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The Official Supernatural: “Optimism” (14.06) Live Recap Thread


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Recap of the story so far and where the principles and guest stars at (the latter mainly being alt-Charlie). Odd, clicky soundtrack, as though they wanted “Time Has Come Today,” but couldn’t afford The Chamber Brothers again.

Cut to Now in McCook, Nebraska, with this weirdly upbeat ragtime piano tune that sounds like something Randy Newman would write (specifically, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” but it’s not). We swing down past a closeup of a bronze statue of a bearded man in 19th century garb to a perky young woman jaywalking across a street.

She says hi to an elderly man then opens up the town library for the day. Later, we see her shelving books, while confirming (rather unenthusiastically) a dinner date with one guy, fending off the creepy stalking of another, and complaining that nobody ever comes into the library, anymore.

Okay, first of all, I am very sick and tired of the cliche of the young, nerdy woman who has guys swooning over her and treats them mean (especially in an episode that’s bringing back Charlie). Second, has Steve Yockey just not been in a library, lately, ’cause all my local libraries are pretty busy. If only because they have free internet and job hunting resources. And I don’t exactly live in a book paradise. More like a bookstore desert.

So, Date Guy leaves the library, all libidoed up ’cause he’s going out tonight with the hot librarian. And we get what I do believe is the first actual Classic Rock (okay, it’s Disco) of the season – The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” That is, until he turns into a Doomed Teaser Guy and is grabbed by dead white hands into a bush, where he is messily murdered offscreen.

Cue title cards.

Jack is trying coffee with tons of sugar. Dean walks in and comments on this. Jack says that now he no longer has powers, “everything tastes different” and he can’t seem to figure out how to get the right taste on anything.

Jack says Sam went off on a hunt with alt-Charlie and didn’t tell Dean because Dean was already on an overnight drive to visit his mom and alt-Bobby. Sam left Jack behind to watch out for Dean because Sam is worried about Dean. That’s the story Sam told Jack, anyway.

Jack muses that Sam and alt-Charlie must be having a great time on their hunt. Cut to Sam and Charlie on a stakeout at a pest control place, in a pickup that looks suspiciously like the one Sam used while investigating Dean’s massacre of the late, unlamented Stynes.

Sam is so bored that he plays with a spinner, which is mildly amusing.

Dean notices that Jack has a cough, but Jack pretends it’s nothing and there’s no blood just yet. Jack tells Dean that Michael wasn’t his fault, then mentions he dug up some news about Doomed Teaser Guy, who was found dead with human bite marks. Jack wants to go hunting. Dean thinks it’s a bad idea and says he should go alone. Jack says he’s going stir crazy and feels guilty about not killing Michael when he had the chance. So, he eventually bugs Dean into letting him take him on a hunt. Dean tells Sam. Sam expresses concern, but doesn’t object (as if that would stop Dean). Alt-Charlie shrugs and comments that they’ve got four missing people and a jar of goo on their end. So far, so mysterious.

Dean and Jack arrive in town and first hit Dick’s Red Rooster Diner. Jack says it was the place where DTG (called “Winston”) spent his time on breakfast. This is the sneak peek where the counter person (who thinks she has a “working knowledge of the Constitution,” but doesn’t know any) is a jerk to them until Dean whips out some money and bribes her.

There follows a Fargo-like montage of local people (including Diner Jerk) talking about how sweet the librarian is, but since her boyfriend left, she can’t seem to keep boyfriends. They disappear or die and she’s just “bad luck.” It’s a little too on-the-nose, but Dean and Jack’s reactions are amusing.

Meanwhile, alt-Charlie is telling Sam that Dean will be okay, that he has friends. Sam then eulogizes her (dead) counterpart here, which rather-understandably makes alt-Charlie pretty uncomfortable. It turns out her life went very differently. She was working for Dick Roman (the real one, since the Leviathans never came out to play) and had a girlfriend named Kara. Everything was fine until the day alt-Michael and alt-Lucifer fought, causing a huge EMP wave to “fry” all the electronics in the U.S. Human society than fell into chaos and sometime during that, Kara died. Sam says that hasn’t happened in his reality and alt-Charlie just replies, “Yet.”

Back to the diner, where Dean has ordered Jack and him some pie and Jack is asking Dean about sex. As you do, when you’re about a year old and have the body of a teenage.

Dean and Jack mull over what to do about the librarian, Harper. Dean says that so much bad luck is a red flag that something is up, but Jack asks, how are they going to find out?

Dean’s idea is to run a Good Cop Bad Cop con on Harper, with Dean playing Bad Cop and Jack coming in to “save” Harper from his interrogation. I kinda like how unapologetically shady Dean is in this and how Jack enthusiastically goes along for the ride. Dean is a lot of things, but he’s also a great con man and thief.

Dean looks a little taken aback when Jack calls him an “old man,” but when he sees how eagerly Harper eats it up, he rolls with it and leaves. But he watches from the car (grumping privately about the insult) while Harper bonds with Jack (immediately taking him to her apartment for a book) and fends off her creepy, red-bearded stalker, Miles.

As Dean gets out to follow Jack and Harper, he hears Miles getting messily murdered offscreen in an alley, while putting out trash. When Dean investigates, he is watched from the bushes.

Back to Sam and Charlie. Charlie is reading through a lot of occult books, while Sam compliments her on her Hunting skills (FYI, Charlie hasn’t actually done any onscreen hunting at this point). This version of Charlie is the exact opposite of her perky SPNverse version. She wants to quit Hunting because all it ends up getting you is dead. Sam doesn’t understand why she would want to quit, which is pretty out-of-character for Sam, even now. I get that this is supposed to be an Anti-Charlie Charlie, and I guess that’s not a terrible idea, but the execution so far is still boring and the result is still a whiny Charlie.

Not only is alt-Charlie quitting Hunting, but this is her last case. She’s going to go off the grid and stay away from people and monsters.

Then they get to their MOTW (it appears we have two, since there are two hunts), something called a “Musca,” which is a man-sized fly. It turns out there is a “bad egg” of a male Musca that can’t find a mate and leaves its community to bind humans together and “nest.” Or something. Then then see someone (or something) sit down next to a pair of elderly women, wearing an all-black kind of combo of a Puritan minister and beekeeper’s outfit that completely obscures its face. It’s really lame. Like, the spider people in “Unforgiven” levels of lame.

At Harper’s apartment (which is bright and perky), Harper rather awkwardly flirts with Jack, who doesn’t get it. While she’s in the other room, getting the “book,” Jack drops a silver coin on the floor and covers his hands in holy water. When Harper appears to pass those tests, Jack covers a cough with a “Christo!” Dang, been a while (“Phantom Traveler” in season one) since anybody used that.

Jack says he’s from Lebanon. Harper says her family has been in her town for many generations and she’s “the last one.” To cover up a real bout of coughing, Jack sees a photo of Harper with a guy, whom she calls “Vance.” She says he was a former boyfriend who left town – and her – thus beginning her round of bad luck.

Harper stops Jack from answering a call to Dean and starts acting in love with him. Jack asks her where her bathroom is, goes in and answers the call (good Jack!). Dean is still at the site of Miles’ gruesome demise. As they’re talking about what/who is stalking the men around Harper, Dean gets attacked by the thing that apparently killed Miles. Jack hears the attack over the phone and rushes out of the bathroom.

When a worried Harper asks if she came on too strong, Jack reassures her that she didn’t. She asks if they should “go for coffee.” Before Jack can answer, Dean bursts in (having apparently not been messily murdered offscreen), making Harper scream in shock. Dean and Jack hurriedly do The Talk (not the sex talk, but the monster talk), while Dean grabs a chair and shoves it up under the doorknob to Harper’s apartment. They’re there to save her. When Harper asks, “Save me from what?!” the apartment door starts banging on cue and Dean says, “That!”

As Harper is asking who is out there, Dean says it’s a “what” and that “I thought it was a ghost until it punched me in the face.” (There’s an amusing exchange as Harper thinks Dean said it was a ghost and Jack says that no, Dean said it wasn’t.) Dean then spots a photo of Vance and picks it up, asking who it is and when he died.

Harper is very surprised to hear that Vance is dead, saying “He lives in Connecticut.”

“Not anymore,” Dean says (love Ackles’ delivery). Vance shouting Harper’s name from outside the door convinces her that it is, indeed, Vance.

As Vance busts the door down, Dean figures he’s some sort of revenant (a big callback to season two’s “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” in which Dean was also pretty messed up). Dean comments that silver will slow them down, but only one thing can kill them. He finds a silver knife in Harper’s apartment and grapples with Vance, yelling at Jack to get Harper out of there.

Meanwhile, it’s night and the Musca shows up at the bus stop (that’s what the bench turns out to be). Alt-Charlie is all for going after it, but Sam wants to wait. So, of course, a bus comes along and gives the Musca cover to kidnap a guy sitting next to it, except why would it wait until the bus came to do that if it doesn’t know two Hunters are sitting across the street. Isn’t it doing that right in front of a bus full of people?

Well, anyhoo, it finally gets them out of the truck to go after the thing, and Sam to shut up temporarily about trying to bully alt-Charlie into staying in Hunting. Thank God. ‘Cause that was really dull.

Back to the fight scene, which is actually fun. There’s an amusing Riverdale dig when Dean calls Vance “Archie.” But Vance, for whatever reason, decides not to continue fighting Dean (who is basically distracting him to help Jack and Harper escape, anyway) and runs after Harper and Jack. Who have run back to the library.

The storyline for Sam and alt-Charlie’s hunt is so damned thin that they actually infodump a conversation we never heard about how a “brass nail dipped in sugar water” is maybe the only thing that can kill a Musca. Alt-Charlie says they don’t have either of those things. Sam babbles that they can “improvise” before they bust into a warehouse with guns that apparently can’t actually kill the MOTW. Once inside, they comment on the stink and find a lot of flies and fly paper. Then they go stalking through the warehouse, nodding randomly to each other for no reason (I was like, “Whaaat?”).

