Friday, October 26, 2007

The Ghostly Mr. Baum

Did Baum have a knack for ghost stories? Maybe not, but here are two tales of the supernatural affecting everyday life from the Original Royal Historian of Oz...

Who Called "Perry?"

It was nearly midnight when I boarded the train, and, entering the chair car, prepared to doze during the hours of my journey. "Call me at Perry," I said to the conductor as I surrendered my ticket, for I may be asleep."

He promised, and I settled myself comfortably for my nap.

I don't know how long I had slept, when some one shook me by the shoulder and shouted, "Perry!"

Opening my eyes I found the train was slowing up, and presently it came to a full stop. "Perry!" again shouted the voice in my ear. This time I sprang to my feet, seized my valise and stepped from the car to the platform just as the train glided away up the track.

I turned to look for the town and found myself confronted by a station agent holding a lantern.

"In which direction is the town?" I asked.

"Town!" he answered in surprise; "there's no town here."

"Isn't this Perry?"

"No, this is Head's Crossing. Perry is twenty miles further on."

"But the conductor," I said, angry at my misadventure, "called Perry, and so I left the car. I shall report him to the superintendent."

"The conductor was in the front car ," replied the man, "and you stepped from the rear car. He could not possibly have called you."

"But some one shouted, 'Perry!'"

The agent looked at me incredulously, and said nothing.

"Is there another train?" I asked.

"Not until morning,"

"Where can I sleep?"

"I'll give you the cot in my office, if you like. The station is the only building within miles."

Rather ungraciously, I fear, I accepted his hospitality; but the cot was hard and I was too much annoyed to sleep, so I tossed about until suddenly the agent, who was at the telegraph key, startled me by exclaiming

"Good God!"

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"No. 16 has gone through the bridge at Coon Rapids, and the whole train is lying twenty feet under water!"

No. 16 was the train I had left to spend the night at Head's Crossing.

My Ruby Wedding Ring

The Inn at Loudre was very disagreeable. The odor of garlic and cabbage and the dampness and dirt were unsupportable, and so I decided to push on to Danvers. The only vehicle I could procure was a rattling two seated gig drawn by a bony white horse of doubtful ability, but as my destination was only three hours away and I was not liable to meet any one on the lonely road I started off cheerfully enough, resolved to enjoy my solitary drive to the utmost.

The moonlight as it glinted on the soft green of the hedges and streaked the gray of the dusty road was very beautiful, and before half a league had been passed over I heartily congratulated myself upon good fortune in escaping the horrible inn at Loudre.

After an hour's dreamy and delightful ride I came to a crossroads where with difficulty I deciphered the battered signpost and learned I must turn to the left to reach Danvers. So, clucking up my deliberate steed, who proceeded in a half dignified, half protesting fashion, I turned into a grassy lane between two tall hedges and drove through a lonely district until the dreamy influence of the night overcame me and I drifted into a somnolent state midway between sleep and waking.

I was aroused by the sudden halting of my horse, who gave a frightened snort and planted both feet firmly before him.

A subdued sobbing, as of a woman in distress, fell upon my ears, and leaning forward, I peered into the moonlight to discover whence it came.

A high brick wall ran close to the roadway, covered with ivy and lichens, and leaning against an angle of this, a few steps before me, was a slight, girlish form draped in a black mantle.

I sprang to the ground and softly approached her. Her face was buried in her hands, and she sobbed bitterly.

"Mademoiselle," I said, speaking in French, "You are in trouble. Can I assist you in any way?"

She lifted her head, and the moonlight fell upon the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Absolutely faultless in feature, it was surmounted by a crown of yellow hair that shone like gold in the glare of the moonbeams, while a pair of deep violet eyes that even tears could not dim looked earnestly into mine.

"Who are you?" I asked gently, "and why are you here?"

"I am Amelie de Boursons, monsieur, and I reside at the chateau just within these gates."

