Monthly Archives: October 2012

Three Halloween Horrors

Halloween goes hand-in-hand with great horror stories, so today I thought I might share the work of three of my own favorite scary scribes.  While three listings just scratches the surface, I hope the stuff you see below spurs you to consider some of your own favorites.  Feel free to share them in the comments section!

The Horror Stories Of Robert E. Howard / [editor, Rusty Burke] ; illustrated by Greg Staples — My two favorites from this collection include “The Touch of Death,” which I read at last year’s CLP Read to the People event to promote library awareness, and “Worms of the Earth,” a Bran Mak Morn tale that might just be the best thing Howard ever wrote.

Books Of Blood : Volumes One To Three / Clive Barker — English author Barker brings the pain in this collection of bloodcurdling tales, and “Midnight Meat Train” tops the list for this assemblage.  As an avowed proponent and user of public transit, this one really unsettled me.

At The Mountains Of Madness / H.P. Lovecraft — No tale better illustrates Lovecraft’s storytelling powers quite like this one.  The story is highlighted by this gorgeous Modern Library edition, whose cover features Michael Chabon’s ringing endorsement: “One of the greatest short novels in American literature, and a key text in my own understanding of what that literature can do.”

Now it’s your turn!  List a favorite scary novel or short story in the comments section–share the fear!

Thanks for reading!



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Arcangel’s AUDMCRS

A turntable, headphones, a pair of white gloves, and 839 cataloged record albums.

This Friday, a study table in our Music, Film & Audio department will become the home of an art installation entitled AUDMCRS Underground Dance Music Collection of Recorded Sound, a new work by Cory Arcangel.

Mr. Arcangel’s collection of trance and underground dance music is yours to peruse and listen to from November 2, 2012 through January 27, 2013, during the Carnegie Museum of Art’s exhibition, Cory Arcangel: Masters. Visit the Music, Film & Audio department during library hours, and one of our at-your-service librarians will gladly give you a tour.

Tina Kukielski, who moved to Pittsburgh to co-curate the 2013 Carnegie International, recently told me, “I insist on taking visiting participating artists on tours through the library because I love it. Cory, when he was here, was inspired!” She describes the exhibition in the following quote from the Museum’s web site.

Best known for his modified versions of obsolete video games, Arcangel employs readymade digital technology as his primary medium, bringing a playful hacker’s sensibility to critical modifications of pervasive pop-culture phenomena such as websites, YouTube videos, Hollywood films, music, and various other internet platforms. Cory Arcangel: Masters provides a focused survey of Arcangel’s practice in the form of predominantly time-based works and performances, which live as witty interventions into contemporary culture that expose ephemeral moments of modern life. The exhibition reflects the artist’s work since 2002, including the debut of a new installation in the neighboring Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main branch, and Selected Single Channel Videos, a performance by Arcangel.

“In the past decade, few artists have so successfully melded criticality with the sense of playful irreverence that pervades our modern do-it-yourself digital culture as Cory Arcangel,” says Kukielski. “We live in a technological world that combines ubiquity with rapid obsolescence. Some artists turn away from our oversaturated world, while Arcangel embraces the noise.”

Stop by and see/hear for yourself.



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When there’s something strange in the neighborhood…

About two weeks ago, I went on the Haunted Pittsburgh Ghost Tour of our fair Downtown. As we wandered from Market Square to First Ave. and up to the old County jail, the guide shared a fun mix of urban legends and ghost stories about our city. And of course, I came home wanting more information.

One of the more interesting tales we heard on the tour was about Kate Soffel and the Biddle brothers, Jack and Ed. In 1901, Jack and Ed were imprisoned on murder charges as part of the Chloroform Gang – a charming group of burglars who would chloroform their victims to gain entry to homes or businesses. During a robbery gone wrong, the owner of a grocery store was shot and killed. While waiting for their day to hang, Jack and Ed became friendly with the warden’s wife, Kate Soffel. She spent many an hour with the inmates trying to rehabilitate them by reading from the Bible. As these things tend to go, Kate and Ed became a little more than friends. She eventually helped them coordinate an escape, only for the authorities to catch up with them in Butler County. The men died from gunshot wounds and Kate was seriously injured. She was brought back to Pittsburgh, stood trial for her part in the plot, and served time in the very jail she helped the brothers escape. Since her death, she’s haunted the warden’s office of the old County jail. We have two non-circulating items at Main about this story for some further reading or you can visit Kate at her other favorite haunt – her post-prison home on Mount Washington is now the Shiloh Grill.