Alt-Charlie finds a pile of bodies at the same time Sam finds the Musca’s briefcase. Turns out the Musca’s been chloroforming its victims. Charlie finds the latest one from the bus stop – he’s still alive – but manages to get grabbed by the Musca and tossed off the platform thing-y it has its victims on like the cast of Cats. This conveniently knocks her out. Sam comes in and finds her, only to be attacked by the Musca (which is a guy dressed like a mime, wearing a very dodgy bug mask that the director doesn’t let is see too closely amid all the jump camerawork). As it’s dripping goo on Sam for some reason, alt-Charlie wakes up and stabs it in the back, then Sam shoots it, and that is apparently all you need to kill it. So much for the brass nail and the sugar water.

So, back to the library, where Jack finds out the hard way that Harper and Vance are in cahoots (I know. Golly, and she seemed like such a nice girl, too). Harper killed him before he could leave town and it turns out she comes from “a long line of necromancers,” so she raised him from the dead and he was obsessed with her. Yeah, the infodump’s pretty heavy in this one.

Jack gets stalked around the stacks, but just when he’s thinking he needs to make a rush at Harper (which, as “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” showed doesn’t actually work in getting rid of a revenant), he gets grabbed by Dean. Dean quietly brings Jack up to speed on how to kill Vance. So, Jack once again plays bait by shmoozing Harper and luring Vance out into the open. Dean gets in on it (Harper actually orders Vance to kill Dean at one point), but when Dean and Jack get demonic handcuffs on Vance, Harper pulls a runner.

Meanwhile, Sam and Charlie are in her truck, infodumping about how the last victim of the Musca will be okay, while we get a montage of the Musca’s people retrieving its body because apparently, once again, Sam and alt-Charlie didn’t salt and burn the damned body. Sam also persuades alt-Charlie to stay in Hunting, which probably means she’ll get sacrificed sometime this season. Whatever, Show.

Cut to a diner with Marty Robbins’ “I’ll Go on Alone” in the background. Harper is writing a letter to Jack in which she babbles on about finding him, killing him, and then bringing him back from the dead so they can be together forever. Seems she finally left McCook.

Back at the Bunker, Jack and Dean talk about stalking Vance to his gravebed with a silver stake (as in “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”) over coffee (Jack) and whiskey (Dean). Dean tells Jack he did well. Jack tells Dean he should stop beating himself up over Michael and wants to go out on more hunts. Dean hedges and says he’ll discuss it with Sam when Sam gets back. At that point, Jack starts coughing again. He coughs up blood and starts bleeding from the nose. Then he collapses on the floor as Dean tries to revive him.

Credits

The ratings were up a little from last week, with the show tying for second on the network in demo with a 0.4/2 (0.397, unrounded) and coming in second for audience with 1.48 million.

Promo for next week.

Eh. I can’t say this one wowed me. There were some nice callbacks to seasons one and two in the first hunt, and Dean and Jack got some good bonding. Dean’s Salty Old Veteran shtick with Jack is a hoot. But it was a pretty thinly plotted hunt, with even flatter guest characters than usual. It certainly lacked the depth of “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” one of my favorite episodes ever, and it wasn’t nearly as creepy as “Phantom Traveler,” another early favorite of mine.

Part of the problem was having another hunt stuffed in with it and what the hell happened there? It’s not as though the show has never had the Brothers go off on separate hunts or storylines, so it’s perfectly capable of doing A/B plotting.

But this one mostly consisted of Sam and alt-Charlie sitting around in a pickup, watching a bus stop and waiting for an MOTW to show up. They kept talking about how they felt sorry for the Musca, but why would they? And that drippy montage at the end with the Musca community showing up to take away their errant member was completely unearned.

Not to mention, it made Sam and alt-Charlie look stupid because they should have salted and burned the body – all of the bodies, really. And the creature design for the Musca was … well, not very good. I’m hoping that montage doesn’t mean they’ll be coming back because no, just no.

Harper is obviously coming back. I can’t say I’m hugely thrilled about that, either. Perky evil can be fun, but there’s something missing with her and I don’t just mean that the character herself is short a few hash browns from her Happy Meal. It could just be the general lack of development for the storyline and then piling it on top of Jack’s health woes.

It was fairly obvious from the start that something was off with her. The possibility that she’d offed Vance crossed my mind rather early, but I can’t say I got much suspense out of it. I also can’t say I’m feeling much suspense about her stalking Jack, either. The whole bunny boiler thing seems pretty dated to me.

The fight scene between Dean and Vance was fun – too bad it kept getting undercut by the stakeout in the pickup truck. Ackles did some really snarky tee-offs on line deliveries this week. I also liked that Dean and Jack ran a con on Harper, not once but twice. She knew they were Hunters, but was utterly clueless about everything else (not least that Jack is not entirely human).

There was some good partner chemistry there between Dean and Jack, and it was nice to see Jack acknowledge that he made some critical errors that led up to Dean being backed into saying yes to Michael. The “old man” crack had me rolling my eyes along with Dean, but that’s mostly because it always makes the writers look like ageist idiots. That sort of thing may fly on other CW shows, but not this one.

Overall, a few nice bits (and Dean looks super-hot in a noir detective suit), but this one felt too thin. You need to work on plotting some more, writers.


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The Official Supernatural: “Nightmare Logic” (14.05) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Apologies for not getting to this one until now. Also, next week, I’ll be busy Friday and Saturday, so I likely won’t get to that one until Sunday.

Okay, so let’s get started.

Recap starting with Maggie (the most useless DiD ever) then going through the Michael storyline and Dean’s speech to Sam about ending all monsters. FYI, there is a wee spoiler in there that, tied in with the title, will tell you right away what the MOTW is. Sorry.

Cut to night in Claremore, OK, where Maggie is walking through a forest all alone. She enters a graveyard and approaches a crypt with the family name “Rawling” across it. She sits down and pulls something out of her backpack. It turns out to be a bodycam that she reports into before clipping it on and entering the crypt.

Okay, why is Maggie Hunting, let alone by herself? The last time we saw her on a Hunt, she nearly got her team killed and that was with a group. Is she by herself or did some other moron think this was a good idea?

Also, we already found out that bodycams, or any cams, are a bad idea from “Ghostfacers!” They’re distracting to whoever is using them and the footage risks outing Hunters to the general human world, which is not a good idea.

Anyhoo, Maggie breaks into the crypt, believing she is Hunting a ghoul. By herself. With no backup. Okeydoke.

As she walks around the crypt, looking for opened coffins, a wavering machete in her hand, she is attacked by a snarling old man/ghoul.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Bunker, where Sam is giving some newbie Hunters from the Other Side a lecture on Hunter safety before sending them off. As Dean walks in on them, Sam automatically glances to Dean for feedback. Dean chooses, instead, to take a backseat. As the meeting breaks up and Sam walks off with Dean, Dean’s main comment (aside from seeing Sam do coordinating with Hunters as “adorable”) is that Sam is not getting enough sleep. Yeah, one thing Sam really ought to be doing is having someone play dispatcher on shifts for Hunter check-ins, rather than trying to do it all himself. Yeah, I used to run a rescue squad. You gotta learn to delegate that stuff.

Sam discovers that one of the Hunters (he infodumps that he has 20 out there, including our four non-redshirts Castiel, Jack, Mary and alt-Bobby) “missed check-in.” It’s Maggie. So, now we know which moron sent Maggie out on a Hunt all by herself. Yay, Boss Sam.

So, Dean is trying to call Maggie, while Sam calls up her body cam and some random redshirt wanders past the Library. Sam infodumps that the body cams automatically upload to a server, which I’m sure could never get hacked by hostile parties, or anything. So, yeah, Sam’s responsible for that swift decision, too. Dean doesn’t call him on it, just infodumps about the reasoning behind it. They get the teaser for the episode.

Sam starts to tailspin in self-recrimination. Dean yanks Sam’s head out of his ass by agreeing it looks like a ghoul and it’s time to go find out for sure. Meanwhile, Rando Redshirt dude wanders around in the background, checking the wastebaskets, or something.

Off the Brothers go to Oklahoma. That is a rather odd background on the obligatory Impala-on-the-road shot. Did they bluescreen that?

In the graveyard, Sam infodumps that it’s all owned by the same family, which Dean notes is awfully convenient – for that family.

Sam says Maggie was investigating a report by some local kids that they were attacked by a “walker” while they were studying. Sam even outs it as an explicit The Walking Dead reference.

“I know what a Walker is, Sam,” Dean calmly replies. As they approach the crypt, Dean notices some beer cans in front of it and dismisses the “studying” excuse with that adorable half-laugh he always used to do back in the day. Ackles is having fun plumbing his old Dean tics toolkit these days.

Inside, they find disturbed dust and scuff marks, but no blood. Dean theorizes that the ghoul might have dragged Maggie off to feed on her later, and that she might still be alive. Either way, they have to find the MOTW and kill it.

They are hailed from the entrance by a guy in a gardening suit with a rake and accused of trespassing. Sam smoothly states they’re from an historical society and Dean follows up by asking where the local family mansion is. They guy leads them to it and introduces them to a rotund, smarmy grad student type who burbles over the idea of an historical society turning the family manse and graveyard into an official historical site. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that, but this is just a Winchester cover story, anyway, so let’s roll with it.

The guy, named Neil, lets them in and comments that there seem to be an awful lot of people there from the “HBC.” Turns out Mary and Bobby showed up to investigate, too. Bobby is pretty sarcastic about Sam’s attempts to pull rank, so Mary takes Sam off to talk to him about Maggie, while Dean stays behind to interview Neil, with Bobby.

Neil says he’s not part of the family. He’s Mr. Rawling’s “nurse.” When Bobby asks to interview Old Man Rawling, there’s a snag. Old Man Rawling is in a coma.