The soft, musical notes of her voice added to the powerful impression her exquisite beauty had already produced upon my heart.

"But it is late," I continued. "Surely some great misfortune must have befallen you to bring you here at this hour."

"It is true, monsieur," she replied, struggling with a new paroxysm of grief. "Tomorrow is my wedding day."

"But is that so terrible an event?" I asked.

"If you but knew, monsieur," she said, "how vile and brutal is the man they are forcing me to marry, you would willingly save me from my horrible fate."

She accompanied these words with an appealing look into my face, then she dropped her head and sobbed anew.

I did not stop to reason upon the strangeness of all this. I was a young, generous hearted man in those days and could not resist this appeal from beauty in distress.

"But tell me," I said, "how can I save you from this distasteful marriage? Do you wish to fly? I have a conveyance close by and will gladly escort you to a place of safety."

"To fly would avail me nothing," she answered, with a sweet sadness. "They would follow us and force me to return."

"But how else can I save you?" I asked helplessly.

"I do not know," she replied, with a sudden calmness that suggested despair, "but unless you can find some way to succor me I shall take my own life."

There was no doubt from the expression of her low, earnest voice that she meant this, and, filled with consternation at the thought, I racked my brains for some way to preserve both her life and happiness.

At last an idea came to me, but I trembled at my own presumption as I suggested it.

"Mademoiselle," I said haltingly, "I see but one alternative. You must marry me."

The violet eyes opened wide in surprise. "Marry you, monsieur?"

"Then pursuit would be useless. Being my wife, you would escape this villain who insists upon wedding you. I am free and able to give you all that would add to your happiness, and I shall learn to love you very dearly. It is true that I am a stranger to you, but I assure you that I am in all ways worthy to seek both your heart and your hand."

She gazed with earnest intentness into my face for a moment and then replied slowly:

"I think I shall trust you, monsieur. Indeed, I cannot help myself. I will be your wife."

There was no coyness in her answer; no blush tinted the pale, beautiful face, but she drew herself up, with an air of simple dignity that commanded my respect and admiration."

"Then come," I said eagerly. "We must lose no time. It will be midnight before we can hope to reach Danvers."

"Not Danvers," she replied, shrinking back as I sought to take her hand. "Let us go to Tregonne. There is a notary who will marry us, and we are far safer from pursuit."

"Very well," I answered. "Let us be off."

Refusing my proffered assistance, Mlle. de Boursons walked to the carriage and sprang lightly to the back seat. Rather awkwardly I took my place in front, gathered up the reigns and drove off as swiftly as I could induce the ancient steed to move.

Mademoiselle drew her mantle closely over her head and shoulders, and only once during the long drive did she speak. Then it was to direct me to the Tregonne road.

With ample time for reflection my adventure now began to seem rather queer and uncanny, and by the time we discovered the lights of Tregonne twinkling before us I had come to doubt the perfect wisdom of my present course.

But it was too late to draw back now, and the girl was very beautiful.

"This is the notary's," said my companion in her low, sweet voice, indicating by a gesture a rambling structure from whose windows gleamed a single light.

I leaped out, found the door at the end of a long pathway and knocked upon it loudly.

A tall, thin man beyond the middle age, holding a tallow candle high above his head, answered my call.

"You are the notary?" I asked briefly.

He nodded in assent.

"I wish to be married."

"Married!" he echoed in surprise. "But when, monsieur?"

"Now; at once."

"But the bride, monsieur?"

"I will fetch the bride. She is waiting without."

I thought he intended to protest, so I left him abruptly and returned for the lady. She was already coming toward the house, and as I met her she motioned me to go before, while she followed silently up the pathway.

The notary admitted us without ceremony, and we entered a small, dimly lighted room that appeared to be a study.

My companion at once seated herself in an armchair, but without removing the mufflings from her face.

The notary snuffed the candle, arranged his books and, turning to me with a penetrating look, said:

"I must know your name, monsieur."

"Richard Harrington."

