Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Youth Gang Phenomenon: What Every Parent Should Know

A startling new phenomenon has emerged among America’s school age children that parents need to know about. Youth gangs! Children as young as grade-school are being approached and recruited to join these secretive, insular, and sometimes violent organizations.

Many of these gangs may disguise themselves as legitimate clubs, even going so far as to refer to themselves as a club, but do not be fooled. Their secretive nature, cult-like loyalty oath, code of conduct enforced with threats of violence, and the use of mysterious symbols and language among its members are all tell-tale indicators of a gang.

Here are just some of the youth gangs that have been identified, possibly operating in your own neighborhood!

The Bloody Five are a small group of boys known to headquarter in junk yards and scrap car lots.

Only boys considered “neat enough” are invited to join, and membership is for life. Members are required to recite a loyalty oath, as follows:

I, (state-your-name), promise to be a loyal member of the Bloody Five. And only go around with other Bloody Five guys as long as I live. And not to squeal on them, even if I get killed for it.

The details of their initiation rituals are not known, but they may be similar to those of a copy-cat gang that has been seen operating in the same neighborhood called The Fiends.

The Fiends can be identified by the skull-and-crossbones armband worn on the right arm, and a hood disguising the member's face.

They are known to hold midnight meetings in cemeteries, but potential new members attend a ceremony in the basement of a current member's home, blindfolded to conceal its location.

The Wildcats are an all-boy gang known to establish their headquarters secretly in the barns of unsuspecting farmers.

Wildcats loyalty oath:
I promise I will never reveal any of the secrets of The Wildcats. I will not even tell anyone there is such a club as The Wildcats. And if I ever do, I will be struck down by the Curse of the Claw.

The Wildcats use a secret hand gesture to close their meetings, a cat-like swipe of the arm accompanied by a “Wildcat growl”. Meetings are often held by candlelight, with one member designated “The Keeper of the Flame”. While not considered a dangerous gang, the Wildcats have been tied to at least one case of arson involving a barn they were using as a meeting place.

Below is a file photo of a Wildcat’s sacred candle, seized as evidence as part of the arson investigation.

A larger gang consisting of as many as a dozen males, The He-Man Woman Haters Club was formed after an area girl held a party and failed to invite any boys.

They have a strict code of conduct forbidding them from interacting with girls.

Code of Conduct:
No man is to be seen with girls. You can’t look at them, walk with them, talk with them, or write letters to them.

Punishment for violation is five swats administered by their Sergeant-at-Arms.

The He-Man Women Haters Club can sometimes be seen patrolling neighborhood streets looking for members in violation.

The Earthquake Gang is an inner-city gang operating out of an abandoned house.

While mostly boys, they recently added a female member to their ranks. Members of The Earthquake Gang can be identified by their denim vests with a red skull on the back, and black leather wristbands.

Earthquake Gang members are known to adopt an alias ("Rocky", "Muscles", "Crusher", "Dazzler, etc.) and typically do not attend school.

Although their current reputation is as a “nothing gang” (youth street lingo indicating they lack influence or status) they aspire to take over the entire territory, and have been known to engage in turf wars with other gangs, such as The Golden Goons.

File photo below shows the results of one such encounter:

The Red Hand Gang is another inner-city group that, like The Earthquake Gang, is mostly boys, but with one female member.

The gang has been tied to kidnappings, jewel theft, unlawful transport of a monkey, and other general mischief, including impersonating a mannequin, as this file photo reveals:

Their headquarters is a makeshift shack located in a vacant lot.

They are known to “tag” (youth lingo for vandalize with graffiti) their sign, a red hand, on public and private property.

Their leader can signal other members using a small flute.

New members are initiated by writing a red letter “R” on their right hand. While the Red Hand Gang is a youth gang, there is at least one known adult member, believed to be a transient.

Is YOUR child in a youth gang?

Know the signs.

Heed the warnings.

Get involved!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rerun: How I Missed The Hobbit

In celebration of the long awaited release of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit to theaters, I thought I'd repost my poem recounting an episode from childhood, in which I missed seeing the second half of Rankin Bass' animated adaptation when it aired on television in the late 70s, as punishment by my parents for refusing to finish my dinner.

The tragic episode is rendered in picture and verse reminiscent of those Victorian-era, Stuwwelpeter-esque cautionary tales for children.

(And yea, this is just the blog equivalent of airing a rerun... but it'll be the first time I've done it in over five years of operating The Haunted Closet, so give me a break!)

You can read the whole story in greater detail at the original post here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Poster art of The Neptune Factor (1973, John Berkey)

Behold this amazing visualization for the 1973 underwater sci-fi film The Neptune Factor: An Undersea Odyssey.

This is the work of John Berkey, who did equally impressive paintings for the 1977 killer whale film Orca, the '76 remake of King Kong (hey--both of those films are on my Movies That Made Me Cry list!), Star Wars, as well as the National Geographic book Our Universe.

As for the film itself, The Neptune Factor doesn't come close to realizing the awe and adventure promised in the painting above.

Despite its ambitious title (it's an "Undersea Odyssey"!) the simplistic plot can be condensed into a single sentence that goes something like this: a submarine team dives deep underwater to rescue a sunken sea laboratory and encounters giant tropical fish along the way.

That really is it.

Oh yea--on the way down, the submariners (among them Ernest Borgnine and Yvette Mimieux--who'd crew together again a few years later in Disney's The Black Hole!) argue a few times over whether they should turn back or keep going (spoiler alert: they keep going!)

But it's mostly long stretches of people staring out portholes...

...and even when they finally reach the monsterously oversized sea life, it never gets more exciting than watching a plastic toy floating around the aquarium of your dentist's waiting room (which I'm pretty sure is exactly how these shots were achieved).

Even as a five-year old seeing this film for the first time, I didn't buy it.

The Neptune Factor is available on DVD by itself or in a 4-disc set that includes Battle For the Planet of the Apes, The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Poseidon Adventure.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Treat: Haunted Air (Ossian Brown, 2011)

If I were a rich man, instead of handing out Tootsie Roll Pops and Jolly Ranchers to trick-or-treaters on Halloween, I'd hand out ridiculously awesome goodies like copies of this book, Haunted Air, A Collection of Anonymous Hallowe'en Photographs, America c.1875-1955.

From the collection of musician Ossian Brown (no, I am not familiar with his work...), Haunted Air is a 200+ page album of vintage black and white photographs of children in Halloween costumes. The photos are presented without commentary, and no attempt is made to date or identify them (although sometimes you might find a hand-scribbled date on the photograph itself.)

Oh yea, there's a short written introduction by director David Lynch, and a historical note tracing the cultural origins of Halloween, but the real draw is the photographs. Some of my favorites are posted below.

Be advised the book seems to cycle in and out of availability. You can nab a copy for under $30 when its in stock, but prices can climb four times that when it cycles out of stock again. Buy it here.