Worm Ethical

"Martin Smith does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations." —A disclosure, standard for its publication, on a story titled "The world’s weirdest creature finds descendants in cuddly velvet worms," about '[a] 500-million-year-old 'worm with legs.'"


Monsters I Have Been: A Lifetime In Five Halloween Disguises

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

With its crisp autumn weather and golden piles of leaves and the smell of fireplace smoke on city streets, Halloween is the best time of year. Staggering beneath great stacks of costume boxes, UPS deliverymen maneuver through mazes of foam tombstones and doorways crowded with organic heirloom jack o' lanterns. Even the seasonal aisles at the corner chain drug store are worth lingering over this time of year, in a way nobody dawdles around the Eastertime merchandise or inflatable lawn pools of summer. Even the shabby costume superstore that appears for six weeks within some [...]


Portrait Of A Witch

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

My grandmother was a witch: a species of santera from Havana, to be more exact. Not like she was decapitating chickens all over the place or anything, but she did speak in tongues and believe in demons, and in hell and especially, in the Devil, who held a good deal more sway over her beliefs and activities than God or Jesus ever did, as it still seems to me. Only now do I see the intensity of her superstitions, her prayers and novenas, her gloomy foretelling of the future, her brooding certainty about every damn [...]


Creepy New Orleans Ghost Stories That Were A Lot Scarier At The Time

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

What makes for a very scary story? It helps to be a child when you're hearing the tale, because you're already terrified of everything after dark. It's also a good idea to be at home alone while you're reading, so that every burp of the water pipes or cough from the weird neighbor in the next apartment sounds like the foretelling of your horrifically slow murder at the hands of THE DERELICT CLOWN. This is due to the power of The Devil, who creates suspense.

Without suspense, the glaring holes in most ghost stories become [...]


How To Be A Monster: Life Lessons From Lord Byron

In 1816, a young doctor named John Polidori was offered the position as traveling physician to George Gordon, Lord Byron. Polidori was saturnine, caustic, ambitious, well-educated and handsome. He had graduated from medical school at 19 (as unusual then as now) and this offer came not a year later. Over the objections of his family, he accepted. Polidori had literary ambitions; here was an amazingly famous poet asking him to join him on a tour of the Continent. It must have felt like fate was tugging him along. In confirmation of how well things were going, a publisher offered him 500 pounds to keep a diary of his travels with [...]


The Fantastic Outer-Space Tale Of The Flatwoods Monster

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

I fed myself a steady diet of the paranormal growing up, in between all the comic books and all the television. The enthusiasm does tend to wane the further away from childhood you get, but it never really goes away. I grew up hoping, believing, that the world was weirder than the grown-ups would tell you. And I liked it that way. It helped that I grew up in West Virginia, where you're never too far from the woods or a mountain or a swamp, places for mysterious things to hide and then jump out [...]


The Monsters Of Classic Hollywood

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

An incomplete survey of actual and arguable monsters, broadly defined, from Classic Hollywood. Here are a dozen that haunt my dreams—feel free to add your own.


Film: Rebecca (1940) Monstrous Deed(s): Obsessed with Maxim’s (Laurence Olivier’s) now-deceased first wife, refuses to allow second wife (vulnerable, doe-eyed Joan Fontaine) to be happy/have peace/realize that Maxim loves her. Ever. Encourages suicide; tricks Joan Fontaine into making a fool of herself; lots of piercing, vacant stares. Monstrous Quote: "I watched you go down just as I watched her a year [...]


We, The People, Against The Zombies

The first in a series about monsters happening here through Halloween.

As usual, Tina Belcher put it best: "I'm not a zombiephile. I have a complicated relationship with zombies." Over the last decade, the pop-culture status of the undead has moved from "niche obsession" to "passé," inasmuch as a type of monster can be passé. Admit to an interest in certain quarters and you might as well be wearing a t-shirt that says, "Hi, I'm three years behind the times." Then there's the question of why so many zombie stories have been unleashed in the past few years: Why do so many of the undead walk among us [...]


A Guide to the Spooky Scary Secret Monsters of Every State

Here you will find a field-guide to the werewolves, lake monsters, vampires, swamp people, and space brains that populate these 50 states. Because here there be monsters—and over there, too. In fact, there be monsters in just about every state, except for Delaware and Kansas (maybe). Some states have an embarrassment of monsters to choose from (and in the case of Florida… well!), but, with a couple exceptions, I tried to confine this guide to just one monster per state. My credentials: enormous amounts of time spent as a kid in the library, ingesting every book about UFOs, the paranormal, cryptozoology, haunted houses and every other piece of “X-Files” plot [...]


The Eternal Life Of 'Twilight' In Forks, Washington

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

On the same road trip where I photographed Roswell and Area 51, I also spent a couple days in Forks, Washington, the setting of the Twilight series. Forks is a small town, about 3,500 people, and the chief industry is timber. Along the main road that runs through town every few vehicles that passes will include a truck carrying freshly cut trees from logging areas. One day, I went on a ride-along with one of those truckers who showed me where they did some of the logging. It was funny to [...]


"Earthlings Welcome": A Photo Journey Through Roswell And Area 51

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

This spring, while traveling cross country, I spent a few days exploring the alien culture of Roswell, New Mexico, and Rachel, Nevada, aka Area 51. I visited museums, alien-themed restaurants, and truck stops, and then made a stop at the "black mailbox" on Nevada SR-375. I didn't come across anything extraterrestrial but I did get couple great coffee mugs and some photos.