After talking about the tour with some co-workers, one mentioned the former Dixmont State Hospital. The psychiatric hospital opened in 1862 in Kilbuck Township and remained in operation until 1984. And like any state hospital worth its salt, the property is completely haunted. When the remaining buildings were torn down in 2006 to make way for a new Wal-Mart, so many issues happened during construction – namely massive landslides – that the property was abandoned.


The dorm I lived in for two years at college is very haunted. Hillside (originally the Ladies Hall and Music Conservatory) was constructed in 1885, making it one of the oldest buildings on campus. Plus, it was supposedly used as a hospital during WWI. Lots of potential there. Particularly in the left wing, dorm residents have reported hearing typing on their computer keyboards in the middle of the night, seeing doors opening and closing, and things flying off of walls in ways that defy physics. There is also a weird acoustic “dead spot” at the foot of the hill leading up to this dorm – if you can find the right location on the sidewalk, conversations with the person next to you become muffled and it’s even difficult to hear yourself talk.

Do you have any favorite local legends or ghost stories? Let us know and check out a few more in these books…

– Jess, who ain’t afraid of no ghosts


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Halloween Happenings @ Your Library!

Even though Wednesday, October 31st is the official 2012 trick or treat day in the Pittsburgh area, there are still a lot of pre-holiday festivities planned for those of you who want to squeeze in as much spookylicious funtime as possible before surrendering to  Christmas creep. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is pleased to offer an entire slate of pre-Halloween fun for all ages, so check out the following list of holiday programs, click the event links that interest you, and plan the next few days accordingly!

“Oh no! We forgot to go to the library!” From ClipArtPal

Friday, October 26th


Kids Create. Stop by after school to make a fun Halloween craft!

Downtown & Business

Dance of the Undead is a teen-themed program of amazing proportions, in conjucntion with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. It does require permission slips and pre-registration, so if zombie makeup, dance, and social media sound good to you, click the link and read carefully!

Saturday, October 27th


Halloween Storytime, for children ages 2 and up, accompanied by an adult. Spooky stories and trick-or-treating, costumes encouraged!


The Haunted Library, three rooms of unmitigated, family-friendly TERROR for ages 6 and up. Created and presented by Teen Think: Searching and Destroying Boredom at the Library since 2012.


The Halloween Fire and Ice Show. Did somebody say EXPLOSIONS? Mad Science of Pittsburgh presents fun, informative science demonstrations for all ages.


Celebrate Halloween. Pumpkins, candy, stories, and MagicMan T.J. Hill. For all ages, costumes encouraged!

Main Library

Created by LAV with MemeGenerator

Where to begin?

Mt. Washington

Kids Create. Make a spoooooky Halloween craft!


The Not-So-Scary Halloween Party features games treats, and the magic of Tom Jay.

South Side

Word on the street is, the Drop-In Craft is Halloween-themed. Check it out!

West End

School Age Fun: Book Adventures tackles Witches, Wizards, & other Things that Go Bump in the Night. Costumes encouraged!

Sunday, October 28th

Squirrel Hill

Didn’t get enough Hogwarts Halloween?  Do it all over again at Squirrel Hill!

Monday, October 29th


Celebrate: Halloween Party! Enjoy stories, games, prizes, and trick-or-treating. Pre-registration is required, and today (10/26/12) is the last day to register! Click the link for details.


Halloween Storytime, for children aged 6 and under, features stories, songs, and rhymes that are more fun than scary.

Tuesday, October 30th


Teen Halloween Tricks and Treats. Monster makeup, snacks, and a Halloween movie, all for teens.


Teen Fright Night Costume Party. The Teen Lounge transforms into a haunted extravaganza, complete with food and games. Costumes encouraged!


Aiieeee! It’s the return of The Haunted Library!


PreK Program: Halloween Storytime and Craft. A little silly, a little spooky, a lot of puppets! For children aged 2-6, with an accompanying adult. [Repeats at 11 a.m.]

Hill District

Teen Zone: Hook Up My Pumpkin! Teens in grades 6 through 12 are invited to the Teen Zone for games, crafts, movies, trivia, snacks, and other fun.

Main Library

Halloween Costume Party / Decorated Pumpkin Contest. Stories, songs, and a Halloween parade! If you like, bring a pumpkin you’ve decorated for the pumpkin contest. Costumes encouraged, but please, no masks. Pre-registration required–click link for details!

