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Inspiring Fear: Halloween Spookies

hblf, lfneJason L Blair31 October 2016

Happy Halloween, everybody! With work and travel, I didn’t have time to put together a proper Halloweek this year but I didn’t want the holiday to pass without at least something.

Thanks, Dread Central, for coming to the rescue! Check out the following link for information on a family-friendly anthology called Halloween Spookies.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #5: Slappy the Dummy

hblf, lfneJason L Blair01 November 2013

And we finish this year’s Halloweek/Doll-O-Ween with one of the most iconic dolls in literature: R. L. Stine’s Slappy from the author’s insanely popular Goosebumps series.

First appearing as an ordinary ventriloquist’s dummy in 1993’s Night of the Living Dummy, Slappy was not the antagonist of that book. Another dummy, named Mr. Wood, took that honor with Slappy only coming to life at the end of the story. Over the course of two more books in the original Goosebumps line—1995’s Night of the Living Dummy II and 1996’s Night of the Living Dummy III—we see Slappy terrorizing various families and often drawing the ire (and vengeance) of his fellow dolls.

While he has a mind of his own, when left for a long stretch of time, he enters an inert state where he is indistinguishable from a regular ventriloquist’s dummy. That is, until someone speaks the magic words: Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano. A phrase which multiple unwitting children manage to mutter over the course of twenty years and five more books across multiple Goosebumps series. That’s a lot of traveling for a fella with wooden legs.

1998 brought Bride of the Living Dummy in which our wooden troublemaker becomes enamored with a doll belonging to his new owner’s sisters. Stung by Cupid’s arrow, Slappy will stop at nothing to get the woman he loves. This book is also where we learn that Slappy was carved from the coffin of a dark sorcerer—and he wasn’t the only one as later books revealed.

Just a year later, a new book featuring the diabolical dummy hit the shelves. Titled Slappy’s Nightmare, this book presents a solution to dealing with the doll. After getting tired of Slappy’s antics, main character Jimmy O’James learns from his new doll (and Slappy’s coffin-brother) Wally, that if the boy can get Slappy to do three good deeds in a week, Jimmy will have control over him. Though, as the book title suggests, all this may not actually be true.

Slappy makes two appearances in the Goosebumps HorrorLand series. Author R. L. Stine calls Revenge of the Living Dummy one of his scariest stories. The HorrorLand series is notable for how it places its characters into horrifying situations and then brings them all together in the titular theme park as a Very Special Guest.

As the series continues, the characters from the different books have to come together to escape. Slappy makes another appearance in later HorrorLand volume, The Streets of Panic Park, but as an ally.

In 2013’s Son of Slappy, we learn that the dummy, like Chucky, has a kid. Forcing current owner Jackson Stander to deal with not one, but two, evil dolls.

Slappy has a long history full of interesting tidbits you can pull into your own Little Fears stories. I highly recommend the books though seeing Slappy in action on the TV show is pretty spectacular as well.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #4: Creepy-Ass Dolls

hblf, lfneJason L Blair31 October 2013

A child’s doll is one of the oldest toys still in production. Records of dolls date back to the civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, and artisans have used all manner of materials to create these tiny humans, from wood to wax to bone. Dolls are a mainstay of human culture. We seem to have a fascination with creating replicas of ourselves. Some represents standards of beauty, others depict cultural traditions, and then there are other dolls. And who knows what folks were thinking when they made them. They are so poorly conceived, so poorly executed, that you wonder if they aren’t part of some strange ritual or curse. Thus, we have a long history of creepy-ass dolls.

Some of the most singularly disturbing (and offensive) dolls can be seen in a couple books by Stacey Leigh Brooks. In Creepy-Ass Dolls, Ms. Brooks takes us on a curated tour of the world dolls, pairing phrases such as “Mary had a little lamb…but I ate it” and “Don’t let the sassy plaid fool you. I will swallow your soul while you sleep!” with some of the most disturbing simulacra I’ve ever seen.

The second volume, Diary of a Creepy-Ass Doll, follows a doll’s descent into madness through journal entries, odd scribbles, and other artifacts that lay out her wicked schemes and plots to maintain strict control over her attic kingdom.

Both books are generously illustrated with photographs and drawings that highlight just how twisted dolls can become. As inspiration for Little Fears, or a curious coffee table book, I recommend picking up both volumes for the complete creepy-ass treatment.

Creepy-Ass Dolls and Diary of a Creepy-Ass Doll are both available in print and digital formats. Definitely worth taking a look if you want to include some creepy dolls in your Little Fears campaign.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #3: Child’s Play

hblf, lfneJason L Blair30 October 2013

It’s hard to think of creepy dolls and not have slasher film icon Chucky spring immediately to mind.

Introduced in 1988’s Child’s Play, Chucky began life as a just another Good Guys doll until serial killer—and voodoo practitioner—Charles Lee Ray, bleeding to death in the aisle of a store, transferred his soul into the toy. Soon after, single mother Karen Barclay buys the now-possessed doll for her son, Andy*, and gives Charles Lee Ray the opportunity to continue his murder spree, starting with the boy’s babysitter.