Mary tells Sam she and Bobby came to check on Maggie because Maggie was “nervous about her first Hunt.” (Oh, hon, she shouldn’t have been out Hunting, period, not to mention alone.) They were texting with her when she suddenly went radio silence, but Mary admits she and Bobby should have let Sam know. Well, yes, there isn’t much point to all these high-tech improvements if y’all don’t use them to, y’know, stay in touch.

Something is awry with Old Man Rawling. He’s in a coma surrounded by blood transfusions and yet, he’s the ghoul from Maggie’s body cam footage. Meanwhile, Maggie is underground somewhere, trussed up and being drained of her own blood. Big hint about the MOTW, there.

A woman with groceries walks in, looking totally unimpressed by the new people in her dad’s room. Neil introduces her as Sasha, Old Man Rawling’s daughter. After a little banter, she throws them out.

At the Impala, the Hunters chew things over. Bobby says he tested OMR and he had no bites, so probably not a ghoul.

Mary speculates shapeshifter, but Dean points out that ‘shifters don’t generally do graveyards. Sam thinks maybe demon, but Bobby points out that demons aren’t generally so patient as to put their hosts’ bodies back in their beds after taking them for a “joyride.”

Dean notes Bobby’s irritability and calls him out on it. Bobby admits he has a problem with Sam sending Maggie out on a Hunt alone. He says she wasn’t ready and “a real leader” would have noticed this.

Mary breaks things up by going on reconnaissance with Sam and having Dean go with Bobby. I get she wants to give Sam a pep talk, but why stick poor Dean with Bobby? Sheesh.

Also, I don’t agree with Mary that it’s not Sam’s fault. It really is. Yeah, Sam’s moping over it isn’t helping, but Sam should have clearly seen how unready Maggie was back in the season premiere bar fight and kept her back for longer. I mean, come on, it’s been only a few weeks since then. No way Maggie turned into Hunter Sue in that time and Mary (the one who had to hand her an angel sword and tell her to get out there during the bar fight) knows that better than anyone.

Instead, Bobby is made to look like a big meanie for pointing out that Sam’s leadership skills need a little work. They do. Sure, he can get better, but he can’t get better if other characters’ keep holding his hand.

Bobby asks Dean if he was too hard on Sam. Dean’s response is rather noncommittal, saying that Sam is “doing his best.” But Dean also notes that Sam is overdoing it and not sleeping enough.

Sam, meanwhile, asks Mary about her relationship with Bobby. She says things were going fine until they got back home (for her). Then Bobby closed up and all he ever wants to do is hunt. Sam tells her a little about “our” Bobby, that his wife was possessed and he had to deal with it himself (um…was Sam not aware of Rufus’ involvement in that?). Mary asks if Bobby ever had kids. Sam says no.

Then they find an old campfire and Mary spots something.

As Dean and Bobby find the cabin from The Blair Witch Project, Mary and Sam find burned IDs in the fire. They’re a Hunter’s IDs. Bobby is distracted by someone in the woods and goes to follow him. Dean enters the cabin (which is full of animal furs and skulls) and discovers the body of the Hunter in the IDs. He’s then attacked by OMR, but when Dean stabs him, OMR (who is still in the hospital bed, while his daughter sits nearby) explodes into ashes, covering Dean. When Bobby comes back, he snarks at Dean’s appearance as Dean asks him where he went.

Back at the manse, while going through her father’s papers, Sasha hears a noise of breaking glass and footsteps upstairs. She goes to investigate, thinking it’s Neil, but she instead finds a half-open door to a dark room and a ravenous vampire. Screaming, she runs, but when she trips and falls, nothing comes after her.

As Neil acts all solicitous over her, Sasha is later interviewed by Mary and Sam, and immediately guesses she saw a vampire. This leads to her and Neil getting The Talk.

Dean walks in with news from “the shed.” Sam quickly fills him in about the attack. “Oh, good. You told ’em,” Dean says conversationally. The matter-of-fact way they confirm the identity of the Hunter Dean found is a hoot as it’s filmed almost from an outsider’s POV. They look utterly terrifying when they drop the “normal” mask like that.

Mary goes to check on Bobby (whom Dean says stayed back to get something from his truck), but can’t find him. Meanwhile, the Brothers formulate a theory, right in front of Sasha and Neil, that OMR is somehow psychically manifesting images of himself. They interview Sasha a bit more and it turns out the noises she thought she heard came from the attic. Sam goes up there, while Dean stays back to guard Sasha and her dad.

Sasha pops a benzodiazepine while Dean sharpens his machete. Neil has gone…somewhere. Sasha asks him to stop and then points out the insanity of Dean’s very presence there. Dean asks her if she’s okay and she brushes it off. At first.

Dean shrugs and sheaths his machete, but then Sasha opens up as she also downs some whiskey.  Her father was a workaholic who was never home, said he was doing it for the family. But her mother had a family history of depression and killed herself when Sasha was 12. Sasha found her. Sasha “worshiped” her father when she was a kid, but now is bitter because he never expressed any regret over not seeing his wife was suicidal or being around for his family.

This is a huge John Winchester anvil. There was an earlier one in the woods, when Mary said Bobby wasn’t “open” the way John was and then has to admit she means the way John was before she died as Sam snorts in disbelief.

Dean offers Sasha some advice – “let it go. You’ll feel a lot lighter.”

“That what you do?” Sasha asks.

“I try,” Dean admits. “Every single day.” It’s a heartbreaking moment of pure honesty.

Upstairs, Sam finds the darkened doorway Sasha discovered. It leads to a room with unfinished walls (no drywall) that leads to a stairway that goes up to the attic. Very strange layout, that.

In the attic, he find Maggie, trussed up. She tries to warn him as the same vampire that went after Sasha attacks him. Sam stabs it and it, too, explodes into ashes. Needless to say, despite his and Dean’s theory, Sam’s a bit confused.

As Sam gets Maggie down, Maggie apologizes for screwing up. Sam reassures her that she didn’t (well, she did, but now is not the time).

We cut to the woods, where Bobby finds a young man with his eyes burned out, angel-style. Dialogue identifies this young man as Bobby’s son Daniel. Daniel beats up Bobby and then impales him against a tree with an angel blade. He tells Bobby the angels crucified him “piece by piece” (uh…that’s not really how crucifixion works, but okay), but when he’s about to kill Bobby with another angel blade, Mary shows up.

Mary shoots Daniel, but unlike the other monsters, Daniel doesn’t disappear (plothole, y’all). Instead, he knocks Mary down and starts choking her out. This gives Bobby the strength of ten Grinches. He manages to yank out the angel blade impaling him, while dangling from the tree, knocks Daniel down, and stabs him with it, after apologizing. Daniel bursts into ashes. Yeah, it’s as stupid as it sounds. Also, I’m getting tired of Mary having to be rescued all the time. She’s a competent Hunter, Show, come on.

Inside the house, Sasha and Dean enter the room where Neil is tending OMR. Dean suddenly, really notices the blood bags and has an epiphany. He calmly asks why Neil is giving OMR a blood transfusion for a stroke and Neil blathers something about how “it keeps his iron up.”

Dean asks Sasha to make him a sandwich. She’s confused at first until he mouths, “Go,” and she realizes he needs her to get out of the line of fire because Neil is the MOTW. She skedaddles. I like Sasha. She’s sassy.

As she leaves, Dean pulls out his gun and aims it at Neil. Neil at first professes to be confused until Dean explains his reasoning. He says he only just recognized the set-up Neil has OMR in as one he was once trapped in, too.

We then get a brief flashback to Dean’s nightmare flash of being trussed up by a djinn in season two’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.”

“You’re a djinn,” Dean says. I love me some Smart, Deductive Dean.

Neil smiles and reveals his djinn face and glowing eyes, but then flips the script really strangely by saying “But you knew that, already…didn’t you?”

As Dean interrogates him about why he’s killing Hunters (and Neil the Djinn sure is chatty), Neil reveals that he thinks Dean is Michael (until Dean tells him otherwise). Michael has altered him and offered him a deal for more power: “Find somewhere quiet. Set up shop. Kill as many Hunters as I can.”

The upgrade Neil got was fairly impressive. With a single touch, he can now read minds, extract nightmares, and give them physical life – the projections Dean and the others have been dealing with. OMR is afraid of dying along and unloved, Maggie of the vampires that murdered her family, and we just saw what Bobby feared.

Neil keeps edging closer to Dean, saying Dean can’t harm him. Dean proves somewhat otherwise by shooting him in the leg. Angry and hurt, Neil charges Dean and uses his power on him. He claims he won’t “hurt Michael’s favorite monkey suit, but I am curious – what are your nightmares?”

But whatever he finds inside is a lot more than he bargained for. It tosses him back out as he stammers, “You…you’re….”

Dean wastes no time taking advantage of the djinn’s confusion. He attacks Neil and slams his head into the table. “You know,” he comments, looking just like Demon!Dean, “I don’t have a knife dipped in lamb’s blood – but I can improvise!” Spotting two bronze bookends, he grabs them and beats the djinn’s head in, but not before Neil defiantly claims that “there are dozens of” Hunter traps of Michael’s, lying in wait “for you and your family.”

“You don’t know my family,” Dean replies coldly, before dealing the fatal blow and then disintegrating Neil’s head with his gun, held in bloody hands.

Later, Dean removes the apparatus from OMR, while giving Sasha a crash course in helping a djinn victim recover. As Dean leaves, she reassures her waking father that she’s there for him.

The Brothers drive home and return Maggie to the Bunker, where a bunch of redshirt Hunters I’ve never seen before and care nothing about cheer her return.

