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Talking Pictures: Haunting Photos of the Dead

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Growing up, I collected pictures of people I didn't know. I lived in South Florida, the land of junk stores, garage sales and big-tent flea markets, and if I didn’t try hard to avoid these places I would invariably be dragged to at least one a month, where amidst endless dusty aisles of sock monkeys and needlepoint portraits I found boxes of yellowing snapshots, discarded by old folks who had died or children who hadn’t seen fit to save them. It was in one such box that I found a photo of a teenage girl who I thought looked a bit like a friend of mine. It came sealed in a little cardboard frame. There was something about it that I really liked, so I bought it and stood it on a bookshelf in my room. This is it:

Eventually I needed the shelf space for books, so I decided to put the girl's picture, along with a few other old snapshots I'd collected, into an album. To fit the girl's picture in the album, I had to take it out of its frame. When I did, I found this written on the back:

That's when I realized that for the better part of a year, a dead person had been staring down at me from a shelf above my bed. In the back of my mind, I suppose I'd known she was dead all along -- it was an old picture, after all -- but the fact that she had probably died soon after the photo was taken disturbed me profoundly. She was no longer anonymous. Now she had a name: Dorothy. And suddenly I found myself grieving, in a small, quiet way, for a forgotten person, my own age, whose own family had probably not thought of her in decades. Smiling and doomed, Dorothy haunted me for some time.

Like Dorothy, all the photos in this week's column are of, or about, the dead. While most aren't terribly graphic, I'd advise sensitive readers to move on -- or check out last week's column, Love and Marriage, instead. I'm posting these with minimal commentary; they're powerful enough on their own.

Roy + Polly Adams
Butcher at local market

They were traveling by auto up the east coast of Florida at night. Had a flat tire and pulled onto the shoulder to change it. They were hit by another auto from behind and Polly’s leg was crushed. Later amputated but gangrene had set in and she could not be saved.

Mama + Grace -- 1953
Where Daddy was killed

Honey this is my mother's grave and I just wanted you to see it ok
love Ruth


darling little nephew
wish he was ours
Died July 1934

Boy pushed off the bridge over Schuylkill + drowned. I buried him. His mother is nearly distracted. She lives at 1306 Ellsworth Street. Her name is Mrs. Mowatt.

Jack Mord from the Thanatos Archive found the photo above, and also dug up an excerpt about it from the book Violent Death in the City:

The same jury finally managed to ignore a bill for murder brought against ten year old Frank Dougherty, perhaps because he was rushed before them in convulsions, a reaction to confinement without bail in Moyamensing Prison. He was accused of having pushed another ten year old, Nelson Mowatt, off the banks of the Schuylkill nearly a year earlier, on August 23, 1899. At that time an inquest had cleared him, partly because Mowatt's mother testified that the incident was accidental. The woman had since changed her mind and come to believe that Frank had killed her son out of rivalry for the affections of her employer, Henry Magilton, a kindly old gentleman who was wont to shower the boys with mandolins and bicycles.

This is not exactly a picture you would want to show to everyone but had one made for each of you, as I thought you’d like to have it as it is the last one we ever had made together. I’ll always be grateful for that 2 weeks alone at Desert Hot Springs as it seemed to mean so much to him. He seemed perfectly content and happy.

Around our anniversary (awful) 1951

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entertainment
10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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IFC Films

In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

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Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

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In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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Space
NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
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Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images

If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]

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