with former classmates, though suddenly they all looked the way I remembered them (around age 17). Someone yelled at the actors onstage (who I couldn’t see clearly), and someone else said “No heckling!” The first voice responded, “We’re not heckling, we’re jamming!” Someone else yelled, “And we’re gonna jam from the proscenium!” [REDACTED] called out, “You’re gonna do what with my what?” This got a good laugh from the crowd.

May 25, 2000

Had one dream in which Alley Cat and I were living in a different apartment with an additional cat. [REDACTED] came to visit for some reason, and we went for a walk outside. I saw that the cats had somehow gotten out too, and they were heading for a gate. I was worried that they could slip between the posts and get lost beyond the fence, so I rounded them up and took them back inside. When I finished, [REDACTED] was gone.

Another dream: I was walking down a movie theater corridor with the actor Mike Myers. We passed a guy in an Austin Powers Halloween costume, who squinted in our direction, like, “Is that the real Mike Myers?” In the theater, we sat down to watch a movie. He climbed up and over the seats to a different row with a better view.

June 14, 2000

In a library-like facility where author Judy Blume had an office, I congregated with other Blume fans for a meet-and-greet.

Image fragment from another dream, same night: dozens of drones in office garb typing at adjacent high-tech metal terminals with keyboards, monitors, and headphones. As given info, I knew they were Echelon workers transcribing monitored phone conversations. The odd part about the image: I was viewing the terminals from overhead, and they were all clumped together with no aisles. So how did the workers in the center get to their desks? Ah, the subconscious. What symbols will you dredge up tonight?

July 11, 2000

Dewey was standing outside the dorm house at the corner of Front & Bagley in Berea. He was playing a cool Douglas-Hopkins-style tune on an electric guitar. He had a new girlfriend there, and he assured her that he wasn’t going to reunite the Porkbellies.

July 17, 2000

Only fragments in memory: something about going to a weird small town with Milo Miller and 2 or 3 other people. Standing next to our parked car on a street in this town, I saw something weird happen to a guy on a tall building, but I can’t clearly remember what. Seems like he was on a ledge and vanished. But at the same time he was on the ledge, I also saw him on the street. 2 places at once. Later, Milo told me a computer had told him that the town receives signals from Sirius. Wish I remembered more of this one.

Had another dream, same night, in which I was wearing a toupee. Decided to toss it aside and stick with my own natural thinning hair instead. (And it’s not that thin right now, but in the dream, my hairline had receded further.)

August 4, 2000

Something about a great white shark sending letters via U.S. mail.

August 21, 2000

Dewey and the Porkbellies played a reunion gig at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. Actually it was more of an informal jam session than a gig, with a handful of friends around. Though the dream was meant to be present-day, I was living in my old Berea apartment, and I think [REDACTED] was living with me. We hauled our gear to the gig together. At one point, walking along, [REDACTED] joined us, and she & I said something in unison. I remember the start of the gig kept getting delayed because I had to run back and forth to my apartment for more equipment like the video camera, and I was afraid that Dewey would get impatient and vanish. He didn’t, and we tuned up together, and I suddenly noticed that my bass had all kinds of built-in effects (reverb and such) that it doesn’t have in real life. Alas, I woke up (or that part of the dream ended) before I heard any of our music. I believe we were planning to open with a 12-bar-blues tune.

This is the latest in a series of Dewey & The Porkbellies reunion dreams that I’ve had ever since I moved to Los Angeles. Another such dream earlier this year took place on a beach.

October 23, 2000

Attended a screening of Halloween at which Harry Knowles and Moriarty of the web site Ain’t It Cool News were present. Illogically, the “real” Michael Myers (the character, not an actor) showed up at these annual screenings and would stride down the aisle right past a group of front-row seats. I was considering sitting down there, but I was terrified that Myers would “rewrite the ending” and go on a killing spree in the theater. I sought out Knowles in the men’s room and told him of this fear.

The dream reality then shifted so that I was in the lobby of another theater that was planning to screen Halloween 4. Myers walked in and knifed the manager/owner. I fled toward the rear exit and burst out into a parking lot, triggering an alarm in the process (an emergency exit door) while thinking “Good, this will summon help.” I ran toward a sport utility vehicle (mine, which I had conjured as an escape vessel in a semi-lucid state), but then inexplicably opted to dart around to the front of the building on foot.

Out front, I could see a medical doctor peering into the theater as Myers gutted the owner and tossed his innards to the wall, where they magically turned into black goo that spelled out something (can’t recall what). The doctor was screaming something to the effect of “How dare you! How dare you!” Funny: I think there was actually no English or true verbal language spoken in this dream, but rather radiating impressions of meaning.

I fled deeper into town; at first it was like a small-town downtown area (I sensed that I was in Haddonfield though it didn’t look like the town as depicted in the films). Then I reached a field of grass, and painted on the grass were weird runes. I sensed that I was near the high school, and I thought something like “those runes are burnt into every high school in America.” I ran up a curved ramp into a circular room, greenish decaying metal walls, and found there was no exit except the way I’d come in. I started back down the ramp, terrified that Myers would have me cornered. I woke up with true fight-or-flight dread pumping through me. For a minute or so, while I was half-awake, I had an irrational fear that Myers might burst through my apartment door.

As I became more and more fully awake, I thought, “The dream means something like ‘high school socializes people to follow paths that lead to death.’”

It should be noted that the part of the dream involving the grassy area was very bizarre and surreal; all the colors were bright and vivid, hyper-real, like after the eye doctor dilates your pupils. Also there seemed to be odd echoing sounds, as if my ears were underwater. The runes were orange and white, the sky blue, the grass green. I had a fleeting impression of a translation of the runes; something like “the next step,” but not phrased like that. Also, it was daytime there, though the dream started at night.

I can’t stress enough how terrifying the dream was; I felt as if I’d actually crossed paths with an unstoppable preternatural killing force.

October 24, 2000

I recall one dream. I was here in the Los Angeles apartment (Yucca Street), and I noticed a large pair of glass doors built into the wall where (in reality) the heater and litter box are. I thought, “Never noticed those before,” and I opened them and strode through. I was in a wide hallway, plain, about fifty yards long. At the end, there was a security camera hanging from the ceiling, and I wondered who had been taping me when I thought I was in the privacy of my living room. I walked through an entrance to the right and found a bustling food court, and I realized I was in LAX. “Huh,” I thought, “And here I’ve been taking the bus to get to the airport.” Woke up shortly thereafter.

November 20, 2000

Fragments of images remain from what may have been one long individual dream with a disjointed narrative. Not sure how these were linked exactly. Anyhow, the bits I remember: I was in an auditorium the size of a college gymnasium with a few hundred other people. Most of us had musical instruments; I had a flute, though I’ve been playing bass guitar exclusively for several years. We were all jamming along with a song I now cannot remember. Later: I was outdoors in an urban environment, a normal city street except for a floating spherical building three times the size of the Cinerama Dome movie theater. It hovered about two hundred yards over an empty lot, and I was aware that it was some sort of superhero headquarters. I believe I’d been dispatched to intercept several bad guys and delay their entrance to the building while the heroes within untangled themselves from a trap or mess or incapacitating dilemma of some sort. What I cannot remember is if the flute part of the dream took place within that building or not, but I have a vague sense that it did.

Approximately one week ago, I had a notable dream experience that I didn’t record at the time. What I remember of it: I was in my Yucca Street apartment at night with the lights off, but there was some ambient light from outside. The phone/fax machine was vibrating strangely. I touched it, felt a strong electrical jolt, and feared I was losing consciousness. I thought something like, “Oh God, I hope that wasn’t fatal. I better call 9-1-1 while I still can.” In between the jolt and the thought, I saw a bright point of light hovering in the room to my left, between the window and myself. I abstractly wondered what the hell it was; I think I perceived it as a hallucination caused by certain brain circuits being overloaded by the electrical shock.

What made this dream especially memorable and disconcerting was the odd vividness of that floating point of light (which was roughly the size of a marble or dime – I’m not sure if it was spherical). The quality of its glow was unlike anything I’ve perceived before in a dream or in “reality.” It shocked me the way the “colour out of space” shocked Lovecraft’s characters, or the way the monolith shocked the ape-beasts in 2001. It was a New Thing that seemed unreal and out of place.

November 25, 2000

Approximately three nights ago, I had a dream in which I was running through a high-tech maze (gleaming metal walls, discreet panels of lights and buttons) with three cats. The cats could speak English, and we arrived at an elevator that led to a different level of the maze. A table of donuts sat by the elevator door, and the cats told me which donuts they wanted. They were not cats I’ve ever met in real life; that is, one wasn’t Alley Cat. They were fictional cats.

November 26, 2000

Another dream of a reunion concert by Dewey & The Porkbellies. This time, we were in a fairly large venue that was supposed to be in Berea; the stage resembled the B-W main theater, though there were many more seats in the dream auditorium than there are in reality. Per usual, the dream focused on the prep for the gig rather than the show itself; have I ever actually heard us play in one of these reunion dreams? This time, we were setting up the gear and tuning up while the audience filed in. The crowd was huge; the theater was packed. I remember feeling confident that it would be a kick-ass gig; I wish just once I’d dream about the music itself.

November 28, 2000

Dreamed that Alley Cat got loose outside at night by the front gate. I called him back and coaxed him over, carried him upstairs, and got him inside.

November 30, 2000

Addendum to the above: in reality, Alley Cat just had a visit from a pair of veterinarians who make house calls. Had to be taken downstairs to the van for some work. As I was carrying him back in a cardboard box, the bottom of the box fell out as I was standing in front of the gate. I reflexively dropped my keys and secured Alley Cat with both hands, all the while thinking, “Oh… it’s the dream. It’s happening, and he’s going to run away.” But he didn’t, and a nearby neighbor picked up my keys and opened the gate for me, and soon he was safe inside again.

December 9, 2000

Last night, I dreamed of a weird old house somewhere in California. It was an almost stereotypical haunted house: weathered brown siding, gloomy clouds behind it, an eerie purple light emanating from within. I participated in a nightly ritual in which I’d stroll the grounds of the house and cross paths with a creepy guy who looked like a cross between a ghost and a zombie, but who I knew was really just a person in a costume. Why we went through this routine, I have no idea. Then one night the house somehow rotated so it faced the surrounding terrain at a slightly different angle, and this threw off the whole routine.

September 28, 2001

Well, after 9 months away from recording these dreams, I’m back. Had a slew of interesting ones in the meantime, but for some reason I lost my motivation to document them. Until now.

Bizarre one.

In the dream, I was tailing screenwriter [REDACTED] around inside a building that was alternately a mental hospital, a corporate headquarters, and a military research facility. He showed me a “plasma glove” top secret weapon. I wore it and startled a few of the mental patients by sprinting down a corridor, leaping in the air, and firing off a few test shots (only at walls, not at people).

We speculated about who had conceived of such a glove. The screenwriter urged me to find out, as the inventor might make an interesting subject for a biopic. I convinced myself (though in the dream I had no hard evidence yet about who had invented the glove) that the way to tell the story would be to explore the relationship between the inventor and one of his naïve test subjects – what if he fell in love with a young woman while knowing that his invention was filling the bones in her hand and arm with cancer, and that it would eventually have to be amputated? I saw him as a modern day Stanley Milgrim who himself is following orders from others to the point of exploiting a woman he loves to create something expressly designed to kill other human beings more efficiently.

In the dream, I actually got some commencement money. In the weird corporate headquarters that was sometimes a mental hospital, [REDACTED] and I were alone (the whole skyscraper had been evacuated, but we remained).

Then I woke up and realized there is no such glove and inventor, so the story is not a biopic, but it could be fiction – satire! And the “inventor” didn’t create the glove itself – he’s a psychologist, a modern-day Milgrim, whose job is to convince people that the glove is safe to wear. And what if they’re miniaturized and mass-marketed as the new tool of self-defense: better than pepper spray! Better than hand guns! And what if he’s only pretending to follow orders so that he can later expose the completely unethical nature of this research, as well as dozens of other instances (some real like the Cincinnati radiation experiments, some fictional for dramatic and satirical emphasis)? And what if he triumphantly succeeds in making all this evidence public – his lifelong plan to expose the beast and rally the people to overthrow the government – and the masses just ignore it? He’s carted off to the military prison that supplied all the test subjects that he and his peers use in the early stages of research, before moving on to a pool from the public. The End.

October 19, 2001

Been feeding several stray cats (in real life) recently. In a dream last night, about eight of them came upstairs en masse (including the grey & white one I’ve tried to befriend). So suddenly my apartment had all these cats hiding and napping in various nooks and crannies. Alley Cat got into a minor scuffle with one, but I broke up the fight.

October 31, 2001

Woke up this morning from a dream in which [REDACTED] & [REDACTED] were visiting. They left the front door open, and Alley Cat wandered out. I went after him and saw him chasing a young raccoon in a clean suburban neighborhood (very unlike my real neighborhood, though the apartment in the dream was my real one).

November 6, 2001

In one dream, I ended up in a convenience store where the display cases of sandwiches and such were too deep for customers to easily reach food at the back. A mouse appeared on top of some sandwiches.

January 31, 2002

Two bits still in memory. One: went to The Bourgeois Pig and found it had been re-modeled so that the stretch of wall that leads to the bathroom was longer, and a whole second bar had been installed along it. (Of course, the building would jut out into the street in real life with such an addition. And why would they need two baristas in different locations?) Two: was stocking up on groceries due to a warning that the “coldest storm in history” was heading for Los Angeles. It has been damned chilly here at night lately, but I got the sense that this dream storm would be so cold as to keep people housebound day and night.

February 2, 2002

Was in a neo-bohemian coffee house and was horrified to see that it had become infected with corporate management mentality.

