3 Salem ‘Witches’ for Halloween

I know it has been quite a while – I’ve been otherwise engaged – but I thought I might pop back into the person blog to talk a bit about something near and dear to my heart: Halloween costumes.

I know that mocking each year’s crop Halloween costumes for the most absurd abuse of the the term “sexy” is a pretty standard internet trope, but I thought I might look at things from a much narrower focus – the Salem Witch Trials.

We’ve been doing a bit of window-shopping online (screen shopping? browsing?) for a Halloween costume for the homunculus (she either wants to be a pink fairy or a princess, but not a silly princess, or some sort of flying elf that isn’t mean) and I spotted a costume labeled “Salem Witch”, which is a rather specific designation, since as readers of the Arkham Gazette know, there are a lot more witches than just Salem’s bunch.  In fact I managed to track down, on a site that caters more towards adults (i.e. costumes are a side business to lingerie sales; links below might be NSFW depending on your employer), at least 3 costumes marketed as “Salem Witch”.  Now, I understand that giving costumes a distinctive tag is necessary (they have 106 items that pop up under a search for “witch”) so I’m not surprised that the most famous incident connected to witchcraft in American history might get used to differentiate ones witch costume from a “sexy vintage witch” (a strapless black pencil-skirt with matching hat and gloves) or a “wicked candy corn witch” (a micro-skirted orange, white, and black dirndl; mini witch hat and thigh-high stockings are included).

Here are our three “Salem Witches”:


Salem Witch Costume (2015)

Conjure up some magic in this Salem Witch costume featuring a black dress with long draping sleeves, a gathered bust, gold button accents, an attached hood, and an asymmetrical tattered hem. (Pantyhose not included.)

While the idea that Puritans wore black clothes is a myth, I am also quite certain that skirt lengths above the knee did not come into vogue until the 20th century, at least as outerwear.  Additionally, the cobwebbed hose, silver buttons, and hood worn by the model might have violated several ruling from the Massachusetts General Court regarding the less wealthy wearing clothing that was too ostentatious – you had to prove you had a worth of at least £200 to get away with such extravagance.  I almost suspect they had a box of   “black hooded robe costumes” and just slashed off the bottom portion of the skirt, though why this one cost $20 more is still a mystery…


Salem Witch Costume (2016)

You’ll be causing double the trouble in this sexy Salem Witch costume featuring a long purple dress with attached brown vest and pointed witch hat. (Broom not included.)

This is actually closer to what someone might have worn in 1692, assuming we overlook the curious inclusion of a strap that exists solely to cinch up the skirt.  This might be useful to a cartoon rabbit hoping to suddenly stop traffic, but less so among the muddy lanes of colonial Salem.

Our hypothetical witch would probably have worn a bonnet or flat-topped hat called a capotain.  The pointy “witch-hat” is an invention of 18th century illustrators looking for a convenient short-hand to tell the viewer that the lady in question (it is always a lady, remember) is a witch.

salem_witch_bloodyBlood-stained Salem Witch Costume

Cast an everlasting curse on the town with this Bloodstained Salem Witch costume that features a tattered full length dress, white bloodstained collar, “Salem” printed apron, witch hat with buckle and vinyl noose. (Makeup not included).

We’ve got another faux-Puritan look here, with the imagined black and white outfit and a superfluous (and anachronistic buckle).  For reasons that elude me, the costume makers also included blood splatters, a bloody hand print, and, perhaps for the sake of perplexed time-travelers, added the words “Salem 1692” in blood on her apron.

I give this costume points, however, for the inclusion of a noose, since so many people persist in thinking witches in New England were executed by being burned.  I wouldn’t personally walk around wearing a noose, but I’m probably not the target audience for this costume.

(Actually, I should point out I cannot find any mens’ “witch” costumes – there are dark sorcerers, wizards, and even a few warlocks, but not witches.  I guess my plan to go as Giles Corey just won’t pan out.)

Finally, there is one more “Salem Witch” item- the Salem Wedge Pump:


I’m pretty sure no one in Salem was wearing these.

Sammons, Submissions, and a plea to John Crowe.

Reiterpistolelefthand” by Memecry2 – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

There has been a new episode of the Miskatonic University podcast.  This time their guest is Brian Sammons, who talks about a number of upcoming projects – editing World War Cthulhu (a fiction anthology), the scenario collection Doors to Darkness, and his campaign A Time to Harvest (about which he says very little, but consider my interest piqued).  I kind of wished they had asked about his work in the 7th Ed revamp of Arkham Unveiled, but I suppose that will come eventually…  They also talk about guns (auto-fire, shotguns, and ‘howdah pistols’ specifically) but, inexplicably, don’t mention Sixtystone’s outstanding Investigator Weapons vol. 1.  I guess I know what I’m getting them for Christmas…

Protodimension magazine still needs submissions for its next issue.  This is something I am particularly attuned to working on the Arkham Gazette; I’m checking my folder of half baked ideas seeing if I have something they might find useful.

