Tag Archives: Appalachia

Appalachian Autumn

As the cool evenings settle in for a proper Southwestern Pennsylvania autumn, thoughts often turn to the horror end of the spectrum. As a full disclaimer, I’m not a horror guy. I like some stuff a WHOLE lot, though. For example, Night of the Living Dead stands as one of the best films of all time to me. Also, Carnival of Souls is a fantastically strange, oddly dreamlike horror movie from 1962. They are both available on one DVD for your convenience! Likewise, the original 1963 version of The Haunting is all but unmatched in atmosphere and tension. That film is mind-blowingly good.

Movies are cool and all, but where my interest really lies might be closer to explorations of the cryptozoological kind. One of my favorite cryptozoological/mythical creatures has to be the Mothman. Having roots in the Appalachian region (and I don’t need to remind you that Pittsburgh is the Paris of Appalachia) , the Mothman is a very interesting creature. Some say he is a harbinger of disaster, some that he is the result of ecological catastrophe. Still others look at him as another little-known mountain monster.  One of the best places to get more information is Donnie Sergent’s book Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend. This book cobbles together facsimiles of the handwritten eyewitness reports, along with news clippings to illustrate a very thorough picture of what the Mothman is all about.

If the cryptozoological isn’t your cup of tea, I would point you in the direction of some excellent fiction by the Appalachian writer Manly Wade Wellman. His collection of short stories Valley So Low: Southern Mountain Stories is a fantastic collection of creepy, interesting, engaging, well written horror. His style struck me as being one that gives enough to create the scene, to illustrate what the reader needs, but I didn’t feel overly burdened with description or setting. Rather, Wellman uses his considerable skill to give the reader what they need and point them in the direction he wishes them to go. He knows when to back off and when to push the reader to a particular spot. Filled with stories of forbidden knowledge, strange creatures, and off-putting half-forgotten places in the mountains, Wellman puts together a fantastically odd, weird, (and at the risk of repeating myself…but I just can’t help it) CREEPY collection that is worth curling up with on a cool autumn night.

There you have it, dear Eleventh Stack reader! A few classic horror films of note and two thoroughly Appalachian sources for some Autumnal creepiness! Enjoy!

Eric – who is gearing up on blankets and tea for cool nights spent reading with the cats

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Is your grass blue?

I love bluegrass. The first memory I have of seeing live music is of being at a bluegrass festival with my family. I was VERY young, but I loved it. I’ve always had a soft spot for this music and over the years I’ve listened to more and more. We’re lucky here in Pittsburgh (and thanks to the web, the rest of the world is lucky, too!) that we can listen to the brilliant Bruce Mountjoy play some of the best bluegrass every Sunday night on WYEP.

imagesOne of my all-time favorite bluegrass artists is Hazel Dickens. She has one of the most distinctive vocal styles ever and her songwriting and playing is fantastic. Her work with Alice Gerrard remains some of the best the bluegrass world has to offer. The Smithsonian-Folkways collection Pioneering Women of Bluegrass is nothing short of BRILLIANT.

An artist that I knew while growing up as a mainstream country artist who indeed got his start in bluegrass is Ricky Skaggs. His early recordings are terrific bluegrass, but he shifted to a more mainstream country sound for a while.In 1997 he came back to genre of bluegrass with the FANTASTIC record Bluegrass Rules! I highly recommend it!


A new tradition here in Pittsburgh, the so-called Paris of Appalachia, is Bluegrass Day at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. It’s a whole day of free bluegrass music in Point State Park. Two years ago we got to see Del McCoury headline (which was fantastic) and this past year we were treated to see a living legend in the bluegrass world, the amazing Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys.  Ralph Stanley, aside from having one of the best voices in bluegrass, and keeping the “high lonesome” vocal style alive, is also one of the people literally responsible for bluegrass sounding the way it does! It’s not often that you get to see such a pivotal performer…someone who helped define a genre from the very beginning.Can’t You Hear the Mountains Calling is a great collection. Also, his autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow is an excellent read.


There you have it, dear Eleventh Stack reader! Enjoy the summer and some excellent bluegrass music!

– Eric  (who is listening to lots of bluegrass, and trying to figure out how to get a banjo)


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