February 3, 2002

I was in a structure that was more mazelike than houselike: a set of interconnected unfurnished rooms that seemed to form a vague loop, though I was unclear on the exact geography of the place. Outside was a river of chocolate. I dipped a coffee mug into the river and drank.

Back inside, I noticed clear panels that would periodically fill up with honey in one room. I heard bees (and saw a few, but was unafraid for they seemed tame) and knew that they somehow produced honey at incredible speed, gallons per minute. Where it all went after it passed through the clear panels, I do not know.

Then some sort of gladiator game commenced within this environment. I knew that I was in a “kill or be killed” situation (though it felt non-lethal, like lasertag or paintball) and grabbed a sword and ran around searching for my opponent. As I was dashing around from room to room, I’d see a single bee in the center of each floor. I’d say “fly” and it would take off.

A different dream same morning: I went to work for a giant corporate mega-store and somehow messed with the sign outside, altering its name to something silly. Don’t recall what. I did this while I was ostensibly on the clock, and the owner/manager didn’t notice that I’d left my station.

April 24, 2002

Dreamt I was at my parents’ house in Ohio. Fred, the beagle I grew up with, was there too. He was sniffing around the backyard. I called him up to the back porch and let him into the house.

He hid behind curtains and under piles of junk in closets and accidentally startled my dad, who didn’t know he was there.

He rooted around inside a large closet, and I thought I heard him eating something. I looked and found the remains of an old makeup kit, and I was worried that something in there had smelled like food to him and he’d eaten it. He seemed okay, though. I took the makeup kit into the bathroom to examine it under better light and discovered that Fred had peed on it, too.

Different dream, same night: The Bourgeois Pig was remodeled to accommodate grills and whatnot behind the bar (like a greasy spoon diner) and patrons were eating hamburgers. Director [REDACTED] was there, and I planned to go over and tell him about the time I visited the [REDACTED TV show] set while he was working there.

May 22, 2002

I was in a college/grad school setting that didn’t resemble any actual academic environment that I recognized. I ranted at the school’s president about how the human race is at a critical juncture where we really need to choose to evolve away from violence. I got the sense that he was pressuring students to partake of hamburgers and such.

‘Twas a very strange setting, like some sort of giant house full of apartment/dorm rooms with sprawling common areas.

June 14, 2002

Had a dream in which I was being chased by some sort of bipedal monsters with telekinetic powers that they derived by draping smaller primates around the backs of their necks. They were strong and almost totally subverted my will (psychically), preventing me from running away – almost. As far as I can tell, we were on the “bridge” in [REDACTED] that leads from the main upstairs hallway to the social science wing (near the elevator). There was some sort of trap on the bridge that I kept jumping over to escape the monsters. Once I was across, I somehow ended up back in my parents’ house. I got the sense that I was trying to protect someone else from the monsters.

June 15, 2002

Was underwater in a scuba suit. Talked with a sentient dolphin. Somehow we made mutually comprehensible vocalizations (I think I had translation hardware built into my scuba mask).

At one point in that dream, I was inside a vehicle (still underwater) and looked up just as a gray demon thing rushed at the windshield and cracked it.

August 20, 2002

Dreamed about walking down an urban street. Part of the street was in Los Angeles, and the other end was in Cleveland. Seemed like a message of “your past and present are reaching equilibrium at last.”

November 25, 2002

Vivid nightmare. Was on the couch with the cats both sleeping atop my blanket (in reality) and drifted back to sleep. The dream mirrored reality exactly at first: I thought I was still awake and noticing the cats. Then I heard someone race up the stairway, and whoever it was opened my apartment door, which was inexplicably unlocked. I couldn’t see who it was, but I was naked under the blanket and felt vulnerable. When the intruder didn’t immediately backpedal and shut the door, I felt rising terror. I called out “HELP” and jolted awake – and I think I even really vocalized “help” in “reality.”

May 8, 2003

Have not been recording dreams lately. May resume.

November 18, 2003

In last night’s fear-inducing nightmare, I was in my bedroom at night when I heard the apartment’s front door move; it sounded as if someone had tried to open the door only to be thwarted by the one deadbolt that can only be turned from inside (the one with no keyhole on the other side).

So I went to the living room and saw that the door was partially ajar, just a quarter inch or so, but for whatever reason the person or people on the other side couldn’t open it further.

In a fit of stupidity and/or courage, I strode to the door and flung it open to confront the intruders.

There was only pure pitch-black on the other side. I couldn’t see the hallway or anyone in it.

And that’s when I felt sheer terror well up; I was standing on the threshold of my current home as my cats’ last line of defense against whatever was out there, and something malevolent was right in front of me, but I could not see it.

I tried to close the door –

And something pushed back.

And it was overpowering me.

I lashed out with my left arm, clawing blindly in the darkness.

And then the door blew inward and threw me back.

That’s when I woke up terrified. I think I actually walked into the other room just to make sure the door was secure, but maybe not; I was sleepy but well aware that the scary stuff was just a dream.

November 30, 2003

Last night I dreamed about walking down a semi-urban street; I think I was heading for a restaurant. It was night. The area was a combo residential/business area, but with lots of space between each building (not a dense one-structure-right-next-to-another kinda place). There were trees in the spaces between each house/business.

And then a guy dressed as Michael Myers (and carrying a big ol’ kitchen knife) stepped onto the sidewalk half a block in front of me.

Somehow I knew that he wasn’t the “real” fictional Michael Myers, the character from the Halloween films, but rather somebody imitating him.

But whoever he was, he wanted to scare me – approached me with the knife in hand, acting all determined to hurt me.

I don’t recall exactly how, but I evaded him; there was some verbal interaction, with me asking “why are you doing this?” (I think he replied, but I don’t recall what he said.)

December 15, 2003

Had a long set of vivid dreams last night.

I was in a basement tunnel of some sort, gray cinder blocks making up the walls, and in a room off the tunnel there was a lil room on which bodies lay under sheets on tables.

And as I was lookin’ at them and getting creeped out, someone shoved a fresh corpse on a cart into the room.

A different dream last night: I was in a classroom that seemed to be in a high school facility (no place I recognize from real life), and there was an art class in progress, and vocalist/fiddler Mary Ramsey was in the class too (we were both students, but our present ages). We looked at each other but didn’t speak. I felt shy in her presence.

In a hallway outside the classroom (where I walked en route to outside) were many people who seemed to be of high school age.

Then outside, I was on a lawn with the school (red brick) to my left and a green-grass lawn stretching out ahead of me. Warm weather. Blue skies.

Yet another dream: I was on some sort of long road trip, and another vehicle was accompanying mine – the other one was driven by my old pal [REDACTED].

Started on a city street, and I stared at all the different gaudy neon signs and giant hotels and restaurants. Then got on a highway.

My car broke down, and I parked it on the berm, and then [REDACTED] and I walked from there (or maybe he drove me to the next location), and we wound up at some sort of extensive nature park… lots of trees and plants and such. And there were edible berries, and I ate a lot of those, and I also ate some sort of dehydrated honey pellets.

I woke up thinking something like, “I haven’t had that many long and vivid dreams for months.” Really felt like I’d spent the whole night dreaming in real time. I know that the details I’m recording here are only a fraction of all I experienced last night.

December 20, 2003

Had a dream last night in which I opened the door of my apartment and found a thin brown cat in the hallway outside. Then another cat darted into the apartment from the staircase, and at first I thought she was Thalia (who must have gotten out there somehow). When I got a good look at her, though, I realized she was another Turkish Van Cat with markings similar to Thalia’s, but not quite the same. And then she and Thalia were side by side, and I could see the differences clearly. The new kitty (the Turkish Van) and Thalia seemed immediately comfortable with each other, as if they were long-lost siblings, whereas Alley Cat was wary of the newbie. The brown cat in the hallway may have entered my apartment in the dream, too; I don’t really recall. I do remember worrying that Thalia’s new pal might have FIV or feline leukemia and/or fleas.

Different dream last night: I was in a large residential building (seemed to be apartments, though the layout was like a luxury hotel with elevators and plush carpeting and such), and one door had been smashed in. The living space beyond was trashed. I went in search of the perp(s) and somehow got outside, where I encountered [REDACTED] (an old pal who I met when we were in high school), who was also in search of the perp(s). We climbed a steep hill toward a parking lot. It was night, and the hill was covered in grass (though it seemed like there should have been a sidewalk or staircase or something). About halfway up the hill, we encountered kids playing some sort of hopscotch-type game. I don’t recall much about the dream beyond these details except that in the trashed apartment there was a glass-fronted beverage cooler, the sort normally found in convenience stores (where one finds beer and soft drinks). The cooler has been smashed open and the contents (aluminum cans) scattered around the floor. I think it was then (while studying the scattered cans) that I concluded something like, “I’ve got to catch the person or people who did this; they’re a threat to the community.”

December 21, 2003

I just remember a fragment of a dream: I walked into a theater (the sort where plays are staged) while a rehearsal was in progress for a show featuring some of my old high school friends plus a few strangers who (in the dream context) seemed to know me; they waved hello and nodded at me as I walked into the room and took a seat near the front row. On stage, a woman (who might have been [REDACTED]) was carrying a giant (four feet long or so) prop syringe. She mimed injecting someone who was out of sight behind a curtain at the rear of the stage, and then someone in the “wooly mammoth” costume from Skin of Our Teeth appeared elsewhere on stage.

In the dream context, I think I was awaiting the end of this rehearsal so that I could use the space for my own production.

December 22, 2003

Early morning (circa 6 AM) dreams:

Was at a party where I kept encountering people who claimed to have had recent Andy Kaufman sightings, which fueled my suspicion that he really had faked his death. One of the witnesses was [REDACTED], who claimed she saw him in a Parma Heights (Ohio) grocery store in the mid-1990s. She also kissed me and held my neck gently in her hands and said something like, “…except for this amazing coincidence, which is you.” Before the elipses, the gist of her thought was, “There’d be no reason to investigate Andy’s alleged death any longer.”

In a dream that may or may not have related to the Kaufman dream somehow (I can’t recall if I was also seeking Kaufman spotters in this location or not), I was in a University swimming pool with someone who I now realize was [REDACTED]. I was telling her The Horrible Nature of a Game that I thought was real: star players in all arenas/fields (music, literature, film directing, etc) are literally murdered via elaborate conspiracies in order to send messages to up-and-comers, with the primary message being “You’re so good that this person died to make space for you, and you better get even better lest you die to make way for someone else.” I was crying and scared as I told her this, but she didn’t believe me. Then a “man in black” kinda character showed up and subtly warned me to stop giving away these secrets.

I also vaguelly recall being in a Berea, OH restaurant near train tracks and seeing someone who looked sort of like Andy Kaufman. I wondered if this was the place where I’d eventually meet him for a “congratulations: you found me, and here’s how I faked my death” interview.

Fragment image from somewhere in last night’s dreams: I was in a new apartment, presumably mine, where a large laserdisc collection filled many shelves. I also recall something about moving a mattress from a small sleeping space, but the details of that bit are fuzzy. No context.

December 25, 2003

I was outdoors among a crowd of maybe three dozen or so other people, all milling about on a stretch of road with flat yards on either side and wooded areas beyond. There seemed to be a few buildings here and there, too, but I’m not sure if they were houses or businesses or neither. There were several stray kittens running around, and some of the people were trying to calm the kittens down and befriend them.

December 27, 2003

Only remember a fragment: Procol Harum was playing “Shadow Boxed” in studio 8H (apparently a rehearsal, since the studio was otherwise deserted). I was wandering around listening and observing when I noticed [REDACTED] sitting in with the band. Oddly, he was singing backing vocals (the bits that guest vocalist Roger Taylor sings on the studio album version) and not playing guitar.

December 28, 2003

Don’t recall any of last night’s dreams. Damn.

December 31, 2003

A recent dream of perhaps two nights ago (not last night, though perhaps as many as three nights ago) included images of a fictional college campus on which I trudged around with two of my elementary school classmates. We were our present-day ages.  I sensed that the dream took place in California. [REDACTED] & [REDACTED] and I were, at one point, walking through an indoor corridor in what I perceived as the campus law school. Then we went outside. Warm weather. Summerish. There was a chapel on the campus, and there was an anomalous light show in progress outside: a fixture of scaffolding that could (and did) rotate like a windmill. And the scaffolding was wired with electric lights of orangish and yellow hues.

January 1, 2004

Nothing to report. Nothing recalled of last night’s dreams.

January 2, 2004

Only a few images remain in memory. I was sometimes in and sometimes near a parked car, an older type from circa 1950s America, though the dream occurred in the present day. I was on call as the body guard of one particular secret agent while she was on some gig or other (the nature of the investigation was not proffered up from Muse Central in the course of the dream). I realized that I’d misplaced the communication device by which she would contact me in the event my presence was required. A cell phone, I think, but the sort not available at a consumer level just yet.

Outdoors. Summer. Small-town shops in strip-mall architecture to the left, right, and ahead. The secret agent character, who looked a lot like [REDACTED], was nearby in some perimeter or other. And, oh yeah, we were workin’ for some Mafia family or other.

January 5, two-thousand-and-four (At The Dawn of the Twenty-First Century)

Had a dream that took place at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea, Ohio. I shall describe the dream in Haiku form:

Dusk in October

Heard, to my left, odd old riffs

Dewey was playing.

Wandered on over

Magnolia, in the crowd

Called for “Patty Melt.”

Was a full band there

A new bassist, right handed

Electric five-string

Dissolve to “backstage”

Yammered avec ol’ Dewey

Then wandered elsewhere

January 8, 2004

At a dinner party, there were four dogs (big mean-lookin’ ones) who growled at each other for what felt like a whole minute or more. Very uncomfortable. And their human companions were doing damn little to prevent a dog fight from erupting right in the middle of this civilized party. I noticed an alcove where I intended to dash in case the dogs started fighting (lest I accidentally get caught in the middle of the snapping jaws).

