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Inspiring Fear: Dust

hblf, lfneJason L Blair21 August 2014

I really don’t want to spoil anything by saying how this wonderful 7-minute short film starring Alan Rickman relates to Little Fears so please just trust me when I say it does.

Dust – Short film starring Alan Rickman & Jodie Whittaker from One Giant Production on Vimeo.

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Inspiring Fear: 25 Best Horror Books for Children

hblf, lfneJason L Blair14 July 2014

The folks at besthorrornovels.com have put together a great list of horror books for kids including The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki and Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for Little Fears inspiration.

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Inspiring Fear: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? – New DVDs!

hblf, lfneJason L Blair30 June 2014

As a huge fan of the series, this is amazing news: Amazon CreateSpace is bringing back Are You Afraid of the Dark? on DVD!

The first two seasons are currently available—for the ridiculously low price of $11.99. If there is one series I recommend for fans of Little Fears, it’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? It’s amazing television that I cannot oversell.

I scoured the secondary market to collect the original DVD releases that have been out of print for about ten years and paid about $40 back for each season, on average (and I got some *good* deals). Seeing them back in print, at such a low price, makes my heart sing. Do yourself a favor and pick these up:

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Inspiring Fear: SHHH

hblf, lfneJason L Blair25 February 2014

Guillermo del Toro has inspired many with his incredibly imaginative films. But a couple of filmmakers found their inspiration from Guillermo’s childhood fears. The result, an 11-minute film titled SHHH, is a wonderful source of inspiration for your own Little Fears episode. You can watch the movie in its entirety below, and check out the page I found it on over at FearNet.

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Inspiring Fear: “Scary Stories” Headed to the Big Screen

hblf, lfneJason L Blair09 December 2013

“Saw Writers Bring Your Little Fears to the Big Screen With ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’”

Don’t let that headline fool ya: It’s not talking about the game line.

It is talking about something that might be relevant to your interests though! Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, two of the guys behind the Saw franchise films are adapting Alvin Schwartz’s classic short story collections, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to the silver screen.

I own an omnibus edition of the three books and I adore it. If you haven’t read the tales, or haven’t for a while, I encourage you all to pick up a copy. It’s rife with Little Fears inspiration and the illustrations by Stephen Gammell are wondrously horrific.

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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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