I have a particular soft spot for the Child’s Play films. Over the course of six films, the series gets increasingly campy and outlandish (see Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky especially) but once you’ve bought into the idea of a guy putting his soul into a toy thus transforming it into a living plastic killing machine, it’s really hard to pick nits, isn’t it?

The films are decidedly Rated R, which puts them outside direct influence for a Little Fears Nightmare Edition campaign but they do provide a great starting point for including evil dolls in your game. Charles Lee Ray could easily be a guy who was temporarily possessed by a monster that, seeing its host dying in a toy store, transferred itself to the nearest object: a child’s doll.

If you haven’t seen it, entries 2 and 5 are available on Netflix, and the whole set was recently released on Blu-Ray and DVD.

*A name shared with the boy from Toy Story, another film about a child whose toys come to life.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #2: The Island of Dolls

hblf, lfneJason L Blair29 October 2013

Ready for some real life nightmare fuel? The island of Xochimilco in Mexico is a massive testament to the notion that truth is stranger, and scarier, than fiction.

Once up a time, three little girls were playing on the island when one of them drowned. The girl’s body was discovered by a reclusive man named Julián Santana Barrera who tended one of the chinampas (floating gardens). Believing that the girl’s spirit, angered by her death, would haunt the island, the man began collecting lost and abandoned dolls that washed up in the canals or were found in the trash and hanging them from the trees around the island. Santana Barrera believed these dolls were still alive, though they had been forgotten by their families. In addition to appeasing the dead girl’s spirit, he believed the dolls came to life at night to kill predatory animals and helped the crops in his chinampa grow.

Santana Berrara passed away in 2001. One story goes the man drowned himself, having been driven mad by the island. Another goes that he was killed by the dolls. Who’s to say which is true.

The dolls are still on display, and visitors travel by boat to see them. For obvious reasons, guests are not allowed to visit at night.

While this place exists in our world, I can easily imagine this island appearing, in some form, inside Closetland. Perhaps these dolls are alive, as Santana Barrera believed, inhabited by spirits either human in origin or born from our own fears. Perhaps they are totems, hand-me-downs infused by the man’s own Belief? Many possibilities exist on the island of dolls.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #1: Thomas Edison’s Dolls

hblf, lfneJason L Blair28 October 2013

Thomas Edison is known for many things: inventing the phonograph, championing direct current, perfecting the incandescent light bulb, slandering George Westinghouse, killing an elephant as a spectacle (warning: video link). But did you know he also invented some really creepy dolls?

Released in 1890, Edison produced 2500 of these dolls, foreseeing them as must-have items for children. Unfortunately for him, only 500 of them were sold. And many were returned by customers unhappy with their purchase.

You see, unlike the other dolls available then, these dolls talked. A tinfoil phonograph, actuated by a wooden crank that played a fragile wax record, projected a high-pitched nursery rhyme. You had to crank the handle at the speed you wanted the doll to talk, but those phonograph machines were hard to turn so mostly the dolls sounded like possessed creatures screaming in terror.

You can see for yourself in the video below.

Only a dozen or so of these dolls are still in existence. The one above, about as bare bones as you can get, netted close to four grand. I can only imagine what a doll with mechanism, record, and full outfit would catch on the market.

I imagine some grandparents of Little Fears characters may have one of these stowed away in their attic, passed down to them from their mother who got it from their mother who got it from their mother. I wonder what would happen if one of those characters tried to use the doll today.

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Announcing Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween!

hblf, lfneJason L Blair21 October 2013

Last year, I ran a full (work-)week of updates here at LittleFears.com and the response was great. So I’ve decided to run another one starting next Monday, October 28th. Tune in then for the first of five updates, each dealing with this year’s theme: Creepy Dolls. A tried and true horror trope if ever there was one.

See you then!

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Halloweek #5! Inspiring Fear: Rule of Rose

hblf, lfneJason L Blair02 November 2012

The first I heard of the video game Rule of Rose was back in 2005 when I saw a strange little trailer announcing its impending release in Japan. This two-minute snippet gave no clue to the gameplay or, really, anything about the story. But the tone and music and glimpses of the story’s potential riled horror fans like me into a frenzy. Unfortunately, the game’s fate outside Japan was up in the air until Atlus announced that it would bring Rule of Rose to the States.

Of course I picked it up on day one.

Set in the 1930s, you play as nineteen-year old Jennifer, a girl whose parents were recently killed in an airship accident. We meet her on a bus traveling through the English countryside. After arriving at her destination, she glimpses a young boy who leads her down a trail. At the end of this trail, Jennifer finds an orphanage. Not one overseen by gentle caretakers though but ruled by three sinister adolescent girls who call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrats. It’s their leader, Diana, who tests Jennifer’s worth through a series of tasks that take her around the orphanage and put her in the path of animal-headed imps, a bound mermaid, and a dog named Brown who not only becomes her companion in the story but an ally in the game. We also meet Amanda, a disturbed girl shunned by the Aristocrats who is only happy Jennifer is there because that gives Diana and the rest someone else to hate. And then there are other kids, including the boy who led Jennifer to the orphanage in the first place, but let’s leave them for you to discover.