Later in the same dream, at a new location, I borrowed a computer (a laptop) and sent an e-mail and tried to order some magazines online while [REDACTED] went to a bathroom in a building that looked a lot like the UCLA Public Policy ground level.

Earlier in the night: nightmares.

Watching a horror movie with [REDACTED]. Dream took place circa winter 1997-1998. And in the horror movie, there was a boy, late teens, shirtless, who (in the space of a few seconds) spontaneously developed bleeding wounds all over his arms and shoulders and torso. He was sweating and making tortured cries/vocalizations.

And then his eyes welled up with blood and turned into big bloody ovals on the screen, and I knew that the image was re-traumatizing [REDACTED], and I sensed her pain and anguish as she sat next to me, and I turned to her and said something like, “I didn’t know the movie included this.” I think that in the dream we were watching the movie on a big-screen TV, but I’m not sure where. Nowhere I recognized from “reality.”

Last night’s dreams were largely in real time, moment by moment. There was some sort of time/space transition when [REDACTED] and I left the dinner party and headed out together on some sort of date, and another between the initial “outside the party” bit and a “looking for a place to be alone” moment.

At one point, in a combo mall/residential place, she purchased two compact diary-type books and pens. She wanted us to use them for some sort of writing game whenever we found our “place to be alone,” but I’m not sure exactly what the game was.

Much earlier in the night, before the horror movie nightmare, was a dream in which I was on a road trip to somewhere with my [REDACTED], and we stopped off at a greasy-spoon diner and got pancakes to go. I guess I intended to eat ‘em out of the styrofoam carry-out box.

January 9, 2004

Only two fragments left in memory from last night’s dreams, both from different parts of the same one:

a) On a stage in some sort of theater, a keyboard player (who I did not recognize) played a short melody and told me that more and more bands are (as part of a trend) replacing electronic keyboards with strings (violins and violas).

b) Up in a small recording studio about three stories above ground level (with a window overlooking a town square in summer, which in reality wouldn’t work too well in terms of keeping ambient outdoor noise out of the mix), I was learning a new song (oddly, playing a fiddle instead of a left-handed bass). I couldn’t focus and remember the structure of the song, and so the guy at the mixing desk pushed a slider switch all the way down (thus removing my feed from the tune). Later, he cranked that slider switch way up, and I knew that whatever I played would be broadcast over speakers out on the town quad.

January 10, 2004

I was on the UCLA campus in a building that only vaguelly resembled MacGowan Hall, though I sensed that I was in TFT territory. I was looking for a restroom. I saw a sign that seemed to indicate there was a unisex restroom beyond that door, but then I noticed the fine print; something like “…is not here but further down the hall.” I kept on lookin’ and eventually found a place to pee.

Then, outside, I noticed a Luke Skywalker action figure on the sidewalk (one of the earliest Kenner ones). I picked it up and remembered the time (spring 1997) when I carried around a Return of the Jedi Skywalker action figure as a talisman. Then a lookalike of [REDACTED] rode by on a bicycle, and I perceived the person on the bike as a malevolent presence. I hopped onto a nearby bus and asked, “Did anyone lose this action figure?” I held it up. Nobody on the crowded bus claimed it. Then I bellowed, “Has anybody seen Sam Lowry?” That got a few chuckles from some of the bus riders. By then, the bus was in motion. I hopped off about three blocks away and found myself stranded on a traffic island with no crosswalks. But I saw that all the cars on the street were far enough away that I could dash to the sidewalk, so I did just that. I think the bike rider was still circling around the area, but I don’t recall what happened after that.

January 11, 2004

Two fragments in memory from different dreams. In one, I was outside in a parking lot with some friends (mostly fictional, but the one from reality was [REDACTED]). About six of us stood near where the pavement bordered on a stretch of wilderness (mostly flat grassland with some dips and bumps/mounds in the topography here and there). Grey overcast sky overhead; cool air. Felt like fall. We were milling around talking when suddenly something (moving almost too fast to be seen) tackled [REDACTED] and started beating the shit out of him. I dived in and yanked him away from whatever the thing was – it then zipped away and out of sight. It was all blurry and white. So then my friends and I opted to go indoors lest that thing return, and the nearest house (right there by the parking lot) was the one where [REDACTED] grew up. Inside, I checked the fridge and saw 3 gallons of bottled water and thought, “Good – I won’t have to go out for water any time soon.” Meanwhile, one of the fellows remained outdoors and was chatting with someone about the attack. I was thinking, like, “if you stay out there, that thing will tackle you next.”

The other fragment I recall: four astronauts were in a small shuttlecraft of some sort (the cabin was about the size of a compact car), and one of them noted that they were moving into a field where audio/video transmissions would tap directly into their brains. Nobody seemed alarmed, and the speaking astronaut seemed fascinated by the phenomenon. It was like their craft was moving into a dense “cloud” of pure information that they’d be able to perceive with non-ordinary senses.

January 13, 2004

Awoke aware that I’d had another long night of dreaming, but the details faded from memory so quickly that I can’t articulate what I dreamed about.

January 14, 2004

Something about jogging around a crowded exercise track while listening to heretofore-unreleased live Jethro Tull music (piped in over speakers).

January 15, 2004

Winter. Lots of snow and ice all around. Plowed suburban roads, but yards with baseline depths (below the artificial drifts) of fully one yard (three feet) visible all around.

January 18, 2004

Last night I had a dream in which Dan Aykroyd Circa 1978 was running on an oversized hamster exercise wheel and lookin’ none too happy as he did so; looking, rather, like he was in a mood similar to that of Daffy Duck in the Chuck Jones painting called September Morn.

February 12, 2004

I recall a fragment of one dream from last night. I was in a residential area, like a cul-de-sac of condos and suburban-style small-family homes. Winter. Deep snow drifts all around with dense sheets of flakes still falling.

I had several (six or so) caged mammals with me, and my goal was to get them somewhere safe and warm. For some reason I can’t recall what sort of mammals they were, though they were all the same species and aproximately cat-sized. I think they may have been penguins, though I wouldn’t have been so hurried to get them out of the snow if they really were penguins.

There was another person there with me, male, about my age. Nobody I know in reality. Not sure who he was supposed to be in the dream context.

I found one of the condo doors unlocked and had a sense that the residents wouldn’t be back for several weeks, so I wanted to use that space to house the mammals. The other human there tried to talk me out of that plan, though I don’t recall his exact line of reasoning.

I found a different space unlocked, too, but I don’t recall what that home looked like. I worried about what would happen if the residents of that place came home and found me hanging out with a bunch of animals.

That’s all I recall. The most vivid impression is the sense of urgency I felt about getting those mammals to warmth and safety as soon as possible.

February 17, 2004

I recall two dream fragments from last night’s subconscious adventures.

One: Was in my apartment with [REDACTED]. She and I were laying on the floor observing Alley Cat and Thalia. [REDACTED] seemed to be in a relaxed and playful mood. Felt like an afternoon of leisure. And for a while she and I made prolonged eye contact and talked.

Two: I was walking down Franklin Avenue at night (heading east) and crossed paths with [REDACTED] outside the Mayfair Market (on the sidewalk at the Northeast corner of Franklin and whatever that cross-street is, the one that’s a block east of Tamarind).

I said, “[REDACTED]?” She stopped and looked at me. I said, “May I speak with you for a moment?” She said something that implied, like, “Yeah, but I’m in a hurry so don’t waste my time.” (That’s a paraphrasing, not an exact quotation.) I introduced myself as Dan Duvall, and she said, “I know.” I blinked and said, “Wow. I still slip into sleeper mode really easily. I’m still not used to people knowing who I am.” Then I said something that was basically like, “Can we talk openly about exactly how and why you know who I am, or do we still have to act like that’s all secret?” I don’t remember how she answered that or what exactly we said to each other in the next snippet of the conversation, but I do recall that she told me an anecdote about a large bay window in her house.

February 23, 2004

Had a dream last night in which I and [REDACTED] and another guy (I think the third party was fictional) walked into the Daily Planet and then into the coffee shop beyond, only instead of the Bourgeois Pig the coffeehouse had become Thinkers as that place looked in Berea OH circa 1995. Once we stepped inside, not one of the three of us knew why we were there. We were just following orders, you see.

February 25, 2004

I know that I had a bunch of dreams last night, but I only remember one moment out of all of them. Thalia was perched on my lap, and I looked at her and said, “You’re an A.I. cat, aren’t you?” By which I meant, “You’re a cyborg Artificial Intelligence cat with some sort of technology augmenting your brain and nervous system, aren’t you?”

February 27, 2004

In one of last night’s dreams, I was posing for a photo shoot inside Counterpoint Books on Franklin Avenue. I had my bass guitar with me. Standing off to the side, observing, was a fellow who attended Baldwin-Wallace at the same time that I did; I won’t mention his name, but I’ll just say that he was a creepy stalker-type guy who (I learned from friends after the fact) had fixated on me, grown jealous of me, and tried to trash my reputation.

February 28, 2004

I was outdoors in a residential suburban neighborhood. Not a location I recognized from reality. I was near the end of somebody’s driveway, and there was a mini-van parked there. Out on the sidewalks and streets, there was a steady stream of people being chased and killed by monsters; some resembled the bugs from the film version of Starship Troopers, and others looked like the “boneguard skeletons” from the Icewind Dale II computer game. There were other people in the driveway with me, and I got the sense that we were figuring out a way to stay the hell alive and get away from the monsters. Somebody went to fetch weapons and advised me to use the mini-van as a temporary shelter until he returned. The other humans ranged in age from about 14 to 50 and were mostly clad in denim jeans with either t-shirts or flannel shirts. All were English-speakers and seemed to be the residents of the neighborhood that had been invaded by these weird predators. I climbed into the mini-van, but I was very tense and frightened since the vehicle’s metal-and-glass skin would probably not withstand a full-on attack from one of those things. Still, I reckoned that I’d be better off with some armor rather than none.

March 1, 2004

I recall three dream fragments that share a common location (albeit different areas within a larger space) plus bits of one dream that took place back at the Yucca/Argyle apartment building.

The first moments/images I remember took place outdoors in a woodsy summer camp of some sort with lots of hiking trails and dense patches of nature (trees, creeks, foliage). I don’t have any sense of where on the globe the dream took place, but my gut instinct is Ohio. At one point, I received a box (about two feet by two feet by two feet in size) of food. I’m not sure who was distributing the boxes, but other people there got similar ones. Mine contained, among other items, snack-size bags of potato chips and pretzels. I was glad to see that I had a half dozen bags of sour-cream-and-onion-flavored chips, since I like that flavor a lot. But when I returned to the box later, I found that all the chips were gone, and I was pissed that someone had pilfered part of my food supply. When I investigated, [REDACTED] explained that someone had shown up and offered to trade a guitar for food, so the sour cream chips had been “donated” on my behalf without my consent. At night, somebody spotted a glowing sphere in the sky, off-white in color. I witnessed it, too. Then the next day, standing in a line at a cafeteria-type place, I described the incident to somebody else and said something like “…and then he had a massive UFO sighting.” Seems like I was making a weird connection of cause-and-effect, something like “because he did this, he saw the UFO,” although I can’t recall what “he” (the fictional UFO spotter) did just before the sighting. I do remember thinking something like, “Doesn’t really seem like that would lead to the appearance of a glowing sphere in the sky.”

Last dream fragment in that location: I was at one end of the camp with Fairport Convention’s Simon Nicol, and I wanted to hike to the other edge of the camp and into town beyond, but Simon opined that the path I was on was “not a through-road,” meaning I’d come to a dead-end and have to take another route. I shrugged and decided to try my plan anyhow, and Simon trotted along with me. We half-jogged, half-walked while singing “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” and strangely I was able to stay in key (in reality, I’m not such a great singer). And I found the path to town, and Simon said, “I guess it is a through-road after all.”

March 2, 2004

Only a few images and fragments remain in memory from what I believe was another long night of active dreaming.

The most vivid dream memory: I was in a shopping mall (not one I recognize from reality) and somehow knew that bipedal robots (sort of like the skeletal ones with red eyes and gleaming skulls in the Terminator films) were en route to attack me and the other patrons. One of them came barreling around a corner. I tossed some sort of grenade-like explosive at it and fled in the other direction. I was stuck in some sort of loop where I re-enacted this scene over and over with different outcomes; once, for example, the explosive bounced back toward me, and I scooped it up and quickly re-threw it. Another time, I was fleeing down a corridor in the mall with other patrons (with the robots in pursuit), and for some reason I handed like seven dollars in cash to the person next to me.

I also recall something about a dream that took place at night near Hollywood Boulevard (I think near Vine and Yucca Street). There was some sort of shrine built out of plastic bottles and photos there, and [REDACTED] appeared and threw a temper tantrum and kicked pieces of this shrine down toward Hollywood Boulevard. I was standing up the block observing; I’m not sure why he was so pissed off or what exactly the shrine represented.

March 3, 2004

Just recall very brief moments from a larger dream. I was talking with [REDACTED] in and around a cabin in a woodsy area; the location was not a place I know in reality. There were other people around, too, but I’m not sure who (about a half dozen others). I mentioned that I had recently sent some postcards to [REDACTED] in an effort to re-establish contact with her.