Dean cheerleaders Sam about bringing Maggie back. Meanwhile, Mary bandages up Bobby and gets him to tell her about Daniel. After the angel war kicked off, Bobby was given a “platoon.” He and his son had taken care of the thing with his wife (which went the same way as in the SPNverse). Daniel was part of Bobby’s platoon, but on one mission, they got separated. Daniel and his group were captured by angels (Bobby assumes) and never seen again. Bobby is left to speculate what really happened and since they crossed over to here, is trying to get himself killed. Mary tells him she won’t let him do that. After talking with the Brothers, she gets an offer from Donna via them of Donna’s cabin (what happened to Rufus’ cabin?), so she and Bobby can try a little normalcy for a while. So, that’s Mary and Bobby off for a few episodes.

Before they leave, though, Bobby is yet another character who gives Sam a pep talk about being a leader. But hey, at least Dean gets an explanation from Mary this time and is allowed to give her “permission” to leave.

The Brothers then put out the word to other Hunters about the “new, supercharged monsters.” After, Dean tries not to blame himself (and has lots of trouble with pronouns), while Sam insists he’ll just sleep less than before so they can find and kill Michael, even though they don’t know how to do either one.

Credits

Okay, now I am truly curious about what happened with Michael. There were heavy hints this week, especially in the scene with the djinn, that Michael is still inside Dean, but, for whatever reason, is currently dormant. Dean seems unaware of this, but he also appears to be fully in control. At least for now.

The theory I like best is that Dean somehow reasserted control, but has no idea that he did, let alone how he did, and has Michael trapped inside his own body. Remember that while Michael may have intended for Dean to become just his vessel, Dean is a powerful agent of the Natural Order in his own timeline, in his own right, which means other beings like Chuck and Amara, but especially Death, are apt to get involved if alt-Michael tries to stay in control of Our!Dean for too long. There are, as Death always likes to say, consequences for that sort of thing, especially since Michael broke his deal with Dean.

Perhaps, as it appears Michael was able to assert himself at the end of last season partly due to Dean’s being smote by Lucifer, Dean was able to reassert himself after Michael was wounded by Kaia’s Magic Hockey Stick (or maybe Michael overused his own grace in his experiments, which contradicts how precious he was about it last year). It could also be that because Dean’s deal with Michael was conditional on Michael letting him be in control, that is a natural condition Michael must constantly fight in order to dominate Dean. And when the djinn looked for Dean’s nightmares, he found Michael.

This doesn’t really explain the djinn’s final words, but I suspect the writers were just going with the ridiculous cliche of the expositional Final Curse. Folks, most people are too busy dying for that nonsense and it lessens the horror and severity of death. Enough, already.

Also, if the djinn found Michael, he may also have realized that Michael was imprisoned inside Dean, which meant he was dealing with Dean when he spoke his final words. Or something.

So, this is a version of Dean Done Come Back Wrong/There’s Something About Dean. Honestly? I’m okay with it. Ackles is acting the shit out of it and it’s a true mystery. Let it go all season.

Also, I loved the callback to “What Is and What Should Never Be.” The show has never allowed Dean to feel his trauma before over being violated by the djinn like that, so it’s nice to see him use it to figure things out about the MOTW, and have the show lampshade it with a flashback to that episode and that particular scene.

I’m far less into the Sam the Leader storyline. I know that Sam needs something to do, and since Dean has the mytharc, that makes Sam the wind beneath Dean’s wings. But this storyline is unconvincing. It suffers from the same problem just about every Sam storyline going all the way back to the Pilot suffers from – the writers never trust that the audience will care enough about Sam to just give us the story. They always Tell us how to feel about Sam’s story rather than Show us.

So, we have characters throughout the story holding Sam’s hand, listening to Sam’s problems, Telling Sam (and us) that Sam is really a great leader (even when it’s clear he is not). Dean’s leader storylines are great because we see all the fight and struggle to convince others to follow him. For Sam, all the whining about lack of sleep aside, it’s a walk in the park. That’s boring to watch.

Another problem going back to Kripke (but especially evident in the Nepotism Duo scripts that suffer from plotting so bad that they LOL!canon their own canon five minutes after they established some within the same script) is a tendency to present us with a major Sam change (usually, though not always, a heroic one) rather than develop it. I have no issue with Sam starting out not-great and developing into a great leader, but to skip a few weeks and be Told he’s brilliant already is just plain lazy writing.

I don’t quite get why Dean is sitting back and letting Sam lead. Okay, actually, I do kind of get it. Just as Bobby was correct in calling out Sam’s awful decision in letting Maggie go hunt alone (even if the show then forced him to backtrack and apologize for stating the flaming obvious, and letting Sam feel and understand the consequences), Dean hanging back and letting Sam do this is very much of a Dean Leader thing to do.

Problem is, I’m not sure that the likes of the Nepotism Duo, Robert “Insert PC snark instead of story here” Berens, Davy “Linear Plotting 101” Perez, and Andrew “Let’s pillage every inappropriate comic book plot I can remember” Dabb are aware that this is basically Dean leading this group of redshirts who only know him as a supervillain through teaching his brother how to lead.

Speaking of the redshirts, their lack of character development is not good. The Bunker is infested by a bunch of one-dimensional characters I don’t have any emotional attachment to whatsoever (and from the sound of things on Twitter, neither do a lot of fans). Even the ones who get a little development, like Maggie, are boring and kinda of annoying.

It’s another case of a plot that would be fine it if weren’t being treated like 5-minute rice. Spreading out their involvement with other Hunters and using the Bunker as a base of operations for Hunters? Fine as a plot spread out over an entire season, or more. Doing a cheap time jump and presenting it as a fait accompli? So not okay. It reminds me of how the Roadhouse initially came across in season two – an abrupt change in tone that threatened to screw up the show’s basic franchise plot and everything fans liked about it.

I’m going to (possibly) go against the grain again and say that I don’t actually have any problems with a Mary and Bobby pair-up. The writers have floundered a bit with her since they brought her back. First, they had her in conflict with her sons, avoiding them because of her own guilt over how their lives turned out following her death. That made her look unsympathetic, especially toward Dean.

Then they had her off in the alt-SPNverse, mothering Jack. That, too, was not so successful in making her sympathetic, largely because she was using Jack as a substitute for her grown-ass sons.

This week, though, shows why Mary and alt-Bobby could work. We see her actually seeking advice and validation from her sons in figuring out what’s going on with Bobby and whether or not to proceed in a relationship with him. Rather than being in conflict with her, they are her allies.

Sure, there were flaws in it. I didn’t like that we had an extended conversation between Mary and Sam when, again, until the time jump, she was much closer to Dean, but hey, at least she got to talk to Dean at the end and seek “permission” to leave for a while, which he calmly gave. Still waiting on that conversation about his possession by Michael, though.

And I really wasn’t thrilled to see her used, yet again, as a DiD to motivate Bobby. That was annoying. But overall, I’m okay with it.

As for the “But she was with John first” stuff, we did have her defend John a bit to Sam, while acknowledging that he changed (not for the better) after she died. It’s not as though she’s forgotten about him. And JDM’s got another show, with little interest in coming back to this one, while Matt Cohen is both too busy and not the right period to come back as John. So, Bobby it is.

Promo next week is up. Alt-Charlie’s back – ugh.

Ratings for the show were down a bit, still 0.3/1 and 1.43 million in audience. Don’t think Legacies is doing Supernatural any favors. Still a tad salty about the CW picking that up over Wayward Sisters.


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The Official Supernatural: “Mint Condition” (14.04) Live Recap Thread


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Right. Let’s get cracking.

Well, this is obviously the Halloween episode of the year (seeing as how it’s on All Saints’ Day). You gotta love how its Halloween episodes are so often some of the show’s lighter episodes. That’s … well, that’s actually pretty messed up.

We get a recap that brings us up to date on the mytharc (which, so far, appears to be Michael possessing Dean, then leaving for no good reason after he got stabbed by the Big Toothpick of Meh wielded by Kaia Sue from last week.

The recap also completely spoils the MOTW by having a recap of ghost eps and ghost rules in voiceover from Sam and Dean. Okeydoke.

Cut to Now and a comic book shop in Salem, OH. What? Everybody instantly knows the inside of a comic book shop just from the memorabilia section.

Anyhoo, as a gold commercial for Diamond Dave’s goes on voiceover, and we get fake ads on now-defunct cable network Chiller (Sorry, Shocker, but it’s about Chiller – it’s a ghost network, geddit?) for fake horror movies like Hell Hazers II (which was filmed during season two’s “Hollywood Babylon”) and one involving a creepy guy in a skin mask (whose tagline is “Time to slice and dice!), we see a guy at the counter unwrapping some action figures in their original packaging (remember “Hell House”?). When he gets to a rare Thundercats one, he sneaks it into his backpack, right before he gets a call from a young woman named Sam who is apparently either his boss or business partner.

Unaware that he is snaking merchandise, she gives him an earful for a bad rating he got the store on Yelp due to getting into a screaming match (involving some racist language) with a customer over a superhero match. She begs him to tone it down because they really need the customers. After a nerd-rage rant, he appears to calm down and sort of apologizes.

As he leaves, still with the stolen merch, we see that the life-sized mannequin across from the counter is of “Slice and Dice” guy.

At home, he is yelling on the phone at the pizza delivery guy, trying to get a free pizza (yep, he’s a dick), when the Thundercats doll he has out and on the table turns its head.

Uh-oh.

The guy hears a noise, turns around, and sees the toy on the floor. Upright. Looking angry. Now, it’s not really dumb that he goes over to investigate initially, because it’s just an oddity. But when the toy grimaces at him, whirls its mini-nunchucks, and smacks him upside the head, he takes way too long even to scream. So, dumb on top of being a jerk.

Title cards

Cut to – what the heck is the red lettering on Dean’s socks? Never mind. Dean is in his room, eating pizza and watching horror movies. He’s “made it all the way through the Halloweens” and is on a film called All Saints’ Day (because the episode aired on All Saints’ Day, yeah?), featuring the creepy mannequin dude from the teaser, a serial killer known as the Hatchet Man.