The chapters, which run from March to December, are introduced by crayon drawings that set each stage. The cinematics that play throughout are creepy and chilling and pitch perfect. As you endure Diana’s trials, you learn the true story behind the orphanage and its inhabitants, including the connection Jennifer has to the place—something the girl herself doesn’t realize.

I try to only shine light on inspiration you can find either in stores, on a streaming service, or in digital distribution. Unfortunately, Rule of Rose is long out of print. Sellers on Amazon Marketplace currently list it at over $100. You may be able to find a copy of ebay, in the used section of your local GameStop (or regional equivalent), or in a secondary market retailer. As these sorts of games are usually hoarded, you’ll likely have to pay a pretty penny. Or, if you’d rather skip the gameplay and only enjoy the story, playthroughs exist on YouTube and such.

Rule of Rose is not a great game but its atmosphere combined with the twisted world of the Aristocrats is perfect nightmare fuel for Little Fears. And if you doubt me, check out that trailer I mentioned earlier:

For those of you who wish to dig deeper, you can also check out this Rule of Rose Wiki.

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Halloweek #4! New Monster: Punkngutz

lfneJason L Blair01 November 2012

There’s all sorts of build-up to Halloween. Weeks of decorations at the store, parties in the schools, and whole neighborhoods taken over by the symbols of the season: vampire faces, witch ornaments, ghostly drapings over barren trees, and several patches’ worth of carved-up pumpkins on stoops and sidewalks. As with any holiday though, once the day comes and goes, it’s over. Especially Halloween in the States with Thanksgiving in a month and Christmas wrapping the last two months of the year in its brightly-colored bows.

So Halloween is left in the past. Every year. And every year there’s something that doesn’t wish to go so quietly into that goodnight. A spirit of the season that isn’t too keen on slipping into the bygones so some other celebration can steal its thunder. Oh no. There’s something left behind on All Souls Day that wants to live. And it can do just that if it finds enough victims, enough spirits to suck from the living so it doesn’t dry up and blow away.

And that something is called Punkngutz.

PUNKNGUTZ is a Regular Monster

Punkngutz happens whenever jack-o-lanterns are left to rot, lawn ornaments break and fall, and discarded candy wrappers are neglected after the Halloween festivities are over. This can be after a large office party or in the dumpster behind a fly-by-night outlet store but most often Punkngutz appears in neighborhoods the day after Halloween.

Punkngutz has no human-like form. It’s a mass of discarded junk held together by the rotten remains of jack-o-lanterns. It can form rudimentary hands and feet but is weak at fighting. It has the consistency of breakfast syrup studded with random bits and clings to victims. It’s not fast and it’s not tough but it latches on and doesn’t let go—giving it enough time to suck your soul from your body.

It is scary when it starts sticking all over you. It wants to never die.

Abilities
Fight: ØOOOOO
Chase: ØØOOOO
Grab: ØØØØOO
Scare: ØØØOOO

Virtues
Terror: 7
Health: 30

Qualities
It is a mass of slime, pumpkin parts, and Halloween decorations.
It can form anywhere.
It cannot get close to freezing cold.

Stuff
Slime Body ØØØ
   Icky Sticky (Grab +2)
   Soulsucker (Spirit -1)
Mish-Mash Parts ØØ
   Sharp Bits (+2 Damage)
Bad Smell ØØ
   Makes You Gag (-2 Think)

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Halloweek #3! Hand-Me-Down: The Goodie Bag

lfneJason L Blair31 October 2012

The Goodie Bag

This tattered canvas sack doesn’t look like the type of bag you’d want to have with you on All Hallow’s Eve, cramping that sweet costume you’re sporting, but looks can be very deceiving.

This goodie bag is about the size of a standard pillow case. It’s made of rough brown material that is slightly stained and faded by weather and time. But anything sweet placed inside it is multiplied by up to a factor ten. This turns one tiny fun-sized treat into a whole bunch of chocolate goodness. And this bag doesn’t seem to ever fill up! Add more and more candies, it always seems to make room. A big kid can stick his whole arm straight down into the bag and never touch bottom.

Careful you don’t overstuff yourself though. Sometimes the candy inside this bag takes a turn for the worse. Nougat will curdle. Nuts will go rotten. Sometimes caramel turns to blood. And more often than not, the abundance of sweets doesn’t sit well in your belly, making you queasy, lethargic, and sick. Still, most of the candy is just fine. Surely the occasional fingernail or rat tail in your candy is worth all this goodness.

Stuff Qualities
Turns a little bit of candy into a whole lot
Never gets full
Turns one out of every ten pieces into something horrible

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