"Your residence?"

"I am an American."

He wrote the answers in his book. Then, glancing toward the armchair, he continued:

"The lady's name?"

I waited for her to reply, but as she remained silent I answered:

"Amelie de Boursons."

"Who?" cried the notary in a loud voice, springing to his feet, while a look of fear and consternation spread over his wrinkled face.

"Amelie de Boursons," I repeated slowly, infected by the man's agitation in spite of myself.

The notary stared wildly at the muffled form of the lady. Then, he drew out his handkerchief
and wiped the beads of perspiration from his forehead.

"What does this mean, monsieur?" I demanded angrily.

The man heeded me not the slightest; but, clutching the edge of the table to steady himself and extending his long, bony finger toward the girl, he exclaimed:

"Are you Amelie de Boursons?"

Slowly, with admirable grace and dignity, the lady threw back her mantle, and her marvelous beauty was again revealed.

The notary with distended eyes fixed upon the visage sank back in his chair with a low moan.

"This must be explained, monsieur," I cried, striding up to his side and grasping his shoulder.

"Is there any reason I should not marry Mlle. de Boursons?"

"Mlle. de Boursons," returned the notary, still regarding her with horror, has been dead these forty years!"

"Dead!" I echoed, staring first at the notary and then at the girl, while a sense of bewilderment overcame me.

Mlle. de Boursons arose with a gleaming smile and came to my side.

"See, monsieur," she exclaimed mockingly and giving me her hand. "Do you also think me dead?"

The hand was as cold as ice, but its touch sent a strange thrill through my body.

"Come, monsieur," I said to the notary, who watched the scene in amazement. "Read the ceremony at once. We are in haste."

Slowly and with trembling voice the notary obeyed, the girl at my side returning the answers in a sweet, collected voice that disarmed my fears and calmed to some extent the notary himself.
I drew a seal ring from my finger and placed it upon her icy hand, and in its place she slipped a large ruby from her own hand upon mine.

The ceremony concluded, I paid the notary, thanking him briefly for his services, and, followed by my bride, walked down the path to my carriage. The notary stood in the doorway lighting us with the candle.

At the carriage I turned to hand my wife to her seat, but she had disappeared.

I ran back to the doorway.

"Where is my wife?" I asked.

"She followed you down the path," said the man.

"But she is not there."

Without a word the notary accompanied me back to the carriage. No trace of the girl was to be seen.

Right and left among the shrubbery I searched. I called aloud her name, entreating her to come to me, but no sight of the beautiful face rewarded my efforts.

I returned to the notary's study filled with grave misgivings.

"Where can she be?" I asked dismally.

"In her grave," was the hoarse answer.


"I told you before that she was dead. It is true. You have wedded a ghost."

The next morning, in company with the notary, I drove down the road till we came to the brick wall where I had first seen Amelie de Boursons.

We entered the gates and walked to the chateau that stood in the neglected grounds. An old woman admitted us, the caretaker, and at the notary's request allowed us to visit the gallery.

The notary threw back the shutters, and the sun came in and flooded the portrait of a beautiful girl whose violet eyes regarded me with the same sweet expression I had noted of my bride of the previous evening.

"It is Amelie de Boursons," said the notary in a gentle voice. "I have seen this picture often and heard the girl's pitiful story, and that is why I knew her last night to be a mere phantom. Her father was a stern, hard man, who insisted upon her marrying a person utterly distasteful to the young girl. She tried to escape, but was captured and brought home to confront her fate. On the wedding morning they found her dead in her bed. She had taken her own life. That was forty years ago, monsieur."

As we left the room I glanced curiously at the ruby that sparkled on my finger.

I wear it to this day.

It is the only evidence I have ever possessed of my phantom bride.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Baum In-Between and Before Oz

Some time ago, I read two Baum books.

The first was The Flying Girl & Her Chum, now available from Hungry Tiger Press.