The plotline is blatantly 80s slasher. A long-haired blonde dude in jeans and a t-shirt, with a dancer’s body, is moping a floor in an institutional hallway (basically, it looks like the same set as for season one’s “Asylum”) when he spots a vending machine and decides to steal some candy. Hatchet Man walks up in the middle of this chicanery and puts an ax through the guy’s knee. When a young woman in a pink outfit (complete with shoulder pads) randomly comes out and screams, Hatchet Man immediately turns his attention to her: “Time to slice and dice!”

They even get some decently high 80s slasher-style gore. I wonder if the FCC has just plain given up with the show except for language at this point.

That’s when Sam walks in to do – I kid you not – a welfare check on his brother.

Sam infodumps that Dean has been in his room for a week. Dean infodumps back that Castiel is out training Jack, Dork!Kaia is still missing, so is Michael, and, well, “the house is full of strangers.” I note that Dean does not mention his mother. Hmm. He does mention that Sam shaves. He does a double-take when Sam comes in. Ackles has a lot of fun calling Sam’s face “smooth as a dolphin’s belly!”

Sam doesn’t appear to see that he’s filled up the Bunker with people Dean doesn’t know or trust (and who don’t know or respect him at all) and that this is Dean’s home. Of course Dean retreated to his bedroom. He’s an introvert.

Sam also thinks that Dean’s enjoyment of horror films is weird, considering their profession, and doesn’t like Halloween. Coming from a guy who is literally a serial killer fanboy, that’s a hoot.

But Sam is successful in luring his brother out to a Hunt with a video of Doomed Teaser Douchebag ranting about getting attacked by a Thundercats action figure. Dean’s all over that.

In Salem (Ohio), they immediately go to the comic book shop, where the girl from the teaser, Sam, is working the counter. Sam (our Sam, yes, this will be confusing) turns away from the Jason Todd costume that Jensen Ackles cosplayed in real life for Halloween. He and Dean are dressed in ties and short-sleeved shirts that make them look like extras from The Office.

Dean teases Sam that he and Girl!Sam are a lot alike. Sam retorts that Dean and a nerdy, slobby guy in the stacks are also very much alike. Dean denies this with a snort, but after he discovers the mannequin of Hatchet Man (“David friggin’ Yeager!”), he and the guy immediately and automatically start to bond over it.

The Brothers introduce themselves to Girl!Sam as insurance agents with rock star aliases checking up on DTD’s (real name Stewart) injuries. She says he’s at his apartment, resting. They say they went there and he got evicted. She admits he and his roommate had a fight (over nerd stuff), and that he’s also a troll, and says he’s back at his mother’s house.

Mom is pleasant, but smothering and enabling. She gives them apple cider (and Dean snags the Flash mug). When Sam snarks about it, Dean points out that she offered. Dean is wearing Birth Control Glasses that are totally not working for their intended purpose. Damn, Jensen Ackles. When are you ever not hot?

They hear Stuart yelling at a video game in the basement. Dean rolls his eyes at that, but Sam actually recognizes the name when Stuart comes up the stairs and finds them there. Sam introduces them (Campbell & Sons – LOL!) and Dean notices that Stuart is burning sage in the basement.

Stuart, who has cuts all over his face and is pretty twitchy, says he got the idea from a “Goth girl” he met online who was into Wicca (naturally, this catches the Brothers’ attention). He says he broke up with her before they could MIRL (Meet In Real Life). I kinda love Dean for not knowing. Neither did I, but Sam fills in the blanks for both of us.

When they ask about the video, Stuart turns full-on squirrely. He insists he faked it and then orders them out of the house. They decide to stakeout the house until Stuart and his mom leave, so they can check it out for hex bags. Sam points out that Wiccans aren’t always witches and Dean replies, “Except when they are.”

While they wait, Sam fields a call from one of his Bunker groupies. Dean snarks at this (but doesn’t mention Sam’s Bobby act). Then he quizzes Sam about his hate-on for Halloween (Sam really doesn’t like major holidays, does he? Remember Christmas?). Sam won’t talk about it.

At that moment, Stuart’s mom comes out in a … yep, I do believe that is a poodle skirt … and drives away. The bit where the Brothers awkwardly duck down as she goes by is funny.

As they debate on how to get Stuart out of the house, Sam reads through the comments on his video, calling them “brutal.”

“Gotta love the internet,” Dean says, “where everyone can be a dick.”

At that moment, Stuart comes stumbling out the front door, screaming for help and covered in blood. As Sam tends to him, Dean pulls out his pistol and goes in alone. He follows a trail of blood downstairs. As he’s distracted by a poster of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he hears a chainsaw rev up behind him, in midair. It flips through the air and hits the poster, as Dean dodges out of the way.

The Brothers talk to Mom at the hospital and persuade her to stay with her son. As they exit the hospital room, Dean says he checked the house over for hex bags and found nothing, but the EMF meter went off the scale. So, they’re looking for a ghost, though Sam is puzzled by the motive. He goes back to the house to check on what’s going on, while Dean stays at the hospital to wait until Stuart wakes up. Sam is puzzled to find that the Thundercats toy reads nothing in EMF. So, it’s apparently not cursed. He also finds a photo on one of Stuart’s computers that shows Stuart, Girl!Sam, the geek dude who bonded with Dean, and an older guy.

At the hospital, Dean finds the geek dude has arrived. He says Stuart is his best friend. The guy is actually pretty level-headed, but his home life is bad (his father is abusive) and Stuart lets him stay over when things get bad.

On the TV is All Saints’ Day III. That’s geek dude’s favorite. Dean’s is IV. They recite in union the tagline for it. Dean says, “I like to watch movies where I know the bad guy’s gonna lose.” I hear that.

Sam visits the store, where Girl!Sam is closing up. Sam asks her if anyone “close to Stuart” has died recently. She says the previous owner was a guy named Jordan. He was their mentor, but he only left the store to Girl!Sam and geek dude (named Dirk). He left Stuart out of the will because Stuart was always stealing merchandise and Jordan fired him twice.

As she says Jordan was cremated, Sam sees the glass case behind her frost up. He tries quickly to bring her up to speed, but then the Hatchet Man mannequin comes alive and knocks him out. When he wakes up, Girl!Sam is alive, though scared, but they’re locked in.

At the hospital, in the middle of talking about the film series’ best kills, Dean gets a call from Sam about what happened. Dean totally geeks out over the approach of his horror movie idol.

We then cut to a gratuitously blatant homage to the Halloween films in Hatchet Man’s stroll down the sidewalk toward the hospital, through crowds of unsuspecting teenage trick’rtreaters.

Dean and Sam each give The Talk, Dean while doing a line of salt around Stuart’s bed. He then tells Dirk to stay by the bed, inside the line, while he goes looking for the ghost. Unfortunately, the ghost starts poltergeisting the hell out of the room while Dean is gone and Dirk flees in terror.

Stuart’s mom runs into Hatchet Man while bringing her son a tray of food and she’s terrified. Dirk bravely distracts Hatchet Man away from her, but then is chased relentlessly through the empty hallways while security is too busy watching a near-mirror image of the same chase from the scene we saw earlier (that began with the guy getting an ax to the knee). Dean had commented earlier that hospitals can be remarkably deserted at night.

Dean, meanwhile, has found an ax.

The scene cuts back and forth between the girl in the movie trying to escape in an elevator whose doors won’t close and Dirk in the same situation. They finally do, and both the girl and Dirk escape.

Dirk ends up in the morgue, where Dean finds him and asks him why he didn’t stay put. Dirk says Hatchet Man is in the hospital and sure enough, the MOTW sits up on one of the gurneys, pulling off a sheet.

Cut to a cheesy preview of All Saints’ Day III: The Reckoning. Then we get the confrontation between Dean and Hatchet Man. Dean says the ghost can go into the light on its own or he can “send it there.” He’s pleased when the ghost decides to fight. Not so pleased when the ghost turns out to be really strong. A kick-ass fight ensues and Dirk even helps at one point, but Sam and Girl!Sam burst in on Dean getting choked out.

Sam had gotten them out of the comic shop by making a makeshift bomb from a lunchbox. When Girl!Sam asked him how he learned that, he says, “I had a messed up childhood,” which echoes what he tells Sarah in “Provenance.”

On the way, they figured out how Jordan (the ghost) was getting around. He was using a Batman keychain. As they rush in, Sam yells at Dean to get the keychain, which is in Hatchet Man’s pocket. Dean gropes around and yanks it out, tossing it to them. Girl!Sam gets into the spirit by grabbing some alcohol to speed up the burning process. Jordan is forcibly exorcised and flames out, probably to Hell. But when Girl!Sam asks about him, Sam just says, “He’s in a better place.”

Stuart lives, but we don’t see him again.

Driving back, Dean finally gets Sam to tell him why he hates Halloween. It turns out to have been a teenage date-gone-horribly-wrong. Sam was nervous all night and when asked to bobbing for apples, threw up all over his date and a lot of other things.

Dean also thanks Sam for getting him out of his room and giving him a “win.” Sam tells Dean that saying yes was not the wrong thing. He did it for Sam, Jack and his “family,” for all the right reasons. What Michael used his body to do afterward is not his fault.

Dean flatly states, “I’m not gonna get over it.” But he admits that he’s not “doing anybody any good” staying in his room all day, so he tells Sam he’ll do whatever Sam and the team need him to do.

Dean says they should dress up in costume the next Halloween and starts naming possible costumes, from the ridiculous (“Turner and Hooch”) to the injoke-y (“Rocky and Bullwinkle”) to the really disturbing (“Thelma and Louise – we’ll just put it in Drive and go!”).

In the coda, one of the security guards from before enters the morgue. The lights fritz, so he gets out his flashlight and follows the trail of weapons and such used on Hatchet Man until he gets to the mannequin itself. The mannequin then appears to speak one of Hatchet Man’s taglines: “Trick’rtreat!” So, we get one of those 80s horror movie “twist” endings that never made a lick of sense.