Woods Run

Don’t miss the Annual Halloween Bash, a costume-friendly haven for treats and fun activities. Also features the stylings of Mad Science of Pittsburgh.

And, as if all that weren’t enough, here’s what’s happening at the library on Halloween itself:


Monster Movie Mania. Enjoy classic monster movies of the 1930s on our big-screen TV. Popcorn provided!

Hill District

It’s Pumpkin Time! Enjoy stories, games, crafts, and a special treat.

Main Library

Teen Art Club: Wigs, Beards, and Mustaches. Still stumped for a costume? No worries – come make some appearance altering stuff out of paper and yarn.

West End

All-Ages Costume Contest. Dressing up for Halloween? Stop by West End branch, enjoy some candy, and enter to win a pumpkin prize.

Family Fun Halloween. Families, stop by before trick-or-treating for storytime and your first treat. Dress for the costume contest!

Horror Show Teen Lounge. Afterschool fun, with snacks, for middle, high, and homeschoolers.

Whew. That’s enough good times to make a wicked witch wander in search of warm wassail to wet her whistle. Hope we’ll see you at the library this Halloween season!

–Leigh Anne


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A Much Abridged History of Towns and Gowns

1908, Western University of Pennsylvania, now named University of Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy of the Library’s Pennsylvania Department)

I adore working in Oakland.  We have Phipps Conservatory. We have the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.We have Schenley Park, which possesses my favorite fountain.  We have tasty dining options (and the library isn’t bad either). It’s truly inspiring to come to work every day.

 A couple of other things that Oakland has: townies and gownies.  These two terms have been used since the middle ages to describe the residents and students in a particular area. Townies and gownies have lived side by side for ages, and the relationship has been a tumultuous one.

When western universities first began  in medieval Europe (Bologna, Paris, Oxford) they were formed under the Catholic Church, and students enjoyed some exemptions from local laws, courtesy  of the pope.  The students were considered minor clergy and as such wore gowns, hence the term “gownie.”  As you can imagine, this did not please the townspeople, especially because university students had a reputation for drinking and carousing.  These medieval students were not particularly fond of town merchants, who had a penchant for overcharging gownies for food and rent.

These tensions often boiled over.  In fact they boiled over so much that the University of Cambridge in England was founded in 1209 by “scholars seeking refuge from hostile townsmen in Oxford,” according to Cambridge’s own website.   Over one hundred years later in Oxford, sixty-three students and thirty townspeople died in the St. Scholastica Day Riot.  It began in a tavern, as students argued with the barkeep over the beer quality, or lack thereof.  A jug was smashed over the barkeep’s head.  A three-day riot ensued between townies and gownies.

Happily, Pittsburgh’s Oakland residents and students work hard to bridge the gap between them.  There’s the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, this group works with local universities and residents to improve the lives of all who live, work, and study in Oakland.  OPDC has an Oakland 2025 bold strategic plan that is worth a look.  The Oakland Business Improvement District is a group of business owners who work to maintain a vibrant commercial presence in the neighborhood. And the universities themselves do their best maintain a presence for good in the community, requiring volunteer hours of their students, investing in neighborhoods, and churning out graduates that help make Pittsburgh a well-educated city.  The Oakland student/resident relationship is not perfect, but it’s getting better as Pittsburgh works to improve all of its neighborhoods.  And hey, at least we’ve never had a St. Scholastica  Day Riot.

If you want to learn more about the history and evolution of Oakland, the library has you covered with books, and of course, Rick Sebak.



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Who else is waiting for the NHL lockout to be resolved?  Everyone, right?  Hockey season is getting a late start and it’s looking bleak for a full season this year.  Hopefully the league and the players can come to a consensus soon, but in the meantime here is a short list of things to do while we wait:

Public domain photo from the National Library of Canada and National Archives of Canada

  1. Play hockey.
  2. Read about hockey.
  3. Watch movies about hockey.
  4. Watch old hockey games.
  5. Come to the library!
  6. Eat.
  7. Learn to dance.
  8. Figure out what a lockout is, anyway.
  9. Scare yourself.
  10. Scare other people.

Any other ideas?



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Uphill, in the snow.

On February 21, 2011, we were hit by a record-setting unexpected snowfall. By the time I left work at 8 PM, there were at least seven inches of snow on the street leading to my house – certainly enough to render a Pittsburgh-grade hill impassable.

Since I couldn’t make it home, I retreated to the gas station at the foot of the hill and waited for the plows while sitting in my toasty car, listening to the news on the radio, and enjoying a gas-station-quality dinner. By 10:30 PM the plows still hadn’t arrived, so I decided to climb.