The story has returning heroine Orissa Kane from The Flying Girl taking her friend (and her financier's daughter), Sybil Cumberford, with her as she test-flys her brother Steve's new hydro-plane. When they meet with an accident, Orissa and Sybil are stranded on a desert island with little provisions. While Orissa is resourceful, how long can they survive? And will Steve, Mr. Cumberford and the rest of the rescue party find them? Even when their yacht runs aground? And can they escape the self-proclaimed robber King of the Islands?

The second, The Book of the Hamburgs took awhile for me to get into. I mean, it's by Baum, and it was his first book, but it's about raising and breeding Hamburgs, a breed of chicken. In this, Baum takes on an authoritative angle as he speaks about this topic, one that he was very interested in, and likely inspired Billina, the yellow hen of Ozma of Oz.

If you're interested in getting a well-rounded view of Baum, I heartily reccomend reading beyond the Oz books...

Sorry, Commentators...

I must apologize, but I have changed the settings for leaving comments on my blog. Now you must have a Blogger/Google account to leave comments.

The reason for this is that in the past week, I have recieved some very derogratory comments, and am tired of having to sign into Blogger just to reject them.

If you want to respond to something I wrote in a blog, go ahead and e-mail me. I still have my e-mail in my Blogger profile. But if you're writing just to hate on someone, please don't bother. I will not reply.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wonders 5 news!

Has it been this long and I haven't posted a news release on the fifth episode of The Wonders of Oz? How... slow of me!

First off, Aaron Pacentine has been very busy with his event that will happening this Saturday. However, he agreed for a subsitute for this episode. The original plan was to wait until after the event, and do it then, but Matt Bloom offered to narrate.

If you've forgotten who Matt is, he has already been in two episodes of Wonders, and has been a fan since the beginning. In episode two (the only version available, hence, what I consider the official version), he read L. Frank Baum's final words. In episode four, he showed his face as I let him talk about the Oz books and adding to the series, as he is doing with his upcoming book, Nonestica: Rise of the Witches. (He recently informed me the book will be available next September.)

This episode will cover the pre-1939 dramatic versions of Oz on stage and screen. This was originally going to be two episodes, one about plays, the other about movies. But then, I reconsidered, I'd have two short episodes... And we're already taking awhile getting to that movie, so why not speed up the process?

I'm going to attempt to have it done by Halloween.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Great Oz Videos Redux

Haven't done it in awhile, so here's another set!

Music Video For "Home" by Breaking Benjamin. Even the lyrics are Ozzy!

Trailer for the MGM Oz remake that... isn't going to happen...


McGee And Me took a spin on Oz...

(We used to have this video. It's on DVD now. It's called "Twister & Shout.")

Take a quick time travel trip to the Land of Oz in North Carolina:

The MGM Oz gets mixed with modern music and dance:

And, lastly, what happens when "Dorothy Goes To Hollywood?"

(There will be something more about the girl who plays Dorothy in this video on the blog in the near future! Keep an eye out!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's

VeggieTales never fails to entertain! And now, their latest offering offers many entertainments for Oz fans as well. The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's is a re-telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son, set to a parody/tribute of MGM's The Wizard of Oz. (In the "Making the Land of Ha's" bonus feature, Phil Vischer does mention the L. Frank Baum book.)

The story tells the tale of a boy named Darby (Jr. Asparagus) who want to visit the Land of Ha's amusement park. His father, Farmer O'Gill (Mr. Asparagus), tells Darby that they can't afford go this season. Stubbornly, Darby takes the piggy bank full of the money that his father was saving for his college, when Darby is caught out in a tornado! He hides in a trailer, despite Tutu's (Darby's pig, who he calls a dog) opinion that they should lie flat in a ditch. (Which, they stress in the bonus features, is what you should do.)

Darby is blown to Munchieland, where the trailer crushes a machine called the Munchie Muncher. For freeing the Munchies (Oui! It iz ze French Peas!), Splenda, the low-fat fairy (Madame Blueberry) advises Darby to follow Old Yellow McToad to the Land of Ha's.