Credits

So, that was one was more amusing than I thought it would be. Had some nice rewatch value. Davy Perez still overdoes it a bit on the homages, but moves things along and doesn’t insult our intelligence this time. But I really think the direction by Amyn Kaderali (and, of course, the enthusiasm from the cast and crew over doing a Halloween episode) is what makes it. Which is kind of funny, considering Kaderali’s previous three episodes weren’t terribly memorable, either. But hey, improvement’s always good.

Girl!Sam and Dirk could come back. I wouldn’t mind.

It seems as though the mytharc focus is firmly on Dean this season. We’re four episodes in and it’s All About his possession by Michael and ensuing PTAPD (Post Traumatic Angel Possession Disorder).

Promo for next week is here.

Ratings for this week were meh (usually are for a holiday week), with a 0.4/2 and 1.46 million. Still significantly better than its lead-out, though.


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Halloween in North Carolina, All Souls’ Day: Bonus Round #2: Scottish Ghosts (1999)


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Seafield, Lily. Scottish Ghosts. Lomond Books, 1999.


So, as promised, I’ve continued my reviews through All Souls’ Day (today), but with the twist that the last two days, since they’re in November, are reviews of ghost stories from other regions than North Carolina. But possibly, these are regions that may have influenced or have similar tropes to what you find in NC.

I picked this one up at the bus station in Glasgow almost two decades ago. It’s one of several books I have of Scottish folklore. The cover above is very nice, but the edition I picked up actually looks like this:

Kinda cheesy, I know. The apparent editorial excuse is that this edition is for kids. It might be a bit too creepy and historical for American kids, though.

Also, for such a short book, it has a whole lot of stories in it – over 150. Each one is maybe a page or two, though the entry on Second Sight in the “Signs, Prophecies and Curses” section is (appropriately) several pages long, as Second Sight is a major part of Scottish folklore. With most entries, the author gets in, gets out, and then moves on to the next, grouping them thematically into several sections, such as “Military Ghosts,” “Fairies, Green Ladies and Devilish Struggles,” and “Poltergeists.” The stories are sometimes sad, sometimes horrifying, sometimes educational. But they’re also mostly fun.

My favorites, of course, tend to be about St Andrews, where I lived for six years. Alas, there are really only two stories (for some reason, the very haunted St Andrews Castle didn’t make it into the “Ghostly Castles” section). St Andrews Cathedral, for example, has a Lady in White and a ghostly monk who haunts St Rule’s Tower. The late-11th century St Rule’s Tower is the tallest (and probably oldest) building in St Andrews. It’s pretty much the only remaining intact structure for St Andrews Cathedral. It’s a bit of a hike that I’ve done a few times, but sadly (or not?), I’ve never seen the monk.

Stories range from the humorous to the creepy to the quite-disturbing. One of the funniest is the large “Demon Crab” of Dundee that crawls out of a drowned ferryman’s coat after he washes up on the beach. The Devil doesn’t last long in that guise, as he is quickly snatched up by a fishwife who happily cooks him for her dinner. One of the creepier ones is a story of a pair of eyes (just eyes) haunting a room in Crail, down the coast from Dundee, in the section, “Ghosts in the House.” And then there’s the scary tale from the “Mind How You Go” section of the Big Grey Man who haunts the mists of Ben MacDuibh in the Cairngorms (Scotland’s mountain range) and attacks anyone who visits it.

The witchcrazes of the 16th and 17th centuries hit Scotland especially hard. It’s believed that thousands were accused and over a thousand executed (by burning at the stake) as a result. You can see the scars of that and the rest of the Covenanters’ repressions to this day on the Scottish landscape (never been fan of John Knox).

The author is sympathetic to the doomed accused witches. She discusses the witchcrazes in her introduction, but also writes about some witch tales more sympathetically than how they appear in North Carolina folklore. The interesting thing is that you can see some Scottish influence (North Carolina has had quite a few Scottish settlers in its early history) on NC folklore.

For example, the famous tale of “The Miller’s Wife” ends fatally in North Carolina lore, with the blame clearly laid on the witchy wife (despite the Miller character being kind of an idiot). In Scotland, you get “The Cursed Mill.” In this story, set near Newtonmore in the Highlands, an old woman curses a miller and his mill. It’s never stated what the insult was, but you start to get some clues as the story progresses.

The first miller dies in a fire. The one after him contracts a fatal illness and the mill burns down. After the mill is rebuilt (because mills were critical to a town or village’s life), the witch relents a little and changes the curse. People can now use the mill for all except one day of the year. The mill runs well once subsequent millers follow these instructions.

However, long after the witch dies, the mill comes into the hands of an ambitious, grasping man who believes the curse is just superstition. So, he uses the mill on that one forbidden day of the year. Predictably, the mill grinds to a standstill. The miller tries again the next year, but this time, rats eat up all his corn. He gives up and sells the mill, but has no fortune in his business ventures thereafter and dies of a wasting illness.

The mill then goes to another man who is kind and gets the mill working again with the help of a young Traveler boy he adopts. After the man dies, the Traveler has to be recalled to get the mill working again. Once he dies, it falls apart for good.

This tale bears a lot of resemblance to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, but in this instance, the sin is a refusal to observe a single Sabbath day of rest in the year. We humans just can’t resist crossing boundaries we just shouldn’t cross and that we don’t need to cross. There is also a clear subtext that when the mill is run with kindness rather than covetousness, all goes well. It’s only when the mill is run meanly, with greed, that everything comes to a screeching halt. Here, you can see the mill as a metaphor for Scottish society.

This indicates that the witch’s original grievance was a sound one and the curse not due to an evil nature. It also shows the witch as a productive member of society who brings necessary justice to those who transgress by treating others badly (very different from how witches were perceived back in the Convenanters’ day!). Scottish folklore often shows a balance in the Scottish cultural psyche between great generosity of spirit and the kind of miserliness for which the Scots have too-often become famous (even when it wasn’t true) worldwide. This story is a classic example.

The plan from here on out is to continue reading NC folklore and reviewing the books, just at a slower pace and over on Patreon. If you found these enjoyable, and want to follow my research plans, you can do so there. I’ll still be posting stuff here (including my Supernatural recaps and possibly reviews), but it will involve another one of my projects this month (likely, my mom’s family cookbook). I got a lot done on the NC folklore stuff in October and now that I am thoroughly creeped out, I need to do some other stuff.


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Halloween in North Carolina, All Saints’ Day: Bonus Round #1: The Little Book of the Hidden People (2015)


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Sigsmundsdóttir, Alda. The Little Book of the Hidden People: Twenty Stories of Elves from Icelandic Folklore. Enska Textasmiðjan, 2015.


So, this is the first day of the bonus round for folklore reviews, commemorating All Saints’ Day. The days of the dead actually comprise All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) for the damned and other evil spirits, All Saints’ Day (November 1) for the holy dead, and All Souls’ Day (November 2) for the rest of us. Today, we’re off to Iceland and its thorny folklore.

This is a relatively short (111 pages) book about a group of relatively unknown mythological and legendary figures – the elves (álfar) or “hidden folk” ( huldufólk) of Iceland. People who write about the Icelandic hidden people tend to do so from two perspectives – either belief in their actual existence or belief in them as a metaphor for the extreme isolation and privation in which most Icelanders lived for their millennium-plus existence. The estimate of how many Icelanders still believe in the actual existence of hidden people varies on which side of the spectrum an author lies. This author spends the bulk of her introduction insisting that this is an outmoded belief amongst Icelanders today, thus obliquely proving the above point.

Whether in the literal or the metaphorical/psychological sense, Icelandic elves are deeply fascinating, underexposed as a mythology in the speculative genres, and pretty friggin’ scary. Imagine a large island the size of New York State, but with less than two percent of the population, one with white nights in summer and long, frozen, dark winters, with the not-so-occasional volcanic eruption. One not anywhere close to anywhere else.

Now imagine mentally populating it in your folklore with a far-more-numerous race of prosperous, beautiful, strong, lucky, deadly, invisible shadow people. Who will probably kill you if they realize you can see them and totally mess with you whenever you can’t.

That’s what the Icelanders did, first the Norse settlers (calling them álfar) and then their Irish slaves (who called them huldufólk). To the Norse, the hidden people were creepy and dirty and numerous and dangerous. To the Irish, they were an enviable, golden race. You can probably see some class issues creeping in along with the psychological issues involving populating an empty island with folkloric beings out of sheer collective loneliness.

These 20 stories are among the more famous (at least, for Icelanders) of the folk tales about Icelandic elves. Some of them are plays on biblical lore, such as “On the Origins of the Hidden People.” Here, the álfar are those of Eve’s children that she hid away from God when He came visiting (because she had so many that she couldn’t wash all their faces in time and was ashamed of them). God then says that what Eve hid from Him, He will hide from the world – hence, how these children became “hidden folk” ( huldufólk).

This is obviously a pejorative story, but it also reflects the Icelandic ideal of many (healthy and legitimate) children. For much of Icelandic history, the infant mortality rate was so high that people might have many children and be unable to raise any to adulthood (at one point, Iceland had the highest infant mortality rate in Europe). There was even a tradition of naming the first four sons after the father, with the hope that at least one of them would live to carry on his father’s name.

“The Elf Adornment” story is a whole other kettle of fish. In this extremely violent tale about the perils of dancing, a family goes off to evensong at church on New Year’s Eve, leaving behind a maid to tend the farm. Some hidden people show up and invite her to dance with them. After she happily accepts and goes off with them, they murder her and leave her on the threshhold.

Another New Year’s Eve, another maid. This time, the hidden people cut off her head and leave her in the doorway.

A third maid saves herself only by sitting resolutely at her sewing in the baðstofa (the main room of a traditional Icelandic turf house) until dawn. And dawn takes a mighty long time to come on New Year’s Eve in Iceland. Frightened off by her comment that the sun is rising, they leave, but they give her the treasure of the title for her bridal chest in admiration of her resolve.