After some discussion here in our comments section, I’ve decided to lower my pledge (temporarily) for Pagan’s Horrors of War scenario collection Kickstarter to $1 to show my support for a PDF release of the book.  I may not work, but I truly do think the lack of a PDF option is holding the project (which I have been eagerly awaiting for many years now) back.  (For example, the Feng-Shui 2 Kickstarter, which I’m sure is a fine game but one I am utterly indifferent to despite Robin Laws all but leaping from my iPhone and insisting I buy a copy, has hit $30,000 in under 24 hours.  Golden Goblin Press’ Horrore Cosmico Kickstarter is closing on $17,000 after less than a week.  Please John Crowe, reconsider a PDF option.)

(CoC) 7th Edition Blues

Disclaimer- What I say on my blog reflects my opinion only and does not necessarily represent any website I volunteer at or company I have worked for.

As I suspect everyone reading this blog is aware, Chaosium has embarked on the revamping of the Call of Cthulhu rules, with a rapidly ballooning Kickstarter raking in now over $200k.  There has been a lot of passionate debate about what to change or not change when it comes to the 7th edition… a debate that I can’t much interest in.

I’ve never had much interest in the nitty gritty of RPG rules.  My interests are in telling a story and having an entertaining time, not worrying about bell-curve distributions or challenge ratings or damage per second ratios.  Call of Cthulhu has always worked well for me because I rarely had to look at the rules.  I played a lot of different systems in my youth, when I had more time and knew more people who were gaming but CoC is the only system I really taught myself (save perhaps Red Box D&D but that is a different story).  In short, it is easy to use and does everything I need a rule system to do.

It seems like 7th edition will not be a wholesale overhaul of the CoC ruleset but it does sound like there will be mechanical and cosmetic changes.  Others have covered these details better than I can recap, but I wanted to comment generally on my, well, I guess you’d call it fatigue at the thought of a new edition.

I am not fundamentally opposed to adjustments to the rule set and I certainly acknowledge that the CoC ruleset is not perfect – the tome rules are kludgey, know one understands how dodge and parry work, etc.  Additionally most of the rule changes are treated as optional, so I suspect if there is something I truly hate, I don’t have to use it in my game.

Please allow me to indulge in a metaphor- CoC is a Toyota Corolla.  Reliable, dependable, easy to operate… high millage perhaps, but still running well.  The 7th edition seems like someone trying to sell me a new car.  You can talk up the features, but I’m reluctant to give up something that I know works for something that might blow a rod ten miles down the road.  I mean no disrespect to Paul Fricker and Mike Mason or to the playtesters involved in the process.  I’m just not sure that the car really need more than an oil change.

I’ve never been one for rule systems.  I understand the utility of having an agreed method of conflict resolution but I cannot understand the passions that ‘Edition Wars’ unleash.  I’ve had fun playing a lot of games that had less than optimal combat systems, unbalanced character creation rules, etc.  I don’t understand how people get quite so agitated over these things.

Finally, I also worry about Chaosium.  They’re the car dealer in this case, but not the manufacturer and it shows.  The Kickstarter for 7th Ed. has been rather… bumpy and I wonder how much direction they will provide to this change once the new edition is released.  I hope that their goal is to improve the game and not simply cash in on the likely profits from all those shiny new rulebooks (and reprints updating old books to the new rules.)

That is probably enough for now.  I hope to have another post soon.

Pseudoarchaeology, ‘America Unearthed’, and b-s for profit

My research for the “Arkham Gazette” (still looking for a new name, btw…) has led me to some strange corners of pseudo-archaeology, from Great Ireland and Carl Rafn to NEARA and the Upton Chamber. Most, if not all of it, is total bunk. Fortunately for my purposes (those of writing for a game that is happy to mix and match fact and fiction for the sake of a story) bunk is just fine, since hopefully no one is ever going to read one of my scenarios and mistake the cults and creatures I write about for reality. While I have a high tolerance for bunk, I have a much lower acceptance of bullshit, and that is exactly what the folks behind America Unearthed have been trying to pass off as real history.

Perhaps I should not flip on any tv show that bears the hint of Fortean content; I’ve seen far too many Sasquatch hunts,”close” encounters, EVP pareidolia, and this idiot. Usually there is always some sop to the fact that the show is mostly conjecture… at best.

America Unearthed, which airs on the ‘History’ channel give us Scott Wolter, a Minnesota geologist whom the network compares favorable to Indiana Jones. If they mean to say he’s ridiculous and improbable, like Dr. Jones flying through the air in a refrigerator to escape an atomic explosion, I might buy that. In the typical episode they take some long-discredited pseudo-archaeological find, say the Newport Tower or the Bat Creek Inscription, make some highly spurious connections to a popular conspiracy theory, say the Templars or Atlantis, interview some crackpot or true-believer type, mash it all together with some quick cuts and splashy graphics, and wrap the whole illogical contortion of fact with a sweeping overstatement of the case. Yes, it is that bad.

I neither have the time nor interest to debunk the show episode by episode; I’ll leave that to the experts. Writer (and Lovecraft enthusiast) Jason Colavito has done just that on blog – JasonColativo.com. He’s even published a book on the topic. It is really a fun read, especially when you realize how far the folks behind American Unearthed had to work to ignore reality in order to put their bogus program together.

If nothing else, Keepers running a Cthulhu Now or Delta Green game can take inspiration from both America Unearthed and its primary debunker; while PhenomX might be gone, I’m sure there are plenty of programs to carry on its legacy.