I was forced to improvise because I didn’t have my winter gear. I ended up wearing a towel, toting an umbrella, and crunching about in Mary Janes lined with plastic bags begged from the gas station. Half an hour later I was home, safe and sound and none the worse for wear, though slightly chilly and damp.

Uphill, in the snow, for half a mile. Hardcore.

This is the closest I have ever gotten or will ever get to mountain climbing. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to read about mountain climbing – especially when things go horribly wrong (after all, I Enjoy Unhappy Books). One particular event that fascinates me is the 1996 Everest expedition in which eight climbers died.


If you’ve heard about this expedition at all, it’s probably because of the bestselling book Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, by journalist Jon Krakauer. His book provides a pretty decent beginner’s history of Everest and discusses the commercialization of the mountain and its impact on the environment and local people – which is exactly what his sponsor, Outside magazine, sent him to do.

There’s also a lot of information about climbing techniques, equipment, and the logistics behind an Everest expedition, so even though the action doesn’t really start until about two-thirds of the way through the book (when Krakauer finally sets foot on the summit of Everest) you’ve learned so much along the way that the whole story up to this point (and what comes next) makes sense.

Krakauer’s criticism of the guides and leaders of the competing expeditions on the mountain spurred the writing of The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest, by Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston DeWalt. Boukreev was an experienced guide for a rival expedition, judged harshly by Krakauer and others for descending from the summit of Everest before his clients and climbing the mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen (which many considered extremely irresponsible for a paid guide). He did some amazing rescue work though, going back out into a raging blizzard on Everest multiple times to search for both his clients and clients from other expeditions.

For a slightly more detached view of events, try Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, the National Geographic companion book to the IMAX movie listed below. While the book is primarily about the filming of the movie, there are two chapters devoted to the events on the summit. Since most of the IMAX crew was in lower camps at the time, their perspective on the tragedy is entirely different, though no less immediate than Krakauer’s or Boukreev’s.

Before returning to the story of their own expedition, the movie crew offers a detailed analysis of the factors that led to the disaster, from inexperience and poor communications (not all of the guides carried radios – more understandable in the mid-90s but astonishing today) to the lack of a fixed turn-around time. And if you learn nothing else from these guys, you’ll learn that they’re not afraid to cry. There was a lot of crying down at the bottom of the mountain.

If that’s still not enough, here are two more books that I’ve uncovered but haven’t read yet: Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, by Beck Weathers (who climbed with Jon Krakauer, and lost his nose to frostbite) and Climbing High : a Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy by Lene Gammelgaard (who climbed with Anatoli Boukreev and still has her original nose).

Digression: Yes, this post is rather morbid. But it’s also a wonderful example of why it’s good to compare primary sources. There’s your library lesson for the day.


Everest is the IMAX movie filmed at the time of the disaster. According to the cover, you’ll “witness the perils of skin-blistering cold, violent blizzards that drop the windchill to minus 100 degrees, and air so thin it numbs the mind.” I watched this one while nestled on the couch in a fleece blanket with a couple of purry cats. That kind of takes the edge off.

Everest: The Death Zone is a 1998 Nova special that documents the effects of cold and altitude on climbers and how it can really wreck a person’s decision-making abilities. It also uses the phrase “corpse-strewn” on the back of the box, so squeamish viewers should beware. (Also, I now regret doing a Google image search for “Everest corpses.” It was very educational, but… yeah. I won’t be giving you a link for that.)

Storm Over Everest, a 2007 episode of Frontline, is a collection of interviews that David Breashears (of the IMAX team) conducted with the climbers and Sherpas of the 1996 expeditions. The companion website has a clip from the show, and a really nifty interactive map/timeline thingy.

– Amy, who really should stop complaining about her chilly office


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I’m not a Halloween fan in the least–come to think of it, I’m not a holiday fan at all. But since it’s nearing All Hallows Eve, I thought this post might create the appropriate atmosphere for the cold and dark season ahead.

My favorite scary stories are not the usual horror books about serial killers hidden somewhere in the house on a dark and stormy night with their horrifyingly graphic descriptions; you can read true crime that is scarier. But I do enjoy ghost stories, always have, even though they usually scare me to death. Here are my favorites.