There’s a lot to unpack here, not least the overt message not to go dancing because it led to illegitimate pregnancies the poor and stressed Icelandic communities couldn’t support. That’s much like the 1970s Mexican American trope of the Devil and the Dance Floor from Ghost Stories from the American South (which I reviewed early in October).

There’s another version involving a man where he’s much more active and has better luck, so it’s about gender roles, too. Men tend to have more luck in these stories with transgressive behavior, such as in “Snotra the Elf Woman,” where a guy stalks a selkie-like elf woman and inadvertently breaks a curse on her. He’s rewarded for his creepy behavior with good fortune after she thanks him and returns to her world under the sea.

Another wrinkle is that the hidden people are indistinguishable from regular humans and can even take the form of someone you know (and that there’s a whole genre of “outlaw” stories tied up with stories of elves). So, there’s no actual reason to believe the first two maids “The Elf Adornment” knew they were interacting with hidden people. Plus, there’s the whole serial killer vibe of murdering the servant stuck at home during church and leaving her on the threshold. You don’t mess with the álfar.

With so much mistaken identity in the folklore, it’s unsurprising that a story like “Father of Eighteen in the Elf World” involves the shifty old goat of the title changing places with a woman’s baby. The woman is smart and figures out what he did (in a way not unlike the Rumpelstiltskin tale), then proceeds to beat him. His wife then shows up and hands her back her baby.

Changeling stories always have some nasty subtext. You’re basically talking about a folkloric explanation for a colicky or sickly baby whose mother never bonds with it. In real life, such stories generally didn’t have happy endings.

Intimacy with a hidden person could be used as code for an illegitimate liaison, as in “The Girl in the Mountain Dairy.” The mountain dairy (sel) was where flocks were kept in summer and it always had a female keeper. The title character falls pregnant by a hidden man who woos her while she works the dairy. After she gives birth and the baby mysteriously disappears, she is forced to marry another (human) man, but there are tragic consequences when her elf husband and son return years later.

These stories reflect some harsh realities in Icelandic culture and history. Iceland was a hard place to live for a long time. It’s lovely to visit now, and the people there are wonderful, but I’m pretty glad I didn’t live there even a century ago.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #31: Pirates and Ghosts of the Carolinas’ Coast (2014)


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Brown, Cynthia Moore. Pirates and Ghosts of the Carolinas’ Coast. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2014.


Arrr, me hearties, and a Happy Halloween t’ye all!

I decided to end my grand (albeit not comprehensive) tour of North Carolina ghost story books with one set on the coast because it has pirates, and a somewhat unusual structure (the last chapter has a section on Carolina seafood recipes, along with some space to include your own), and I hadn’t covered the author before, and – oh, yeah – pirates.

This is not Cynthia Brown’s first ghost story collection. She also co-wrote Folktales and Ghost Stories of North Carolina’s Piedmont and Folklore and Food: Folktales that Center on Family, Food, and Down-Home Cooking (hence the presence of a recipes chapter for this one) with Theresa Bane. Bane has also solo-published Haunted Historic Greensboro, among others. I interviewed her for Innsmouth Free Press, not just once but twice, a while back about that collection and one of her vampire folklore books.

Brown is a retired librarian and co-founder of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild. That tells you right off the bat her approach to the material. The book also includes an introduction written by another local folklorist (from Washington County), Terry A. Rollins.

You would think that after all the books I’ve reviewed this month, we’d have exhausted what the Coastal Carolinas had to offer, but nope. There are some original tales in here, too. Yes, there’s stuff about Blackbeard and Theodosia Burr, and the Maco Light, and a less-fatal version of the “I Could Slap the Life Out of Her” tale from Cursed in the Carolinas. “The Live Oak Tree” is the buried alive story from Wilmington with, again, a somewhat happier ending. In “Stella,” the fatal love triangle, where the wife murders the mistress from beyond the grave, from Barefoot’s Haunted Hundred trilogy gets a spooky and more detailed, but also lighter, twist.

But Brown puts her own spin on the stories by telling about her own experiences with the areas connected to these historical figures. I also like that she breaks the stories up into thematic groups, such as tales about pirates and ones about lost love. It’s nice that she uses a lot of photographs to give the reader an idea about the area and to break up the text.

But then, as I said, there are also some new stories. For example, the very first story, “Spirits of the Fog,” is about Highway 17 South (AKA the Ole Plank Road) near Wilmington. The legend Brown recounts is that the fog along the highway contains mystery lights and spirits – voracious shadow figures that attack and kill unsuspecting travelers. Shadow people creep me right out, so that one definitely worked for Yours Truly.

Another one from Wilmington, about a Boogeyman figure called “The Hairy Man,” is good for a scare. And in her chapter about Stede Bonnet, Brown talks about visiting the old jail in Charleston and experiencing a distinct and unusual chill.

All in all, despite being a fairly short book, Pirates and Ghosts of the Carolinas’ Coast has some enjoyable meat on its rattling bones, especially for this time of year. Recommended.

As I said, this is the last day for the NC folklore tour. But I’ll be doing a little bonus coda here of some ghost story books from other places for All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). After that, I’ll continue reading and reviewing ghost story books from NC (at a much gentler pace) over on Patreon. I also have stories from North Carolina history and what I find in my own investigations. You can join up and check them out over there, get some perks, and help support my spooky research!

Happy Halloween! Be safe!


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #30: Ghost Tales of the Moratoc (1992)


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Carter, Catherine T. Ghost Tales of the Moratoc. John F. Blair, Publisher, 1992.


This is another one from the publisher John F. Blair, dating to 1992. It consists of 18 tales and is the author’s only collection. Most of the tales incline toward the romantic or sentimental in the telling, notably the two about Somerset Place in Washington County (“Charlotte, Ghost of Somerset,” which inspired the cover illustration, and “Blood on the Floor”) and Native American tales like the Tuscaroran “White Feather,” from Bertie County. I was a bit confused by how the two Somerset stories fit together, as they were each told without mentioning the events of the other, despite occurring in about the same time period.

It was nice to see some Tuscarora influence, for once, but odd to see a Cherokee tale about Spearfinger (“The Witch Hag of the Roanoke” from Martin County) so far east, albeit with new details related to the Colonial period. The same period also produced the Zorro-like “Phantom of the Forest.”

“Moratoc,” according to the author, is an old word for the Roanoke River, which originates in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and comes down through the northeastern Coastal Plain of NC to the coast. The name comes from a large tribe that once lived on the river’s banks.

There are several other stories that contain common folkloric tropes seen in other parts of NC. There’s a story from Bertie County of desecrated Native American bones in “The Restless Skull.” An ugly 1920s love triangle in “May She Rest in Peace” results in both women dead and the “spiteful” wife’s ghost blamed for hastening the mistress’ death. The author does not fill out the rather obvious Bluebeard-like subtext in the survival of the husband who played the two women against each other before marrying them in turn.

“The Oyster Shells” from post-Civil War Washington County is a somewhat more elaborate version of the “Fork on the Grave” trope, where a mean and ungrateful son is apparently frightened to death by his mother’s apparition.

You’ve got the “Mystery Lights of Tyrrell County,” also known as “The Death Light” or “The Doom Light,” as well as the lights of “Dymond City, Ghost Town of Martin County.” Washington County also has a spectral “Coach of Death” and a “Hanging Church” where mysterious tramps have been wont to kill themselves.

But not every story follows the usual NC tropes, especially the unclassifiably whimsical Christmas story of “Aunt Liza and the Sweet Baby Jesus,” from Washington County, and also the two creepiest tales. “The Little Red Man” in this collection should not be confused with the more-famous Little Red Man of Old Salem. The vicious being (which may or may not have been a ghost) that drives a poor family from their new home in Martin County bears a lot more resemblance to Redcap from Scottish fairy lore than the benign Moravian brother who plays gentle pranks on the living.

“The Rag Doll and the Knife” runs like a Twilight Zone episode and dates from the same period. It’s not necessary to believe the person who stabbed a rag doll on a pillow in lieu of a young girl hiding under a bed in Beaufort County was a ghost. The non-supernatural explanation is, if anything, even more disturbing than the supernatural one.

Another largely non-supernatural tale is “Brotherly Love.” It’s a gruesome 1950s true crime story about a Cain-and-Abel-style murder-suicide in Washington County, with a few ghost stories tacked on the end. Of all these tales, this one may be the most tragic because the tragedy was both unnecessary and inevitable, considering the personalities of the two brothers involved.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #29: North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 3: Haints of the Hills (2002)


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Barefoot, Daniel W. Haints of the Hills. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 3. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2002.


So, this is the third volume in Daniel Barefoot’s hundred-county experiment and we finish up in Appalachia. The alliterative title may seem redundant, but it’s actually not. “Haint” is believed to be a folkloric entity originally from the African American Gullah people on the Carolina coast. In South Carolina, it’s a specifically evil entity that haunts children, but this isn’t true everywhere. I talked earlier about this bit of folklore when discussing the use of paint in “haint blue.” The title, therefore, is specifically stating that these haints (or “hanks” as they may be called in Virginia) are from the mountains and not the coast.

Since the Mountain region is very popular with folklorists and ghost storytellers, it should be no surprise that several of these stories would be familiar. You’ve got Tom Dula and his love quadrangle representing Caldwell County, the giant leech of Cherokee County, and the unfortunate hanging ghost of Dan Keith for Rutherford County. But even in these familiar tales, there may be some new angles. For example, the tale of the newlyweds lost in a storm from Cursed in the Carolinas gets a location (Mount Pisgah in Buncombe County) and a rough period (late 19th or early 20th century).