March 4, 2004

In one dream last night, I was noodling around on a piano, playing a short and simple melody (about six notes long) over and over very slowly. Then a “fluent” piano player (an Asian woman in her late twenties who I don’t recognize from reality) sat down at another piano next to me and played the melody a little bit faster and added some variations and embellishments on different passes. I played along, sticking to the basic riff that I’d memorized. After a minute or so, she and I stopped playing and I asked if she’d teach me how to play piano. She said no; she didn’t have time to teach. (Oddly, these side-by-side pianos were outdoors in Hollywood, I think on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood near Vine. And dark outside, night, I’d guess about 9 PM.) She had a bicycle and was about to ride away when I asked her to wait for a moment. I don’t recall what I said, but she smiled and said, “It’s funny how you usually play music all by yourself.” I thought about quoting the “you walk the Earth alone” bit from the John & Mary “Pinwheel Galaxy” CD to her and decided not to, but I did say this: “There’s a movie called The Haunting of Hill House. Rather, there’s a novel called The Haunting of Hill House, and a 1963 movie called The Haunting based on it. The movie ends with the line ‘We who walk here, walk alone.’ Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to really understand that line.” I was sad and on the verge of tears as I said that. The woman hugged me and then rode away on her bicycle.

March 5, 2004

Woke up, remembered no dreams. Fell back asleep for about three hours and awoke with a dream fresh in memory. I was in a vast multi-level library, some sections of which resembled the “book stacks” area of the UCLA Powell Library (known as the “College Library” in some catalog entries). [REDACTED] was there, and as always her sheer beauty took my breath away. She was seated on a couch-like piece of furniture, and a handsome blonde fellow in his twenties (looked a bit like [REDACTED]) was massaging her sock-clad feet. Then I walked up a wide staircase (similar to the one in the Arclight multiplex) and found a bathroom in which I intended to brush my teeth and take a shower, only there were three toothbrushes that all looked like mine near the sink, and I wasn’t sure which one was really mine. The bathroom was crowded with about five other guys, strangers, all about my age or slightly younger (mid-late twenties). I felt a surge of “I really miss [REDACTED]” grief overtake me, and I burst out crying and said, “This is what a cancer feels like, gentlemen. A cancer of the soul.” (By “this” I meant “her absence.”) Then I found myself back out in the library area, and I saw that there were like three different showering areas, but they were all occupied. I had on my olive-colored zip-up hooded sweatshirt over a t-shirt, and I unzipped it and tried to toss it up another level to where I intuited that I’d be re-dressing after my shower, but it didn’t reach that ledge and instead fell back to ground level. I sighed and trudged down the stairs to retrieve it. At some point while climbing back up the stairs, I passed [REDACTED] (who was wearing black sweatpants and a matching sweater with double yellow stripes down one side), and she looked at me and said, “Stop.” I wasn’t sure what she meant – stop here on the stairs and talk, stop visiting this library, or what. But I was so intent on reaching my destination, wherever that was, that I continued up the stairs without pausing or looking back. She never broke stride either, and I lost sight of her after that. As I reflect on that moment now, I realize that it’s a microcosm of our whole relationship.

March 6, 2004

I was riding a bicycle across a field in a fictional location. Warmish weather, green grass, some trees here and there. Not too far from some sidewalks and buildings, though I’m not sure what the buildings were (I think one was a public school). I was trying to get away from some guy who I sensed had malevolent intentions. I steered into a different section of the field and noticed it was criss-crossed with brown stripes, as if lots of other people had ridden bikes here before and left tire tracks. The Mean Guy (whoever he was – nobody I recognized from reality) caught up to me on a different bike. He was asking me questions in a haughty judgmental tone, as if he felt a some sort of right to berate anyone who dares to exist in ways that they perceive as Radically Outside The Way Everyone Is Supposed To Be. He had that sort of zealous “there’s something wrong with you because you are not like me” arrogance.

Then [REDACTED] showed up, also on a bicycle, and scared this dude off; he reacted as if he were a vampire and she were a renowned Slayer. Except at this point in the dream (as I discovered in the next section), [REDACTED] was a character and not herself (but later she became herself, an off-the-clock actress).

After the Mean Guy left, [REDACTED] asked me, “Why are you riding over the mushroom field?” I asked what she meant. She said something like, “Mushrooms grow here, but they won’t if you keep riding over them.”

I followed her off the field toward a road. She had some camera equipment strapped to her bicycle, and she told me that she was going to try to get a gig. We approached a parked trailer; just outside of it, a harried woman in her late fifties was talking on a cell phone. When she finished that call, [REDACTED] introduced herself (and here’s where I realized that she was a character, for she used a different name that I don’t remember now and said that she’s a freelance documentarian). The Harried Woman said something like, “And why are you here right now?” The character said something like, “I spoke with you on the phone about maybe making a documentary about ________.” (I don’t recall the topic of the documentary, but it had to do with whatever the Harried Woman was up to.) The Harried Woman explained that she already had a documentarian on her crew, but she might consider splicing in additional footage from another camera.

Then the [REDACTED] character and I rode our bicycles back to the mushroom field, and en route she explained that it’s like a shared communal psilocybin source and the locals respect a tradition of only taking as much as one needs while leaving more for Others. When we got back to the field, it was dense with mushrooms even though just a few minutes earlier there’d been only grass and bicycle tracks there. Some of the mushrooms looked like mushrooms, while others were shaped like animals.

[REDACTED] picked some of the mushroom-shaped ones and ate a small quantity (undried and fresh out of the ground, which I don’t think is wise to do in reality; there’s normally a drying phase). I picked up one that was shaped like a small cow, broke it open, and ate it. Had a raw earthy flavor.

We rode our bicycles to a house, a fictional one. She started to prepare some food in the kitchen (I don’t recall what sort of food).

I paused to see if the mushrooms were kicking in yet. I felt relaxed and a little bit “different” (hard to articulate how – psychedelic experiences really don’t translate well into words). Time passed – seemed like about half an hour or so. [REDACTED] re-appeared, and somehow I knew that she was now the person and actress, not the documentarian character from earlier. I smiled at her and asked, “How are you?” She said, “Let’s go downstairs, and you can see for yourself.”

We walked down a staircase into a basement. There were some blankets and pillows and comforters on the floor atop mats (the soft padded mats as used in high school gym classes for wrestling). We stretched out atop one of the mats. I think I asked, “Are the mushrooms working for you yet” or something like that, but maybe I just wondered it and didn’t ask. I think we ate some more mushrooms then, too. And there was a TV set down there, and we started to watch a movie (not one that exists in reality).

And then we snuggled and cuddled in a big heap of blankets and pillows, and I felt really content and happy and relaxed.

Then I woke up and thought, “I’ve got to write down this dream about the weird communal mushroom field.”

March 7, 2004

The snippets I recall from my most recent dreams:

A few people (no more than six) who I didn’t know were building a houseboat within an in-ground pool; that is, the pool was filled with water, and these people had nearly completed construction of a houseboat that floated on the water within the pool. And the pool was right next to the ocean. I don’t know who the boat builders were; they were all caucasian and ranged in age from about 25 to 35. In the dream context, I had some sort of friendly affiliation with them and had access to the houseboat. The dream started during daylight hours, and one of the boat builders (who, now that I think about it, looked a lot like [REDACTED]) mentioned repeatedly that he had an intuition that “fleeing now would be wise” and words to that effect; he sensed some sort of pending natural disaster like an earthquake.

At one point in the dream, I think in the second “scene,” there was a mobile espresso bar set up on the beach near the houseboat-containing pool. I said to a female barista, “I’m debating whether or not I want a latte or something. I’m trying to cut down on my caffeine intake.”

Then during another daytime segment, [REDACTED] was hanging around near the houseboat pool. I talked with her (don’t recall about what), and then she left to get her car, which she then drove along the beach. She stopped near the houseboat again.  I sensed that I (for some unknown reason) had to travel via bus/subway to one particular fast food restaurant somewhere across town (I think the dream took place in the Los Angeles area). I thought about asking [REDACTED] for a ride but got shy in her presence. So she drove away, and then I found myself on a weird oversized bus that contained a miniature mall-style fast food place. So I was essentially riding within one fast food place to get to a different fast food place. And I realized that I didn’t know exactly where my destination was, so I checked the address on a slip of paper and then got up to ask the bus driver if he’d tell me when we were near that location.

(Later on March 7, 2004)

Fell back asleep. Dreamed that I was walking down an urban city street at night in search of a particular library. (In reality, I’m planning an expedition to the Margaret Herrick library.) I found the address and walked toward two oversized wooden doors, presumably the library entrance, and opened them. Beyond the doors: a wide (perhaps twenty feet across) carpeted staircase heading down. The carpet had an intricate pattern with red and orange as the dominant background colors with some smaller bits of yellow, blue, and greenish hues. There was a hand railing, and I held onto it with my right hand as I trotted down the stairs really damn quickly. Even at top speed, it took me nearly a minute to reach the bottom of the stairs. When I got about halfway down, I heard the doors behind me open again, and I heard two people (one male and one female) talking to each other as they descended the stairs behind me. I accelerated and thought, “It’s probably not safe to take these stairs so quickly. Maybe I should slow down.” When I reached the bottom, I went through a smaller set of double doors and then looked back. I didn’t recognize the two people behind me, but I was startled to see that they were only ten feet behind me or so; they must have descended the stairs at a physically impossible speed in order to catch up to me like that. In the library, I turned to my left in search of a restroom, for I had to pee urgently. I followed “restroom” signs around a corner, but where I expected the mens’ room to be I found only a key embedded in a wall with a white tag attached to it. The tag had “LASHER” written upon it.

Then I woke up and realized that I urgently had to pee in reality, so I used my real toilet.

I also remember a dream (before the library one) in which I was in an office somewhere within the UCLA film department, and there was a filing cabinet in which all of my earliest spec scripts were kept, including all the spec TV stuff I wrote in the early-mid 1990s: the two Parker Lewis specs, X-Files, etc. And [REDACTED], my first original feature spec (from 1996, I think). And I was terribly embarassed that this material was on file. [REDACTED] was there, and I looked at her and said, “You’ve probably already read all this crap, haven’t you?” She nodded.

March 8, 2004

I was outdoors in a parking lot near a giant sports arena, and I was “suiting up” in bits of chainmail armor, a football helmet, hockey pads, and such. Apparently, I was about to become a contestant on “Alpha Prisoner” from my Zombie Gladiator speculative feature film screenplay.

Another dream: I took a short taxi ride from Hollywood Boulevard (a few blocks west of Vine) back to my previous apartment, where I still lived in the dream context. I knew the taxi driver (who looked a lot like bassist [REDACTED]) socially.

March 11, 2004

I awoke with no memory of last night’s dreams, but with an awareness that I had dreamt.

March 12, 2004

Ditto.

(And later on March 12 – I napped and awoke around 11:20 PM aware that I’d been dreaming but with no memory of the content.)

March 13, 2004

Two dreams remain in memory this morning, or at least bits of the dreams. I shall summarize the latter one in haiku form:

Candlelit snuggles

With [REDACTED]

“You’re safe now,” she said.

In the former dream, I was walking around a foliage-filled “property” with multiple buildings peppering the landscape. All of the buildings had reddish-brown roofs and off-white walls. Some of the buildings had two stories, some three, some just one. As I walked around, I heard someone playing an instrumental version of a Fairport Convention song (though I cannot now recall which song, oddly). I wandered in that direction and saw a lone guitarist plucking out the melody on an acoustic guitar. Nobody I know from reality; the busker was a fictional dream character. Then I walked around and examined some more of the buildings, and I encountered [REDACTED] and said something like, “There’s more than enough space here to install a recording studio so that the songs of the Berea, Ohio underground folk-rock scene can at last be properly recorded.” He concurred.

That dream (the stroll among the buildings) took place in a summertime environment – warmish comfortable weather, blue skies, and a slight breeze.

March 14, 2004

Nothin’ recalled from the dream realm last night, though I’m fairly certain that I had one dream that took place in the Bourgeois Pig coffee shop.

March 15, 2004

Napped from about 1 AM to 5 AM. Nothing to report.

March 16, 2004 (7:41 AM Western Spring time, not late afternoon)

Nothing to report.

March 17, 2004

Awoke around 1:10 AM after a nap. I recall no dreams from this sleep session.

March 18, 2004

Drifted off to sleep briefly circa 9:00 AM. Dreamed I was standing in a cafeteria-style line with a tray. My old high school friend [REDACTED] was in line next to me, and we were our present-day ages; I was clad in my recent all-black outfit with the denim jacket, and I had a copy of my [REDACTED] script with me. My friend was staring at me with an expression that seemed to express fear and disgust simultaneously, and he said, “Dan, I never thought I’d say this, but you’re evil.” And then he fled to elsewhere in the cafeteria.

March 18, 2004

Ice Cream Shop nightmare

Wounded turtle served on plate

Nobody noticed

Different dream same night

Told some tales about cats

Made [REDACTED] smile

Later on March 18: napped in the afternoon. Dreamed that I was visiting Borders Books in Westlake OH. Entered via the café doors. Saw Paul “Milo” Miller across the store at the info desk. He looked harried and overworked. I walked over to say hello. Don’t recall much more “plot” to this dream; was more of a vignette.

March 19, 2004 – 4:40 AM Pacific Standard Time, Late Afternoon Elsewhere on Earth

Awoke aware that I’d just had a long cycle of active dreaming. The only bit I remember: I was at my parents’ house. Coldish weather outside; rainy, windy, gray skies. The door from the house to the garage was open. I was my present-day age, yet Fred [a beagle I grew up with who died in the early 1990s] was around. When I saw the open door, I worried that he might have wandered toward the road (when I was a kid, I once saw him almost get hit by a car and have harbored an anxiety about that scenario ever since). I went outside to look for him, walked to the front of the house, saw a different dog walking in the road, went back into the house, and found my parents talking to a dog they thought was Fred but who was clearly (to me) not. Then I saw Fred (looking even older than I remember him ever looking in his final months) elsewhere in the room, and I pointed him out to my parents and said, “You can’t tell the difference between Fred and this other dog?” (I was alarmed and baffled, since the two dogs were so very different-looking in my eyes.)

March 20, 2004

Awoke around 5:30 AM Pacific Time aware that I’d just had lots of dreams, but they quickly slipped out of memory. Hence, nothing to report.