  The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons. Stephen King put this on his list of best horror novels; I’m not a King reader (I could not finish The Shining, even in daytime, because I was just too scared). But unlike your typical haunted house story, this house is a newly-built house, not an ancient castle or creepy Victorian mansion. Nothing but tragedy touches the lives of the three different families who occupy the new house next door to Colquitt & Walter Kennedy and, as the horrors escalate, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Set in 1960s suburban Atlanta, this book grabbed me from beginning to end and I’ve re-read it several times since. Note: this is Siddons’ only horror novel; she usually writes genteel Southern fiction.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. A close friend of Charles Dickens, Collins wrote sensational fiction (a combination of mystery and suspense) and this is considered by many to be among the first mystery novels. A young art teacher, Walter Hartright, traveling to meet his new students, encounters a strange and mysterious woman in a graveyard dressed in white. When he tells his students, the Fairlie sisters, of his vision, he discovers they may have some connection and together they set out to solve the mystery.

  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I once took a film class in college and we watched Deborah Kerr in The Innocents, based on James’ eerie novella.  A lonely governess is employed by a wealthy man to take care of his niece and nephew in the isolated English countryside with the stipulation that she not bother him at all no matter what situations may occur. The children, Miles and Flora, seem to have been traumatized by the illicit behavior of the former governess and her lover, but her time there is spent keeping the children (and herself) safe from their presence of evil. Is it all in her head or are there really ghosts?

Julian’s House by Judith Hawkes. A newly married couple, professional parapsychologists, move into a Victorian mansion to  document supernatural sightings. What they don’t expect is that the hauntings will eerily coincide with their own fears and feelings, causing them to question themselves and their marriage. I enjoyed the descriptions of the field of parapsychology as well as the actual story.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. In 1972 Amsterdam, a teenage girl lives with her father, a history professor.  One day he disappears and, in her search for him, she discovers that he was engaged in the research (on vampires) of his former professor and mentor, who also mysteriously disappeared nearly twenty years before. In suspenseful and elegant language, Kostova takes you on a whirlwind search for truth amid a legend of horror and evil told in three time periods, across Eastern Europe, all in the quest for Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula. This book will be enjoyed by lovers of both literature and history, specifically the history of Dracula.

~Maria, who is already longing for spring and summer, seasons of light!


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The Glorious Surprise (of something that sounds horrible but is fantastic)

Terry Pratchett  is a fantastic writer. I feel I have to put that out there before I say what kinds of books he writes. I guess they could be described as “comic fantasy” novels. Sounds dreadful, I know. And it COULD be! If it weren’t done WELL, it could be painful to read, but luckily for us, Pratchett is a really good writer. And the kind of stories he tells may have weird settings or characters (or “nomes,” trolls, orcs, elves and any number of other crazy fantasy creatures) but there is also some amazing humor, heart-touching humanity, something approaching a kind of theology, social and political critique, and – of course – really good stories.

Even though Pratchett is probably best known for his Discworld series of books (which are excellent, by the way) I’m interested in telling you, dear Eleventh Stack blog reader, about The Bromeliad Trilogy. These are three novels (Truckers, Diggers and Wings) that Pratchett wrote for a YA audience that are as accessible for older folks as they might be for younger folks.  Yes, the book is about nomes, and yes, some of these nomes live in a department store for a time  (see…describing it sounds kind of dreadful!) but the overarching ideas of discovery, of attempting to come to grips with the nature of belief and the evolution of those beliefs, and the conflicts of having to come to grips with all of this while dealing with other people are also present and are excellently discussed. In addition, it’s funny. It’s REALLY funny. And it’s a good story. It’s a REALLY good story.

Pratchett is one of our finest living authors. He’s willing to tell stories beautifully and include weird, crazy characters, but it’s no less interesting or readable for it. In fact, it’s probably more interesting and readable for it.



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Remembering George C. Scott On His Birthday

Renowned American actor George Campbell Scott was born this day in 1927, and while he passed away on September 22, 1999, he lives on through his many excellent works in theater and film.  I’ll take the occasion of Mr. Scott’s birthday to highlight a few of my favorites.

A Christmas Carol — I’ve posted before on this blog and in other forums that George C. Scott’s Scrooge stands as my favorite film or theater adaption of the character.  The whole movie is a joy to watch, and perfect viewing for the coming holiday season.

Dr. Strangelove, Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb — What do you get when you combine a mega-talent like Mr. Scott with an all-time-great director like Stanley Kubrick?  Only one of the best and weirdest anti-war movies ever made!

Patton — This amazing bio-pic takes more than a few liberties with history, but Mr. Scott delivers an Oscar-winning performance as American general George S. Patton.

So, got a favorite George C. Scott performance you want to share?

Sound off!


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