Along the way, Darby and Tutu are joined by Scarecrow (Mr. Lunt), Tin Man (Larry), and Lion (Pa Grape). But little do they realize that they are being watched...

All in all, this is an entertaining episode, and you should get some laughs out of it. In the VeggieTales tradition, hosts Bob and Larry (who are both technically fruits, not vegetables) make refrences to God and the Bible, and their computer QWERTY displays 1 John 3:1, which is also read by Bob. VeggieTales has always been a Christian series, expecting it to be something else just isn't going to work. I'm fine, because it's not overbearing.

Also, watch the end credits to see Mr. Lunt sing "Over The Rainbow," or you can watch it as a special feature.

AND ON THE SUBJECT OF SPECIAL FEATURES, VeggieTales has also never been one to skip on those, either! You can find Easter Eggs on the main menu, and on the Bonus Features menu. (I won't say what they are or how to find them.) There are two audio commentaries, one with the people who made this episode, and a five minute clip show with Mr. Lunt and a previously unseen character doing commentary. There is a behind-the-scenes feature, "Making The Land of Ha's." The "Studio" Commentary features writer and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer (who also voices Bob/Mr. Lunt/Pa Grape/Dad Asparagus/Archibald Asparagus) and director Brian Roberts exposing all the secrets of the writing and casting and how budget affected what you see onscreen. (They also expose how they paid a tribute to Baum's original book in their story and why.)

There is also a section of trivia games (winning the hard game earns you a deleted scene), a "Munchieland Peas" Game, which will earn you a bonus clip, a story book feature that isn't "Ha's," a singalong, and instructional videos on how to draw Darby and Tin Man.

There is also a special feature section for parents.

All in all, the DVD is worth the price. The episode shows affection for both of the original stories, and should be worthy addition to your Oz video and DVD collection.

"How could I go over the rainbow? It's water droplets refracting sunlight." - Darby

Links & Coming Attractions

Okay, first off, I now own VeggieTales: The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's. I will probably start watching it after I finish this blog. So, later today, I should have another blog up with my review.

Another thing I want to say is that the SciFi Channel has released a WONDROUS website for Tin Man, it's called "Infinite OZ." You can access video clips from the show already! (Ha, ha! MGM reference in Kansas!) Note that this is a flash-based site and can take awhile to load. You may want to do something I DIDN'T do before accessing: close any other open Internet programs or programs that take up some memory, and maybe clear your browser cache.

ALSO: It's been awhile, but I read both The Flying Girl & Her Chum from Hungry Tiger Press (it looks great, just like we've come to expect from David Maxine!), and The Book of the Hamburgs, L. Frank Baum's FIRST book, and one of his VERY few non-ficition books. Great. Now I'll be well informed if I ever decide to beat the grocery stores on egg prices.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Wizard of 3 Days

I think Oz is stalking me.

Tuesday night, it was storming mildly and they said there was a chance of a tornado. I mentioned that to one of my co-workers, and she says, "Please don't remind me. I have to drive 45 minutes home when I get off a midnight." So I started humming the tornado theme from the MGM Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday night, I was helping out with our church's Youth Group, and I headed out to the stairwell that leads to the Youth Room, which is on the third floor of our South Building. (We have three buildings.) I looked over, and I saw... well, I'd brought the digital camera with me, so you can see it...

Yes, that is a hot-air balloon.

Later that night, we went over to Wal-Mart, and I noticed some shoes for little girls. Why? Take a look:

(Are you allowed to take a photo in Wal-Mart?)

And THEN, on Thursday, I saw a car with "YBR" on the license plate: "Yellow Brick Road."

So... yeah...

And while I'm on this topic, here is a business that I live a few blocks north of:

Yeah... I think someone saw the film version of The Wiz. (They were there before The Muppets Wizard of Oz.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007