(Later on March 20, 2004 – circa 3:50 pm)

During an afternoon nap, I dreamed about traveling down a Sunset Blvd. Sidewalk at faster-than-possible-on-foot speed; I’m not sure what sort of propulsion system I was using, but I was whizzing west (on the north side) and dodging other pedestrians at about twenty miles per hour.

March 21, 2004

The only fragment I remember: I was in a library and asked the staffer behind the reference desk (a woman in her late thirties with frizzy darkish-blonde hair) if she could obtain a book through Interlibrary Loan for me. I said, “The author’s name is Leak, and the title is The Secret Common-Wealth. Wait, the author’s name is Kirk, not Leak.”

March 23, 2004

Dreamed I was in the Bourgeois Pig, sitting at the bar swilling caffeine. Somebody (not sure who) suggested that I start drinking alcohol instead. (Maybe that was [REDACTED].) I said something like, “No. I’ll stick with the stimulants for now.” Then I went to the restroom, where I urinated into the soil of a potted plant.

March 24, 2004

No dreams recalled.

March 25, 2004

[REDACTED] front porch

Pizza delivery guy

Carried a coffin

Talked with [REDACTED]

Told him too many secrets

House: “Stop proclaiming.”

(Fell back asleep. Later on March 25, 2004…)

I moved into a spacious new office with an overall color scheme of gray, and the view out my window included an oversized decorative “stop and go” light. In the office was an oversized litterbox for Alley Cat and Thalia, who were there with me.

(After an afternoon nap) – No new dreams remembered.

March 26, 2004 – 7:15 AM Pacific Time

No dreams remembered upon awakening.

March 29, 2004

Long night of active dreaming. The only bit I remember clearly: I played Claude Cahn’s “New Song” with Dewey in a coffee shop (a fictional one) with me on fretted left-handed four-string electric bass guitar and Dewey on vocals and acoustic guitar. There were maybe eight people in the audience: two sitting at a bar, the barista, and five lurking about at tables in the back. The shop resembled Thinkers’ Coffee House circa 1995 in terms of layout (window positions, the presence of that ‘divider’ fixture between the counter and some of the tables), but was larger; Thinkers’ Coffee House didn’t have a bar where people could sit at the counter, for example. And the dream coffee shop had a gray and bluish color scheme rather than the brown of Thinkers.

March 30, 2004

Nightmares. Best not remembered.

April 1, 2004

Napped from about 3 PM to 4:30 PM. Awoke from a dream in which I was falling asleep in a dark bedroom with hardwood floors and maple-colored walls. I was in a comfortable bed, and I could see a reflection on the wall; either a mirror or a highly-polished wooden surface. And in the reflection, I saw a candle’s flame moving closer and closer; someone was in the room with me, and she was carrying a candle.

And somehow, I knew who she was.

And I said, “Hello, [REDACTED].”

[REDACTED] was there for a visit, if only in my dream.

Incidentally, I think I dreamed about different rooms in this same dream location last night, but I didn’t record those dreams upon awakening earlier today. All I recall now is lookin’ down one hallway.

April 2, 2004 – 3:10 AM

Awoke aware that I’d been dreaming a lot, but I don’t recall any details except that the 10,000 Maniacs song The Latin One was “playing” on a loop in my mind when I awoke; I practiced it on bass a couple of times shortly before falling asleep. At least once when I was living in my apartment in Berea OH [mid-1990s], I dreamed about practicing bass in real time and awoke able to play new patterns; perhaps tonight I had another session of focused “dream bass practice.”

April 5, 2004

Two dream fragments recalled, the first just a moment and the other a whole sequence. In the first, I was on the Baldwin-Wallace campus and crossed paths with [REDACTED] outside Ritter Library. I woke up briefly right after that image.

The longer sequence that I recall, which is from a different dream after I fell back asleep: I had rented a new apartment that was on the fourth floor or so of some weird loft building, and my first day there, I got confused about which staircase led to my unit. So I climbed up the stairs and found that I was at the door of my new neighbors, who I hadn’t met. They had a peep-window (covered with a screen) installed in the door, and it was open. Two young ladies were near the door, and one said, “Hello?” I introduced myself, and her friend opened the door. The place was sprawling and spacious, far larger than any real apartment, with room after room after room. Near the front door, to the right, was a closet that contained many costumes. A young lady (blonde, early twenties) in a nightgown tumbled out and said to the one who answered the door, “Where we we?” The one who had initially said “hello” offered to take me on a tour. We walked around the apartment, and I spotted at least three cats living there (one perched in a window). One “wing” was like a miniature dungeon, but with bright yellow walls on which restraints and leather straps hung. On my way back out (to go to my apartment, which was across a chasm – I’d have to go downstairs and take a different staircase back up to the same level), I found a section of the apartment that had slippery wooden floors and lots of space; some guy was gliding across the floor in his socks. When I got to my apartment, I found two notes taped to the door; I’d missed visits from two friends.

(later on April 5, 2004)

Napped for a few hours. Dreamed that I bumped into [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] in a liquor store. I cracked open a bottle of beer (without paying for it) and took a few sips and said, “Here’s something you probably thought you would never see.” Then I suggested that the three of us go get coffee up the street and yammer and catch up with each other. They agreed. On the walk to this theoretical coffee shop (the environment was utterly fictional, not my real neighborhood), the sidewalk tilted up and up until I actually had to crawl on all fours to keep climbing. [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] had reached some sort of platform atop this anomalous hill, and [REDACTED] pulled me up. I said, “I’m afraid of heights.” She hugged me and told me everything would be okay. Then I woke up.

April 7, 2004

Awoke aware that I’d had lots of dreams, but I didn’t write ‘em up right away and now forget them. Ditto after an afternoon nap. I recall that one of the nighttime dreams involved a bunch of fictional cats.

April 8, 2004

Wood between worlds

Feminine alien there

Reincarnation

Translation of the above Haiku (penned on April 9 at about 6:15 AM about a dream that took place 24 hours earlier)… had a really vivid and bizarre dream about being within a series of interdimensional corridors, orangish and yellow as the dominant colors (but muted, not bright), with a distinctly feminine being walking alongside me to my right. She had silvery/metallic hair with some dark/brunette streaks. She was humanoid but not human; her facial features were mostly human, but she had a weird left hand that I thought of as a “claw” (though that word doesn’t describe That Which Was Beyond Her Left Wrist very accurately). I discovered this oddity when I went to hold her hand; I was curious rather than frightened. I felt utterly safe.

I had the sense that we were moving through a space where beings hang out before reincarnating in the “normal” physical human world. And I returned to this space with her about three times in the course of the dream, as if I went to Earth and promptly died a couple of times.

Whenever I tried to look directly at the walls and ceiling, I couldn’t; it was as if my normal human senses just weren’t equipped to process whatever I was seeing. They seemed to be both solid and pulsing/rippling at the same time, and I had the sense that I could just as easily have strolled “up” into the ceiling as I could walk within the ground-level corridor.

I had the sense that the being to my right was a personification [REDACTED]. I said something like, “Who were you this time?” Meaning, “Who were you in my most recent mortal incarnation?”

I can’t stress enough the vividness and bizareness of this dream environment; it was a nearly psychedelic experience and might have been an actual glimpse of another dimension, for all I know. Didn’t feel like a traditional fictional dream.

9 April 2004

Lots o’dreams. The bits I remember:

I had my photo taken near a fire engine that was there specifically as a background prop for the photos. Took place in a woodsy area with a hill; I was atop the hill so that the photos would feature the roof of the fire engine.

Different dream: I was in a hollowed-out version of Klein Hall (the dorm I lived in as a freshman at Baldwin-Wallace). It had been remodeled and converted into a single large gray-walled facility, though the shape of the space in the dream was slightly different (with a lower ceiling and different dimensions, less narrow) than an actual hollow version of Klein would be. There were a few chairs scattered around.

Another dream: I was at a record convention and found some rare vinyl bootlegs of an early live Gin Blossoms MTV session (not one that exists in reality, as far as I know). In that same dream, [REDACTED] & [REDACTED] were talking about how some consumer-level audio gear was about to be unleashed as the new standard (to replace CD players), but you still can’t go wrong with a good vinyl turntable and high-quality speakers.

April 21, 2004

Have had dreams over the last few days, but they’ve been slipping out of memory quickly upon awakening. I think one of last night’s involved walking around a house and examining it with a “is it safe for the cats” frame-of-mind.

14 May 2004

Woke up, wrote a bit, and then took a brief nap during which I dreamed about being in a hotel room only to notice two microphones taped to a wall next to the bed.

22 May 2004

Dreamed I was in an apartment similar to the one where I am now, only there were other apartments across the hallway.

I heard a male voice yell “help” from one of the apartments across the hall. I ventured to my door and listened while pondering whether to call 911 and/or investigate. As I stood at the door, an arm and hand appeared in my field of vision as if someone else was in my apartment with me, standing to my left and slightly behind me, and had thrust a file folder into the space just in front of my upper torso. The person was wearing black sleeves, or at least the one I saw was black; I didn’t see the person or the rest of his or her outfit, for I was so shocked by the presence of someone else that I froze, and then the dream “cut to” a new location (downstairs at mailboxes in a lobby that doesn’t resemble the one in this building). I found a small package (about three times the size of a deck of cards) in my mailbox and opened it. It contained a box of Crayola crayons.

That’s all I recall. I’d like to emphasize that the “fear” reaction I felt when that arm and hand appeared in my field of vision was off-the-scale and in the “ultra-terrified” realm; imagine being home alone and having THAT happen.

25 May 2004

Had a dream in which I was outside a house on an affluent-looking suburban street (summertime weather, blue skies, green trees and lawns). I had my Primary Computer with me (this one on which I am now typing). I went inside the house. [REDACTED] gestured for me to follow her into an elevator. I did. We rode.

The elevator door opened, and we walked across a hall into a room that had a couch and a TV set; the lighting was natural sunlight filtering through off-white curtains.

We talked about something, some event in which I’d been involved, but I don’t recall what. She said something like, “That’s one of the nights that’s in dispute among those who are arguing about your fate.” Then she left the room to get a videotape.

3 June 2004

I was walking down Hollywood Blvd. A car moving against traffic whipped by, horn blaring, almost smashing into other vehicles and people. I remember thinking that an old friend was further down Hollywood in the direction that runaway car was moving, and I was afraid that she’d be injured. I tried to call her on my cell phone to warn her, but I couldn’t get through.

Later on 3 June 2004

Napped in the early afternoon. I just recall a brief fragment of a dream: I was in this apartment and felt stomach cramps after drinking some bottled water. Tasted like plastic. I realized that I’d left the water sitting in sunlight for too long and felt, like, “What a waste of good water.”

Early morning (circa 5 AM Pacific Time) on 5 June 2004

Just awoke. I recall some images and moments from two different dreams.

In the first, Michael Myers (the Halloween character) was terrorizing some caucasian teenagers outdoors in broad daylight. ‘Twas an urban setting in winter: knee-high snow drifts on the sidewalks, weathered brick tenement buildings with black metal fire escape ladders on the right (from my point-of-view, which was a “not present in the scene” voyeur viewpoint; I’m usually an active character in my dreams, but this was one of the rare ones in which I was observing events unfold without being there).  Not sure what was off to the left in much detail: more buildings, probably residential. Same in the distance, stretching down the street.

So there was this gang of maybe a half dozen kids, aged about 14 to 18, all boys. Michael Myers, traditional knife from the first Halloween film in hand, was wading among them in full “kill” mode, but inexplicably the kids kept dodging his blade. Then one of the kids made a joke (I forget exactly what he said), and Myers paused; I had the sense that he’d actually been amused by the banter, which is wholly out of character. Then, the weirdest bit: Myers turned into a pig (a literal four-legged snout-nosed animal) and somehow got onto one of the tenement’s fire escape porch-landings. And then the dream reality shifted so that people in a movie theater were complaining about the lame and unrealistic “ending” of this particular Halloween tale.

The other dream fragment I recall: at night, in my present neighborhood, I went to visit a guy who was some sort of buddy/ally (nobody from my real life). I walked to an apartment complex that doesn’t actually exist, though the surrounding streets do; the dream location would be about three blocks west and maybe one or two blocks north of Franklin & Tamarind, though the neighborhood geography got more “fictional” the further I walked; I saw trees and landmarks that don’t exist in reality.

So I got to this guy’s apartment, and I think I was there to borrow a videotape of a film. (Maybe it was the Myers-turns-into-a-pig cut of Halloween 52.) In a second-floor “courtyard” of sorts, with doors to apartments on three sides and the staircase to my right, I rang a doorbell. This guy (late twenties, disheveled light brown hair, clad in sweatshorts and a t-shirt) stumbled out of his apartment. Apparently, I’d woken him up. He gave me the videotape, and then one of his neighbors insisted that I take like six sticks of chewing gum, too. I accepted them and left.

9 June 2004

Circa 4:25 AM, I awoke from some dreams. The only image I recall: a photo of [REDACTED] and the contemporary (Noyce/Barre/Perry/Anderson/Giddings) Jethro Tull lineup. Apparently, she had sat in with the band for either a live gig or some studio sessions. In the photo, all six people were smiling and facing the camera. [REDACTED] had an alto concert flute in her left hand and was standing on the “right” (from the POV of me looking at the pic) edge of the image.

I also saw a listing of like 6 song titles from whatever collaboration had occurred, but I don’t remember any of ‘em.

On 10 June 2004, I recalled no dreams.

27 June 2004

Awoke with no dreams in memory. Went for a walk, returned home, and fell asleep again around 7 am. Awoke around 8:20 AM with a dream fragment in memory: I strolled around 30 Rockefeller Center (NBC). Had some sort of appointment in studio 6H, which in the dream context housed The Today Show (in reality, I’m not even sure if there is a 6H). En route, I seemed to make a complete loop around the sixth floor without finding 6H. I also had to pee and found a restroom. About halfway through this dream, I saw a spacious open area and thought, “I wish the cats and I could move there and have all that floor space and build a customized habitat around us.” I worried that people would constantly perceive such a habitat as a set and, like, wander in and out.