In the Dan Keith chapter, there’s an eerie coda to the original haunting. Historic preservationists failed to save the old jail where he was hanged from demolition in 1971 (still not an uncommon occurrence, as the case of a developer with more money than brains, who demolished the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montana earlier this year, basically just because he could, can attest). Every business established in the new building built on the site (at least, up to 2002) has failed miserably. And some employees began to report seeing a shadow of a hanged on the wall – again.

Some omissions are rather puzzling, not just because of choices Barefoot made, but because they reflect equally puzzling omissions made by other popular ghost storytellers. Barefoot gives us a rather abrupt and uninteresting story, of a gold prospector who hit it rich and disappeared on his way to Connecticut, for Burke County. This ignores what is probably the most notorious story for that county – the night in 1831 Frankie Silver killed her husband with an ax and burned him in the fireplace. The only woman ever hanged in Burke County, Silver was railroaded through a two-day trial by her angry in-laws, despite possible evidence that her husband had been abusive and her crime self-defense. Ghost story collections don’t tend to carry the Frankie Silver story (which I first encountered on Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women), even though a famous ballad and at least one recent ghost story are attributed to her.

True to form, Barefoot gives us more stories of witches (Alleghany, Haywood and Macon counties), Native Americans (Jackson and Swain counties), a haunted college theater (Catawba County), Bigfoot (Yancey County) and the Devil. In fact, possibly the creepiest chapter in the entire series hails from Ashe County. This chapter focuses on a natural feature called the Devil’s Stairs. It’s pretty common in the western part of the state to call particularly rugged terrain (especially if it has a lot of Cherokee lore about it) after the Devil. Barefoot even mentions some of these features. But he claims that the Devil’s Stairs (a manmade formation created by dynamite blasting in 1914 during the building of the railroad) is the most haunted of them all. It’s got fatal railway accidents, infanticide, ghostly coffins, Phantom Hitchhikers, and at least one guy who died of a quick wasting illness after supposedly encountering Old Scratch himself. Tough to top that.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #28: North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 2: Piedmont Phantoms (2002)


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Barefoot, Daniel W. Piedmont Phantoms. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2002.


This second volume is the longest of the three in Daniel Barefoot’s North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred trilogy. It’s 187 pages to the other two’s 130 each. There is actually a good reason for this. As I’ve said before, North Carolina is divided up into different distinct regions. But there are four, not three: The Coast, the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Mountains, and they are separated along geological lines. Basically, the Coast is the current coast. The Coastal Plain is what was under water up almost to Raleigh not so long ago and may end up under water again if the oceans continue to rise. The Piedmont is an area of metamorphic, disrupted rock from when continents were jamming together and pulling apart, creating the Appalachian Mountains, which comprise the Mountain region. The Uwharries lie in the Piedmont. This has relevance to Barefoot’s material, since the regions affect the folklore due to natural features and resources. The Coast has lots of stories about haunted marshes and ghost ships. The Coastal Plain and the Piedmont have stories about gold rushes, plantations, and the Revolutionary War. The Mountains have a lot of Appalachian lore. And so on.

I guess Barefoot (or his publisher, John F. Blair, which also published Whedbee’s collections) decided he preferred a trilogy over a tetralogy. Since Barefoot was doing that, he had to fit one of those regions into at least one of the other books. That “lost” region turned out to be the Coastal Plain, where I live. It is also sadly neglected by North Carolina ghost story books in general, even though we actually have some pretty distinctive stories of our own.

The Coastal Plain is a curiously diverse place, further divided into the Outer and Inner Coastal Plains, or into the Upper and Lower Coastal Plains (though apparently not both at once, since one division is more environmental and the other is more political). I live on the Inner and Upper Coastal Plain.

For Volume 1, Seaside Spectres, Barefoot included the Outer Coastal Plain as part of the coast, but he also included parts of the Inner Coastal Plain (such as Edgecombe and Halifax Counties). For Volume 2, he includes the eastern parts of the Inner Coastal Plain (such as Nash, Wilson, Johnston and Franklin counties) in the Piedmont section. The methodology is confusing, but I guess it kept the books more or less within shouting distance of equal length.

As with Volume 1, there are a lot of witch stories (and also one about the Devil’s footprint in Largo, Warren County). In part, that’s because NC has a lot of witch stories. In part, I suspect Barefoot just likes them. He gets to decide which stories to include, after all.

I was glad to see some African American ones in this volume. As I mentioned in my reviews on the two folklore articles about witchcraft and Guilford County, African Americans have contributed quite a lot of NC lore, frequently without much recognition of that fact. Despite this contribution, their presence in popular ghost story collections has been scant. Curiously, Barefoot shows no knowledge of the Guilfort County article, choosing instead to discuss a haunted theater for that chapter.

Barefoot manages to stuff in two witch stories from Person County, involving encounters with children. The general impression I got from this chapter was that children can be terribly cruel (not a shocking revelation to me, considering I got bullied mercilessly as a child) and you have to school that out of them with some lessons about appearances and compassion. In the first section, two young boys balk at helping an old woman who seems, to them, to be a teleporting witch. The folkloric motif that Carolina witches and ghosts are not necessarily a separate category appears here.

In the second section (which shows the shamanistic aspect of NC witches in the powers of shapeshifting and flight), a bunch of children brutally bully an elderly African American field hand (it’s implied the children are white). Finally, she snaps. She beats them and curses them by predicting “sudden and horrible deaths” for them. The brats tattle on her and get her fired. This causes her to curse the whole lot of them, kids and parents.

Soon after, two of the kids die of mysterious illnesses. Historically speaking, this was the kind of thing that led to a lynching, but the witch in this story gains herself a happy ending of sorts. When a mob of men confront her at her cabin, the old woman coolly faces them with a large owl perched on her shoulder. When they attack her, she escapes them by turning into a bird and flying away. Unnerved, some of the families move out of the area. Moral of the story: Don’t be a bully. You might end up cursed by a witch.

The story for Nash County is rather blah (another Theodosia-in-Distress story? Really?), but the Wilson County one is quite intriguing. North Carolina used to be a lot larger than it is now, even after splitting from South Carolina, because its original borders extended to the West Coast, encompassing what is now Tennessee. This means that certain famous figures (like the Harpe Brothers) and legends (like the Bell Witch) from points further west had their origins in NC. The story of the Bell Witch, in fact, begins in Wilson County. That’s where the Bell family came from.

It’s probably not a huge surprise that Barefoot chooses the Bentonville Battlefield for Johnston County. Not only is it a famous site that’s appeared in other collections I reviewed this month, but it’s also quite haunted. The Franklin County section eschews the numerous college hauntings in Louisburg for a story about a traveler (known only as the Lady in Blue) who died at a plantation house in Belford in 1835. She continued to appear as a ghost for another century until she managed to save the owners of the house from a devastating fire. Her final purpose fulfilled, she appeared no more.

Tomorrow, I’ll review the third volume about the Mountain region, Haints of the Hills.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #27: North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 1: Seaside Spectres (2002)


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Barefoot, Daniel W. Seaside Spectres. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 1. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2002.


Remember how I said (when I reviewed the book that claimed to contain every known ghost story in North Carolina) that there was no way there could be less than a hundred ghost stories in NC? This book (which is part of a trilogy) is how I know. The neat conceit of the trilogy is that the author picks a folkloric story from each of the hundred counties in North Carolina and retells it. Collectively, these three books have 100 stories in them. Therefore, there have to be at least a hundred ghost stories and legends in NC because that’s how many there are in this book. And since I know for a fact that Barefoot left many out (because he could only choose one for each county), I happen to know that there are, in fact, many more than a hundred.

And that’s the really cool thing about this trilogy.
The trilogy breaks things up into three regions: the Coast, the Piedmont area, and the Mountains. This first one is for the Coast.

Some of these stories, I already knew. The Edgecombe one was fairly disappointing, for example, as not only was I well aware of the Banshee legend, but I already knew all those details. And there are some others from that county that might have been more fun.

There are some quite-creepy stories in here (Barefoot knows how to give you a chill). There are, for example, several stories of ghost lights (some including pretty close encounters with what sounds almost like a fireball) such as the Cove City Light and the Pactolus Light. One story from Bladen County also involves a brief case of multiple spontaneous combustion (though no one died).

Several about the Devil show up (a few new to me, though not all of them). The book starts off with the curse of Bath in Beaufort County by the Reverend Whitefield early in the 18th century (and a quick segue to include the Devil’s Hoofprints, also of Bath). The creepiest is probably the rather-less-lucky Reverend Glendinning’s being plagued by a short demon while he was staying with a family in Halifax County a few decades later. The demon would knock at the door and yell at him through the window. North Carolina used to be a real tough crowd for itinerant preachers.

Witches show up in several tales, though they often are as sinned against (as in “The Evil That Will Not Die” from Dare County) as sinning (“The Bewitched Miller” from Chowan County and “Bewitched in Currituck” in Currituck County). In Tyrrell County, you get an alleged Native American legend (though it sounds more like an especially misogynistic Victorian romance) about a young Native American girl who was burned as a witch simply because she was beautiful and spoiled, and wouldn’t marry anyone. Naturally, since this is the coast, you’ve got a fair bit of cursed coastline, with a haunted island in Carteret County and a haunted coastal woods in Martin County called Devil’s Gut Creek. One of the nastiest stories is a cursed house in Pasquotank County.

Many of these are just legends with few facts to support them (especially since history on the coast goes all the way back to the 1580s). But some are based on actual, recorded tragedies. One of the most notable is the murder of inventor Henry Gatling in Hertford County. Gatling was working on an early version of an airplane some three decades before the Wright Brothers when he was murdered in 1879 by a man who claimed he was angry at Gatling for refusing him a ride the day before. Gatling’s ghost reportedly still haunts the area, though the house has long been torn down.

Obviously, a book like this is worth a read. There are no other projects of this type that systematically include at least one legend from every county in NC. And Barefoot is a good storyteller who also often includes a fair number of facts, certainly enough to go do your own research. While some of these may be rather overexposed and oft-told, there are also some more obscure gems. Check it out.


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