After the NBC section, the dream shifted outdoors and involved me driving around (not NYC) with old friends, but I don’t recall that part very clearly.

29 June 2004

I remember just one dream fragment from last night: I was at a party where I met a young woman who was workin’ as a staff writer on a new animated Super Friends TV cartoon based on the D.C. Comics mythos. I did a respectful genuflectish gesture toward her.

30 June 2004

Dreamed I was drivin’ a truck (like, an eighteen-wheeler, which I don’t know how to drive in reality) at night in winter. Lots of trees and foliage to both sides. The topography reminded me a bit of some areas just off the highway exit in Ashland (Ohio) along the route I’d take from Northeast Ohio to [REDACTED] sometimes, but more flat and with a clear view down a long and straight stretch of road. There was some snow falling, but not enough to make driving feel dangerous.

A fictional woman in her late twenties was riding in my passenger seat; brunette, cranky. We arrived at a hotel and took a spacious suite with two beds. The color scheme of the suite was yellowish overall, with some tan and brown furniture.

I ventured out of the room (I forget why) and encountered a guy in a hotel staff uniform, a big burly guy in his forties. He coerced me with a weapon (either a knife or a gun) into going outside to the truck and giving him my keys. He drove off.

I dashed back to the room and barked “lock the door” at Ms. Cranky Brunette (which is odd since I could have just, like, slammed the door and locked it behind me faster than she could) and ran to the phone to call the cops. That’s all I recall.

I had another dream last night about a piece of cat furniture, like a scratch-post/perch combo, but I don’t recall much from that one except that some people I don’t know in reality were examining and commenting upon this new innovation in kitty comfort.

3 July 2004

Awoke avec a few moments and images from one dream in memory: I was walking and climbing on a hillside that had “ledges” and nooks suitable for humans to pause on; I had the sense that I was in a sort of public park where people sometimes congregated for events like concerts. A fellow (fortyish, burly, with a beer gut) who frequented the place was telling me how innocent bystanders sometimes get caught in a crossfire when people on one ledge throw things at people on other ledges. Seemed like late summer/early fall Ohio weather, though I’m not sure exactly where this place was; the location wasn’t part of the “given” info about the dream.

I also had a dream about a college kid who had received an entire House of Blues location via bequeathment and was brainstorming ways to program the place with high-quality entertainment.

5 July 2004

I awoke and remembered a bit of a dream that took place in Ohio. I was outdoors and walking toward a car that was “mine” in the dream context (not a vehicle from reality). I saw legs jutting out from under the car; a young lady in a purple dress was for some reason fussing with the underbelly of this automobile. I said, “Hello?” She stood up: ’twas Ohio native [REDACTED]. We somehow knew each other, and I asked if she wanted to accompany me to Perkins for a meal. She said sure, but she wanted to take her own car and she’d meet me there. That’s all I recall. I’ve been awake since about 7 AM today (about four hours ago), but I made a mental note upon awakening to document the Perkins dream.

6 July 2004

I remember only about two seconds of imagery out of what I sense was a cycle (at least twenty minutes in duration) of active nighttime dreaming. I saw a black stretch limousine (moving left-to-right across the “frame” of my field-of-vision) at night on a paved urban road that was apparently lit by street lamps (one reflected on the limo’s right side during a “moving toward and then away from me” manuever). My automobile jargon vocabulary includes few words, and I don’t parse much information about vehicular makes and models, but I believe this vehicle was of a non-contemporary design (perhaps from the 1970s).

14 July 2004 (around 8:30 am)

Had one dream that took place in and around [REDACTED]’s house; I was visiting there, saw something inside that alarmed me (evidence of an intruder’s presence), called the cops, and exited via a patio door. I walked down the driveway toward the front yard and (though only a minute had passed since I placed the call) found a black-and-white police car parked near the walkway that leads to the porch. Two officers, both middle-aged caucasian males, stood outside the car; one was cuffing a stout teenaged boy with blonde hair. The non-cuffing officer told me that they’d seen him exiting the house through a window. I believe the season of this dream was winter.

15 July 2004

Awoke around 8:40 AM from a dream in which I was in the “Greek Life” residence areas (outdoors at first) on a fictional college campus, or at least one I didn’t recognize as anywhere I’ve ever been (if I’m receiving images of actual places psychically, I might not know when that happens). A half-dozen young ladies were discussing (and demonstrating to each other) techniques to clone plants. This was at dusk. One of the plants was a diamond-shaped flower with purple edges and a lighter whitish interior in a clay pot; that flower was about the size of a slice of bread. Then one of the ladies, who radiated a happy-and-playful aura, invited me inside to a party.

Inside, about three dozen college-age (undergrad) students mingled and drank beverages (both alcoholic, like beer, and not, like punch).

16 July 2004

Dreamed I was in a computer lab (in what seemed like a collegiate academic setting) where the only application on the machines was a display and bartering system for artists and potential art collectors; I logged in and found an offer of $10.00 for one of my paintings. (In reality, I do not paint.) The offer came from another painter, and I looked at one of her paintings (a portrait of a humanoid figure with grayish-brown skin, sort of like a gargoyle).

Had another dream in which I was looking for shoes of the right size for my feet. I heard about someone who had spent $125.00 for a van full of costume parts including shoes of my size; most of the items were Jedi/Sith pieces. Someone (I don’t know who, as I barely remember this dream) said, “The lightsabers alone are worth the hundred and twenty-five bucks, and she got those shoes, too.”

Had a long night of active dreaming, but these are the only pieces I really remember. There was one about Ghostbusters in which I was checking messages on an answering machine (one that I shared with Ray Stantz) with this outgoing message: “If you wish to leave a message for Egon Spengler or Peter Venkman or Winston Zeddemore, you have the wrong number. Please speak after the tone if you wish to leave a message for Dr. Ray Stantz or Daniel S. Duvall.” That was in a crappy tenement apartment with brown crumbling walls.

In another dream, a psychiatrist visited me at home and asked about my claim that spirits sometimes steer or guide me. I said, “It’s not like they manifest and I see them. It’s more like subtle impulses that would translate in english to ‘look here now, Danny.'”

19 July 2004

I recall a bit of a dream in a theater (the sort where plays are staged). The space had two aisles that divided the seats into three main sections: narrow bands left and right with most seats in the middle. It was mostly full of patrons clad in upper-class expensive “night on the town” attire. I, clad in denim, sat next to the aisle at the far right of the center section. Someone on stage introduced the woman next to me to the audience; she (clad in a black dress) stood while people applauded. She was part of some sort of “Academy Orchestra.”

I also recall driving around New York City at some point, and I think the theater described above was in Manhattan. I looked for landmarks along a highway.

28 July 2004

Had one dream that took place outdoors in a small-townish setting. Vandals were cruising around and stripping the outer shells off of soda vending machines, exposing the cans and money-collecting mechanisms within. I was guarding one such machine when a cop car pulled up. One of the cops handed me a rock hammer and encouraged me to use the sharp edge on the carbonated-beverage-dispensing construct. I tore open a rectangle (about one foot by two feet) on one side panel; with that outer layer stripped away, I could see the lightbulbs that normally illuminate that side panel.

Then later in the dream (I don’t recall the transition), I was driving around trying to figure out how to explain what happened to the machine. I concluded that “a cop handed me a weapon and urged me to commit a crime” (though true) sounds made up.

Earlier, I had a different dream that had something to do with great white shark attacks; I was wearing a t-shirt that had a photo of “Bruce” from Jaws on the front, and I believe I was interviewing survivors of actual shark encounters, some of whom were re-traumatized by the image on my shirt.

29 July 2004

Long night of active dreaming. The only image that remains in memory: I sat at the Bourgeois Pig bar and enjoyed a plate of spaghetti – not on the actual Pig menu.

1 August 2004

Awoke with bits of a dream in memory, but the images slipped away quickly as I became increasingly conscious.

One aspect of the dream seemed at the time qualitatively different from any other state of consciousness I’ve ever experienced; I wish I could recall more details beyond those encoded in the poem below.

Column of eyeballs

receiving data across

“time” and space. Welcome.

All I recall is that in the dream I seemed to be experimenting with new senses, ones available only in certain forms of sleep. I felt, like, “Oh, of course, this is how these tools work,” as if I had stumbled into a natural-but-rarely-used set of mind functions.

I think one key is to minimize linear thinking, or to recognize a linear “time” sense as an artificial construct. Maybe I’m phrasing that badly to get at a concept that’s more like this: information (sensory data) really can flow across time and space in ways that seem “psychic,” but corporeal flesh is stuck moving along the time axis in one direction.

Maybe I’m puzzled by the discrepancy between what my linear flesh feels and my non-linear mind sometimes perceives in the dream realm, and these ramblings are my attempt to articulate concepts that I really can’t grok right now. I can’t really articulate how my eyes and ears work, let alone whatever senses enable me to sometimes perceive non-local-and-non-linear information.

7 August 2004

In the evening of 5 August 2004 in reality, I walked into a location in reality and felt a surge of electric excitement and fear, for I realized that I’d visited that place in a dream. ‘Twas a until-that-moment forgotten and undocumented dream; I estimate that I dreamt it within the last two years.

The location is near the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Harvard in the Thai Town neighborhood. I was walking north when I noticed the shape of a building to my left; that shape, combined with the angle of inclination of the road and overall gestalt of the place, triggered a memory of a dream in which I was “there” at that same spot, only the building to my left in the dream was a restaurant rather than a residential place. In the dream, I went restaurant hopping with [REDACTED] and had many long conversations with her. Each restaurant served food of different ethnic origin. Unlike reality, there was fog outdoors in the dream.

oval-shaped plant leaf

black, white, and gray human shape

“knew where to find me”

10 August 2004

I only recall fragments. One: I was driving at night with a passenger in the car. I’m not sure who the passenger was, though my instinct is that I know this person in reality. I was on an elevated highway when I looked to my left and saw an impossibly large owl hovering in the sky maybe three hundred yards away. This owl was, like, the size of a blue whale.

Two: I had taken a job (not sure what kind) that required me to clock in and out with a punchcard, and I had a wave of anxiety a few days into the gig that I’d forgotten to clock in for all my shifts.

I’m certain that I had many other dreams last night, but those are the only bits I recall.

15 August 2004

Awoke from a long series of dreams. The most vivid: I was climbing up a narrow staircase on the outside of a building in daytime. I knew that I was going to a college classroom in which algebra classes were taught. I was worried that I might slip and fall off the very narrow staircase, so I crawled on all fours and used my hands to grip each step. Within a minute after I got into the classroom, someone else arrived: a blonde-haired fellow in his twenties who I recognized as an actor (nobody from reality) who had recently gone swimming with dolphins as part of a feature film project. He knew my first name (not sure how). I asked him about the dolphins. He told me that they sometimes “rallied him through his paces” and encouraged him to swim laps with them. He had seen my unusual ascent up the stairs and asked about that; I explained that I’m afraid of heights, and the very narrow steps alarmed me.

I know I had at least one other dream last night, but I cannot recall much from that one, except in one “scene” I walked through a hallway in a museum-like setting while somebody threw things at me. I’m not sure what was being thrown.

16 August 2004

Dreamed about driving on I-480 near Cleveland (Ohio), though the dream freeway didn’t look like any real stretches of 480 that I remember. In the dream, I somehow ended up on foot walking around an area near the highway that I realized was meant as a “trap” of sorts for vehicles that would crash off the road at a tight curve. There was a grassy hill that descended from the highway with periodic trees and ledges. I’m not sure how I knew that this was intended to be a “catch crashing cars” area.

The dream sparked a memory of a different “driving near Cleveland” dream that I’d had within the last two years or so; the depiction of the highway was the same in both dreams, so last night I essentially returned to a fictionalized version of northeast Ohio roadways that my subconscious had conjured earlier. I don’t recall much about that earlier dream except that I took a couple of different routes back and forth from one section of Cleveland to another.

23 August 2004

Two nights ago, I had a dream in which I was strolling around an Imperial Base (the Star Wars mythos kind) in corridors that resembled those in the “New Hope” Death Star. I was clad in black denim jeans and my short-sleeved gray-white “glyphs” shirt. I had a plan in case anyone stopped me to ask what I was doing there: I’d tug at my shirt and say “It’s a disguise” and then breeze past them. Within this base, film clips from contemporary American films were being shown, which makes no sense.

Last night, I had a dream that involved a series of puns centered around Thalia’s name, but I don’t recall any details from that one. I also had a dream in which I saw [REDACTED] performing a solo show at a University theater (not a venue that I know from reality).

29 August 2004

Dreamed that Hunter S. Thompson published a new book, and I sought out Johnny Depp to read excerpts from it in his HST voice.

30 August 2004

One dream involved walking around a large non-rectangular swimming pool that somehow was built into a slanting hillside (with the water sort of defying gravity and acting like a 45-degree-angle waterfall). I tossed a white ping-pong ball into the pool.

31 August 2004

The subconscious mind works in mysterious ways.

3 September 2004

Dreamed about Ms. [REDACTED]. I saw a newspaper ad for a gig: she was scheduled to play guitar one night, but there were three possible venues where she might be. When I tried to call to verify where she’d be, I couldn’t get through for assorted reasons: my phone malfunctioned, and then one number was disconnected. I drove to one of the venues. I never saw her playing guitar in the dream, but I did see her in the weirdest context: as a guest star on The Simpsons. In her entrance scene, she was seated amongst about two dozen other people inside a building that was either a church or a funeral home (I think there may have been a funeral in progress, but I’m not certain). Some guy entered and asked, “Is Maggie here?” Someone else (a lady who greeted this guy) gestured to Marge and Maggie and said, “Over there.” Then the “camera” moved to the back of Ms. [REDACTED]’s head, and she turned as if reacting to the presence of the fellow who had just arrived. She looked beautiful (even as a cartoon character). She asked the person next to her, “Do you have a shower?”

The “guitar venue” portions of the dream were “live action.” During the cartoon “broadcast,” I was lookin’ for a tape to record the episode. I didn’t tape her entrance scene but recorded the rest of the episode (though I didn’t get to see the denouement before I awoke).

There was one section of the dream in which I told several people how much I was looking forward to the guitar gig.

4 September 2004

During an afternoon nap, I dreamed that [REDACTED] and I visited a fictional film school. There was a rain storm with thunder and lightning in progress outside.

5 September 2004

Had a sequence of dreams involving Fairport Convention in different contexts. One: the current lineup (Pegg, Nicol, Conway, Leslie, Sanders) was rehearsing in studio 8H for a Saturday Night Live appearance. Two: the band circa 1970 was rehearsing outdoors, and a video crew taped them, and then Simon Nicol was mis-identified in a TV broadcast’s graphics as “Llama Nicol.” Three: the current lineup was sitting outside [REDACTED] with assorted prank signs that suggested that the building was for sale.

6 September 2004

Awoke from a dream about swimming in the Hollywood Hills. In the first part of the dream, I was for some reason visiting a mansion in the Hills, and the owner had a giant swimming pool that more or less surrounded the house. I went swimming and found that the outdoor part of the pool connected with an indoor section.

I don’t recall much more of the dream, but subsequent sections involved me swimming in different pools throughout the Hills.

8 September 2004

Bits of two dreams recalled:

Ripley (from the Alien films) wrestled an alien into a furnace, where they both presumably died.

I co-hosted a radio show with [REDACTED].

9 September 2004

I was sifting through a bunch of gems and jewels in search of one particular one. I concluded that I wouldn’t have time just then to find it, so I loaded up my pockets with the stash with the intent of locating the Particular Gem later.

Also had a dream about eating hummus, roasted red pepper flavor with onions. The hummus had gotten watery, so I stirred it.

10 September 2004

Awoke from a dream about a tiger in the basement of Rockefeller Center.

In a different and earlier part of what I think was the same dream, some panels within that basement wall broke off, and water flooded out. The corridors were all dry during the tiger section, though.

11 September 2004

Many dreams. The moments and images I recall include one outdoor scene of firefighters (me and two others, though in reality I don’t know anything about the art of extinguishing large-scale fires). My colleagues and I were hosing down some blazing trees near a residential area. The other two firefighters were fictional, not people I know in reality. One of them said sarcastically to me and the other guy, “You missed a spot.” He then turned his hose on one of the trees that the other guy and I had “extinguished” — there were still some flames at the very top.

Just as we put out the last of the fire, a massive rainstorm began — sheets of rain saturated the environment. My co-workers and I got soaked as we piled into a car (not a truck) and drove away.

I also recall a different dream in which I felt tremendous relief upon arriving at a restroom atop a staircase.

(Later on 11 September 2004)

Fell back asleep and had a lucid dream — my first one in many years. In the lucid dream, I was in my bedroom, and I noticed red and green flashing lights in a wall outlet. At that moment, I still believed that I was in a real waking situation; when I saw the light flashes, I thought, “Maybe I’m dreaming. Maybe this is now a lucid dream.” I was astonished by how real the experience felt; it was indistinguishable from real waking consciousness. I was very startled at first and couldn’t believe that I was dreaming. Then for some reason I wanted to study my toes, so I looked at my feet. Then I ventured forward to study the flashing lights, which were inside an electrical outlet where (in reality) the phone cord goes into the wall. As I got closer, there was a rectangular opening in the wall; that is, part of the wall seemed cut open where the electrical outlet had been. Inside this opening, I could see a phone-shaped piece of plastic (white with blue trim) next to some weird electronics. The color scheme of the phone-shaped thing for some reason reminded me of Freddie from the Scooby Doo mythos. And then the electronic things next to the phone flashed. There were several colors of light that flashed swiftly, ending with a flourish of bright purple flashes. Again, I must stress how real this all felt. As I stared at the sources of the flashing lights, the image sort of faded to black and I thought, like, “Oh no, I’m waking up.” I opened my eyes.

(Still later on 11 September 2004)

Fell back asleep hoping to re-enter the lucid state. I didn’t, but I did have another fictional dream. Something about a mom and son working on a computer in an upstairs room in Suburbia (I think this dream took place in Ohio). I was there and at one point offered a spelling suggestion to the mother.

12 September 2004

Awoke with memories of two dreams. In the first, a third cat started hanging out with Alley Cat and Thalia. The new cat had similar markings to Thalia (mostly white fur with a dark tail) but was larger and male.

The second dream I remember: I was younger than my present age, perhaps in my early twenties, and I was at some sort of school or academy where a fitness instructor (female, about 22 years old, blonde hair) asked me to participate as a “second room goalie” in some weird variation of kickball. Basically I and a player (who turned out to be my friend [REDACTED]) from another team hung out in a gymnasium while the rest of our teams played in a room next door. If the players got the ball to this gym, John would try to get it to the far end to score a goal while I’d try to stop him.

At one point in this dream, I was swinging on a rope and observing the fitness instructor, who (according to rumors among the other, uh, students) had recently lost a lot of money and was adjusting to her new social status.

13 September 2004

Fragments of a dream remain in my memory. I was alone in a farmhouse in Ohio, and I was performing camera tests with a camcorder, framing parts of a dining room. I looked out some windows and noticed how some houses and businesses had been built awfully close to the property. I was planning to make a “student film” there.

14 September 2004

Dreamed about playing Monopoly with [REDACTED]. Each property had the name of a different magazine — so, like, “Time” and “Newsweek” were on the board instead of “Illinois Avenue” and “Park Place” etc.

15 September 2004

Lots of dreams. In one, The Daily Planet [an actual store next to The Bourgeois Pig] had been expanded into a sort of multi-level mall-like department store. I stopped by, picked up some black jeans, put them on, and then went to a meeting with a college dean who told me anecdotes about a shopping mall in Boston. His tale had something to do with how the people who worked at that mall could have instead been working on a Whale-Human communication research team, and the mall eventually went out of business anyhow, and one of his friends who had worked there went insane. I asked the dean if he’d be willing to discuss these matters on the record, on videotape, and he said yes.

When I left that meeting, I put on a light blue denim jacket over my black denim jacket, and I noticed the logo of a pizza place sewn on one corner. Also, I was carrying a textbook that had a brown paper covering (like the way students in high school used to cover books with old grocery bag material). There was a list of about 15 names on the book cover with my name at the top; I got the sense that I was sharing that book with all those other people.

Then I went to visit [REDACTED] at the new store location. She was testing some new retail point-of-sale checkout systems, so I wasn’t able to speak with her much.

Then I went to meet one of the dean’s friends, maybe the one who had gone insane, who claimed to have important information about what the whales of the oceans want to communicate to humans.

Earlier, I had a different dream in which I flew like Superman. Somebody warned me about flying in one area where bees might sting me.

18 September 2004

Dreamed about preparing to play Car Wars, the tabletop game manufactured by Steve Jackson Games. The per-vehicle budget was $30,000. Other players included [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. The latter told a humorous anecdote about how her driver (the game character) rigged up a soda machine in a gas station with explosives, like a safecracker, because the clerk there liked soda and gave her free gasoline. She even deducted money from her vehicle budget for the soda machine explosives. The other player had built a mock-up mailbox with the corporate logo for the fictional company that manufactured his game car; that is, he built a prop to make his car’s manufacturer seem more real.

I puzzled over some pre-made vehicle designs since I didn’t have time to create a customized from-scratch car. In reality, back when I used to play Car Wars, I always designed my own cars.

Also dreamed about crossing paths with [REDACTED] outside the Arclight movie theater, which had been upgraded and was even more plush and had more theaters. I told him that I hadn’t been to the Chinese Theatre for like a year.

Another dream took place on a football field and had something to do with a documentary that [REDACTED] was making about a high school team.

20 September 2004

Dreamed about transcribing Fairport Convention lyrics for to-be-officially-released chord sheets; Pegg and Sanders were nearby jotting down the chord sequences for various songs while I prepared the lyrics.

21 September 2004

Dreamed I was at a crowded party in a mansion. At night, I parked in the front yard per the direction of someone who waved me to an open spot. That person asked me how late I’d be staying. I said until probably about two or three in the morning.

Inside, I found one long narrow corridor with rooms off to the left but not the right. Some of the rooms looked like shops and restaurants. In one lounge, I met a woman about my age who intrigued me at once; we had good conversational chemistry. Then she vanished for a while, and I spent part of the party walking around looking for her.

I crossed paths with [REDACTED], realized that she was dead [as in reality], and said, “Well, it’s a good place for it.” Meaning, if I’m going to bump into a ghost, why not here? (That line will make no sense to anyone but me, for I know more about this dream than I’m documenting here.) [REDACTED] asked me to go outside with her, and I said no. She looked distressed and sad. I said, “But we keep crossing paths, right? I’ll see you again.” She went outside, and I had a strong sense that if I’d followed her, I would have died too. I walked away with tears streaming down my face and continued my search for the mystery woman.

I listened to a recording of a pro basketball player performing a Doors song (backed by the Doors drummer), and then I heard Terry Gilliam tell an anecdote about J. Depp. (“…trapped in a keg!”)

Then I found the mystery woman again: she stood behind a computer monitor on which I was reading some online material. She had changed her hairstyle and clothes. She directed me to a booth in a diner-like setting, and we spoke some more. Then I awoke.

23 September 2004

Had a long cycle of active dreaming. I didn’t record these impressions upon first awakening but am doing so approximately eight hours later. The pieces I remember most vividly: in one dream, I was a college freshman again, and I’d joined a student club that mostly went around seeing movies. I attended a double feature of Scream and Scream 2, and the group included my old pal [REDACTED], who claimed to have never seen either film though I had a vivid memory of seeing Scream with him (in reality, I didn’t attend that film with him). At one point, I noticed that a theater would soon be showing Brazil and stated my intention to go to that screening; a young lady (fictional) mentioned that she had never seen it. This dream included something about a phone call from the club organizer to arrange carpooling, but I don’t recall that part clearly.

In a different dream, I was “painting” with luminescent goo, drawing lines and dots on the underside of a desk.

24 September 2004

Something about being chased by a grizzly bear.

25 September 2004

Dreamed I was at my maternal grandfather’s house. Outside, I noticed a house next door (not like any real house in that neighborhood) and decided I’d like to see Grandpa’s house from the angle of the neighbor’s porch. I went to that house, knocked on the door, and said “knock knock.” A guy inside said, “It’s open.” When I walked in, there were three people there, all about forty years old. I asked if I could use the bathroom.

27 September 2004

Last night, I had a brief flash of lucidity but awoke out of that dream within thirty seconds. I noticed a door in my apartment that does not exist in reality and realized that I was dreaming after I wondered, “What’s this doing here?” I gazed out into the living room from the bedroom doorway and thought, “You’re dreaming. Looks real, doesn’t it? Try not to wake up.” I awoke as I ventured out into the living room.

I later had a long dream cycle in which I went to the home of Fairport drummer Gerry Conway and watched some footage from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I’m not sure how Conway had obtained this footage. Within that same dream, at one point I was back in Los Angeles walking somewhere when [REDACTED] stopped nearby in a car and hailed me. I got in the car with him, and we drove to a Story Structure class.

Later in the dream, I was talking with [REDACTED] and telling him about my adventures in the United Kingdom — I was very excited about having watched Sith footage at Conway’s house.

6 October 2004

Something about some old dude deliberately losing a copy of my old X-Files spec script.

7 October 2004

“…and one of them writes a lot of haiku and imagines what local businesses might be like after conversion to a poetry-based economy.”

8 October 2004

Dreamed about listening to previously-unreleased live Mary-Ramsey-era 10,000 Maniacs music on vinyl at my parents’ house.

I had purchased the vinyl as a gift for someone else, but I opted to keep that one and get another for the intended recipient.

I’m not sure if the LP was “official” or a bootleg.

9 October 2004

Dreamed about Alley Cat bolting down a pitch-black crumbling corridor in an unfamiliar environment. I chased after him and found a staircase down where he may have gone. I opted to follow the corridor around a bend, and I found Alley Cat waiting for me outside.

11 October 2004

Dreamed that I was outside some residential apartment buildings at night with about a half dozen other people in some sort of communal meal configuration, like an evening picnic. [REDACTED] was there, and I saw her kissing some dude, and I felt not one twinge of jealousy.

17 October 2004

Something about seeing two vampires dusted (leaving only fangs behind) on the ceiling of a house. I later tried to again find the room where the vamps had been and couldn’t.

Also dreamed about watching coffee brew in a kitchen.

18 October 2004

Dreamed about finding heretofor unwatched footage from 1995 of Dewey & The Porkbellies (the ill-fated four-piece coffee house band in which I played bass).

Later napped and dreamed about finding a mattress affixed to the ceiling of my apartment with some sort of attic-trapdoorish rope dangling from it. I was afraid that the mattress might swing open and be a connecting portal to the apartment above.

Documented Dewey & The Porkbellies Dreams between Fall 1999 and the present: 11 July 2000, 21 August 2000, 26 November 2000, 5 January 2004, 29 March 2004, 18 October 2004.

20 October 2004

I had a dream in which I observed brain surgeries three Friday nights per month.

21 October 2004

Had a dream about Batman investigating a breaking-and-entering at a Hollywood Boulevard shop.

And something about bubblegum-flavored ice cream.

22 October 2004

I awoke with an awareness that I’d just had a dream involving bass guitars, but I retain no other aspect of the dream in conscious memory.

24 October 2004

Dreamed that I found a photograph in which [REDACTED] sat next to me at the dining room table of my parents’ house, where a game of Dungeons & Dragons was in progress. In the photo, I wore the blue denim jacket with green and purple sides that [REDACTED] of the Cleveland Freenet Kiosk Zone presented to me as a gift on my 21st birthday. The photo seemed to be circa 1992 based on my appearance. [REDACTED] and I were both looking at the camera and smiling.

I had another dream last night in which someone said “Four-thousand feet over Los Angeles,” but I don’t recall the context of those words.

26 October 2004

I do not recall any of last night’s dreams.

29 October 2004

I dreamed about showering in some sort of tiled communal bathing area, a vast one. I realized that I was paying attention to hygiene due to an upcoming meeting avec [REDACTED]. She and I spoke, but I do not recall the conversation in waking consciousness. When I was en route to the meeting, as I walked from the showering place to wherever I’d dress, I passed through (only for a few seconds) a large retail department store that resembled the Westwood (California) Borders bookstore.

I sense a memory of a scene before the tiled communal bathing area in which I was in bed at home, only the bed and home were not my real-life present-day environment but a fictionalized variant on my childhood bedroom, though I was my present-day age.

I climbed up and into a portal over the bed to get to the bathing place.

30 October 2004

Many dreams last night. The fragments I remember:

I had one dream in which I was living in a high-rise apartment complex, and somebody notified the tenants that a West Nile Virus outbreak had occurred in the building.

Had a different dream in which I walked down an urban street in search of a restroom in the daytime. I found one and peed.

In a dream that may have been linked narratively to the West Nile one, I recall phoning someone and saying, “I’m feeling a little under the weather, so I might not attend the Humanitas seminar.”

1 November 2004

One vivid image still in memory: a tricycle in the middle of a road near some suburban houses. Most of the houses had tall gates, fences, or walls around them. I saw the tricycle fly from a front yard into the middle of the street as if someone had pushed it. I worried that a car might hit it or a driver might get in an accident swerving to avoid it.

I had another dream about watching Dewey & The Porkbellies video footage, but I don’t recall the context.

Something about sharing a bag of cookies that tasted like breakfast cereals with [REDACTED] after we’d gone through a drive-through beverage area in which I (a passenger in the car) told a young lady in her early twenties who sort of resembled a young [REDACTED] (the attendant on duty in the drive-through) about a new sort of futon I’d heard about.

2 November 2004

Had a dream in which I was walking around a dormitory with wide hallways that were cluttered with detritus; outside each doorway were piles of books and clothing.

4 November 2004

Awoke with moments from two dreams in memory. In one, I saw a large chunk of ice (in lieu of liquid) sitting in my cats’ water dish; Thalia walked by with her ears pressed down to her skull in “scared cat” mode. This dream probably relates to the “water shortage anxiety” that was on my mind when I fell asleep; I’d bought one gallon of water at a grocery store, but at home I found that it tasted like plastic, so I had no good water on hand for morning.

5 November 2004

I awoke with no memories of dreams but a sense that I’d dreamt a lot.

6 November 2004

Had one dream in which I was seated in a plush armchair within a mansion’s home office. Seated directly across from me (with nary a desk nor table in between us) was a young lady (early twenties) who resembled the actress [REDACTED]. She said, “Seriously, whoever you want to have walk through that door” — meaning the dark-hued wooden door elsewhere in the room — “just think of that person, and he or she will be here.” I thought, “That would be like a lucid dream, and I’m clearly in ‘reality’ right now, so how can that be?” Then I woke up and realized that I had beem dreaming and could have entered a state of lucidity just then, which is what the dream character of the Young Lady might have been trying to tell me with the “door” exercise.

Then I fell back asleep and dreamed that I was in a billiard parlor, where I told someone (I don’t recall who) about the previous dream. I was like, “that could’ve become a lucid dream.”

The billiard parlor resembled the pool table area of The Bourgeois Pig coffee house, only there was a sofa (where I sat) along one wall where in reality there is no sofa (if the dream environment had been the Pig, from the sofa I would’ve been able to see the pool table in the foreground and the Moroccan room in the background). I lounged on that sofa and watched a billiard game progress while I talked about the dream that could have become a lucid dream.

I wonder if false-awakening dreams are previews of what the transition to after-death consciousness is like.

I had another dream last night in which I was observing a highway that was moving relative to me as if I were in a vehicle (though I was in “passenger” rather than “driver” mode). I noticed that I was not in a vehicle and then thought, “I’m riding on top of this truck that I can see in front of me,” only then the truck moved away from me such that I could see the whole truck, so I was clearly not actually riding on it. Then I thought, “So I’m flying and therefore dreaming,” at which point the imagery in front of me deconstructed like a computer simulation shutting down aspect by aspect; the blue color drained out of the sky, a bridge turned into simple lines and then vanished altogether, the other vehicles dissolved away, and all sense of movement stopped. Then I awoke.

8 November 2004

I saw a giant glowing white outline in the sky over Hollywood. The outline was in the shape of [REDACTED] as he appears in the 20 November 2001 photo that I snapped.

The outline was visible from the sidewalk just east of Hollywood Blvd. and Western Avenue, the northern side of which was my point-of-view location in the dream.

In reality, yesterday there I saw a rectangular section of a rainbow next to a saucer-shaped cloud after meditating on the rainbow colors within a theoretical Marsh Wolf sequel. “We’re up here, Danny. You’re learning how to ‘tune.'”

10 November 2004

I was in L.A. with some friends (outdoors at night) when there was a widespread blackout/power failure.

In another dream, I was walking down Harold Way in the daytime. As I passed two other pedestrians (teenage boys), one of them yelled an insult to the driver of a car who was pulling out of a driveway. I was afraid that the driver would think I was with them and might retaliate.

13 November 2004

Four dream moments recalled:

I saw [REDACTED] standing outside somewhere at night. He looked much like he did circa 1991-1992. He was smiling and seemed happy to see me. We had a cordial conversation, but I don’t recall about what.

The second dream I remember was nightmarish. I was in a cave with about a half dozen other people.

I also recall a dream about a fellow who had to sleep inside a doghouse for some reason; the dream seemed quite funny at the time, like his going to the doghouse was the punchline to a larger sequence, but I don’t recall much about the context except that he usually slept in a bed with his girlfriend.

14 November 2004

Most vivid and strange dream last night: I was in a spacious apartment with three other people, one of whom (a woman) was my roommate there. Something seemed “off” or wrong about one of the others, as if he wasn’t quite himself; he was a tall fellow in his forties, balding and dressed all in blue. I somehow knew that I was looking at an evil spirit that had taken corporeal form and was trying to pass as the person it looked like. It sensed that I was onto it, and it said something like, “I got the appearance close, right?” I said, “Close in the way that powder blue is close to mauve.” It then attacked the third person (not my roommate), who engaged it in some sort of violent martial arts exchange. I got the sense that the place was haunted, and the malevolent spirit (who often manifested in the guise of real people) was tied to the place, so my goal became to get the hell away from there. I did, but I think the evil spirit killed the other two people who’d been there.

Had a dream in which I went to visit my old apartment. When I got there, the layout of the place was more like the B-W dorm rooms in Heritage 3E than the actual apartment. There were a few of my possessions there, as if I were still renting the place but not living there. I also found three bags of litterbox sand that seemed to have been dropped off there on my behalf.

15 November 2004

I had one dream in which [REDACTED] played piano, accompanying a vocalist. He looked nervous and had expressed fear that he wouldn’t be able to play the piece. He perspired as he played, and by the end he was soaked in sweat. My ears didn’t detect any dissonance, and he seemed to have played the whole piece correctly. I don’t recall any of the lyrics that the vocalist sang. I’m not sure if [REDACTED] was himself or if he was playing a character. I was not present in the dream environment; this was one of those rare dreams in which I’m observing from “outside” in the same way that one watches TV.

Had another dream that I was exploring L.A. with some guy (a fictional dream character) who wanted to see some mountain. We’d just left the area near the mountain when he decided to circle back on his own and go see it. I agreed to meet him later at a sandwich shop at a nearby mall. That section of the dream was in the daytime, but earlier in my “exploring L.A.” dream, there was a night section in a seedy part of town. Outside a convenience store, I overheard someone ranting about how he’d just mugged two people. Also within this section, I saw [REDACTED] on the cover of a magazine while listening to the mountain-seeking fellow compare and contrast New York City and Los Angeles.

Had another dream in which I found “whirlybird” type tree seeds, some regular-sized and some with the seed section as large as tennis balls. I collected these with the intent of planting them.

16 November 2004

No dreams recalled.

18 November 2004

Awoke aware that I’d dreamt, with a fleeting glimmer of one aspect of a dream still in memory. I no longer recall what that glimmer was.

22 November 2004

Long night of many dreams. In one dream, I saw a black luxury bus parked outside a concert venue at night with the words “Jethro Tull on tour” painted along one side. There was a banner with about six photos outside the venue too; all the photos were of Martin Barre.

In another dream, I was websurfing at my parents’ house and was absolutely certain that the time was around seven in the evening. When I looked at a clock, I was astonished to see a time of “10:00 AM.” This was followed by another dream in which I was certain that I was awake, and I told someone else about the “7 PM / 10 AM” dream.

I had another dream that took place in a restaurant, and somebody said “this is about to go really fast,” but I don’t recall the context of the comment.

23 November 2004

Dreamed that I was in an office corridor within Larry Flynt Publications. Someone told me that Larry Flynt was planning to “return his full attention to Hustler.”

24 November 2004

Dreamed about watching TV with [REDACTED] at my parents’ house. She was clad all in black. I don’t recall what we watched, but she picked the channel.

I also dreamed that AC and Thalia were with me at that house, and both somehow got outside. I chased after them and tried to coax them back into the house; this took place at night, and I watched as AC ran from the patio to the driveway. I didn’t actually see Thalia outdoors but guessed that she too was loose since I’d last seen her in the garage, and the garage door was open.

25 November 2004

No dreams recalled.

26 November 2004

I had a zillion dreams; I feel like I was almost continuously dreaming throughout my most recent sleep cycle. The ones I remember:

I was back at my old apartment, and Thalia leaped at the living room window screen and squeezed through a crack between the screen and the wall. I raced to the window and looked out. Thalia was on a sort of ledge off to my right just below the window, a ledge that’s not a part of the real building. I called to her and tried to coax her into leaping back up into the apartment while wondering if I should go outside and coax her down instead.

Another dream: I was enrolled at Baldwin-Wallace again, and I was hiking across campus to class (near the Student Activity Center).

Another: I was walking to the Sunset Five movie theather with [REDACTED], who was dressed like a superhero in black leather. On Gower, just south of Sunset, we found some woods and a pedestrian bridge (one that’s not there in reality). We paused on the bridge and talked while I photographed her. She asked how I was doing.

Last one I recall: I was in a spacious cathedral with a ceiling that must’ve been about three hundred feet above the floor. For some reason, people were climbing up a “rope” (a bundle of electrical cords) that dangled from the ceiling. Three of them were almost to the top when the cord snapped, and they fell to their deaths.

27 November 2004

I awoke aware that I’d been dreaming a lot, but the only piece I remembered involved watching a horror movie with a scene similar to the one in Poltergeist where the clown doll attacks Robbie, only in my dream the doll was not a clown but [REDACTED].

5 Dec 2004

Dreamed about preparing a pot of tea. I accidentally tore two tea bags in half.

6 Dec 2004

Dreamed I was in a boarding house with a mischievous red-haired fellow who was about thirty years old.

12 December 2004

Dreamed about sitting at a table with Dewey and two other guys while listening to the live version of “Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman” from the Fairport Convention Cropredy Box (live 1997). Dewey apparently didn’t like the music and turned the volume down. I asked about recording some Dewey & The Porkbellies sessions, but Dewey dodged the question.

15 December 2004

In a lucid dream, I initiated the Global Awakening of Earth (21st-Century version).

I hope this works better than the 1904 debacle.

26 December 2004

Had a dream about vampires and a different one about being inside a shopping mall.

In the former, I was a vampire in a colony of hundreds; we had an underground base with elevator lifts, caverns full of coffins, and around-the-clock guards. I was riding on a lift with about two dozen other vampires, and someone said, “When we’re ready for the attack, there won’t be any empty space on this lift.”

I then entered a restaurant in search of information from a human; I scared her and got the info but was recognized as a vampire by some other people, who chased me out of there in broad daylight. For whatever reason, I was immune to the light.

I returned to the base and found some “nerdy” vampires who asked if I’d be joining them for the planning of the pending massive assault on the nearby human town.

29 December 2004

No dreams recalled.

Daniel S. Duvall

http://www.DanDuvall.com

TWITTER: @RealDooovall

Standard

My Plan for a Global Poetry-Based Economy

I have registered the domain Leisure-for-all dot net and seek volunteers (expert site designers, lawyers, artists, musicians, and occultists) to create a web page to redistribute the artificial construct known as “money” with funds supplied by people who voluntarily donate.

The site would/will allow anyone on Earth to sign up to receive regular disbursements — probably daily, perhaps weekly.

The “community chest” on any given disbursement day would/will be divided by the number of people registered with equal amounts sent to all.

Safeguards would have to be in place to make sure no fake accounts slip through.

Let’s call the bluff of the 1% who assert that the amount of “money” in circulation is finite.

Recipients would have the option to leave a “tip” in the form of a poem of his or her or whatever’s own devising.  A repository of poetry from around the world would/will accumulate over time.

If you would like to volunteer to help create Leisure-for-all dot net, contact me:

Daniel S. Duvall

Dooovall@Gmail.com

“United” States mobile phone number: (440) 623-4680

Standard