The following scenes are from the 2003 film Luther, in honour of Reformation Day. The first is of Martin Luthor nailing his 95 theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, effectively setting the Protestant cat amongst the Catholic pigeons and starting the Reformation:
The second is from the Diet of Worms, an imperial assembly of the Holy Roman Empire in 1521 before which Martin Luther was called to answer for his "heretical" teachings, so-called:
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street is a classic episode of The Twilight Zone. It originally aired in March of 1960, the 22nd episode of the first season of the show and was written by Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone. The story starts out in what appears to be an idyllic setting: a tree-lined street in 1950's America, filled with happy families and friendly neighbours. But things are not always as they seem...
"Maple Street, U.S.A., late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 P.M. on Maple Street...This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street in the last calm and reflective moment - before the monsters came."
And the monsters did come; the twist of Rod Serling's tale is that aliens have indeed invaded the earth, bent on conquering the planet. This destruction of earth's inhabitants is not accomplished, however, with superior numbers or more advanced weaponry- or, indeed by any kind of frontal attack. Rather, the alien invaders simply turn the power off and wait for the humans to destroy themselves. And this is the true point of this episode: the true danger to society comes, not from without, but within.
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street points out a troubling aspect of human nature: when people are faced with an outward threat they tend to draw together to face it, but when confronted with a frightening situation which they don't understand, it is not uncommon for them to fracture apart and look for someone to blame. And that blameworthy someone is generally The Other- someone who is just a bit different, or has some perceived unfair advantage over other members of the group.
This is what sets Charlie off, transforming him from a seemingly harmless schlub into something a lot more unpleasant. Something is terribly wrong and no one understands what's happening. Someone must be to blame, however, and Charlie looks around for a likely suspect... everyone has no power and then, suddenly and inexplicably, Les' car is working. No one- including Les- knows why, but Charlie immediately assumes that he must have been favoured in this way because of something he's done, or who he is. He starts reviewing Les' previously unremarkable behaviours in his mind and assigning sinister motives to them. He vocalizes his suspicions which causes other members of the community to also regard Les differently, reinterpreting his actions in a way that makes him seem odd... and suspect. Later on, brooding over the continuing blackout, Charlie remarks to his wife that it's like a return to the dark ages. This is truer than he knows although not for the reason he thinks. The real darkness is caused by the descent of the street's denizens into attitudes and actions based on fear and superstition, letting these things outweigh their rationality and sense of community. This results in the transformation of neighbours and friends into possible- maybe even probable-suspects. The Maple St. residents start to regard each other distrustfully, putting the worst possible spin on the motives of The Other; they grant no benefit of the doubt, and reject the need for evidence or proof. They might as well be demanding trial by ordeal for suspected witches.
Les is the first victim of this whipped up panic- and later a perpetrator of it. His reasons are no doubt somewhat understandable, if not admirable: Charlie first pointed the finger of accusation at him. Probably Les wants him to experience what it feels like to be falsely accused and maligned, alienated and treated like a criminal. Also, if people are directing their suspicions/ accusations elsewhere, it lets him off the hook. By the time he accuses Charlie, however, everyone is so worked up and freaked out that it almost seems like Les believes what he says about Charlie. In any case, he has regressed from pointing out how dangerous wild accusations are, to throwing some around himself.
Even Steve, the voice of reason throughout this debacle- who has been calling for calm and rational behaviour- is not totally unaffected by the paranoid rhetoric and panic. When the rifle is being brandished around, instead of saying the sane and sensible thing- that it could be anybody walking up the street towards them, he asks what good the gun will do, implying that it will be useless against aliens. He has- momentarily, anyway- slipped into thinking of the alien invaders as a sure thing. The shock of Pete's death snaps him out of it, but it's too late. The irony is, of course, that there actually are hostile alien invaders and the Maple Street residents are playing right into their hands by turning on each other. The paranoid ravings of a few nuts like Charlie work on the fears and anxieties of the other residents who, scared and angry, form a violent mob, behaving in ways as a group which they would never do as individuals. Those who don't agree with the violence generally keep quiet for fear of becoming targets of the mob themselves, like Steve did.
Maple Street has turned into Lord Of The Flies- people losing the vestiges of civilization through paranoia and fear, violently attacking and counter-attacking one another. The aliens have won without firing a shot, not so much by sowing the seeds of discord and destruction in the residents of Maple Street, but by providing fertile ground for those seeds already present in them to grow. The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street takes a rather dim view of human nature and, while I don't believe by any means that this is the only possible human response to an inexplicable, fear-inducing situation, it's certainly a very possible one. As anyone who is on Twitter could attest to, there are any number of people who in the face of a crisis are- like Charlie- ready to shout, "Look, look I swear to you...it isn't me...but I do know who it is...I swear to you, I do know who it is. I know who the monster is here. I know who it is that doesn't belong. I swear to you I know." This has never and will never end well.
"Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us." -Charles Spurgeon
I'm not terribly fond of Halloween. Well, cute little kids dressing up and excitedly going door-to-door for candy, sure. But I really don't like the way that the day has been co-opted by adults and treated as though it's as big of an occasion as Christmas. I also really don't like the gross-out, slasher, blood-letting movies and associated costumes and decor which are so popular. Creepy stories- or films- that send a shiver down your spine, okay, but I'll pass on the mindless violence porn. I don't decorate for Halloween, but I was asked to make a table decoration, so opted for something cute: a trio of googly-eyed ghosts.
From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street is a first season episode of The Twilight Zone which originally aired in 1960. The story takes place in a small 1950's era town, specifically on Maple Street. It's a warm summer evening and the residents of the street are doing everyday things- cooking, washing their cars, kids running around, etc. Suddenly an object- they assume a meteor- streaks across the sky, startling people with its light and noise. Soon people begin to realize that everything which requires power of any sort isn't working: telephones, radios, cars, power tools, appliances- everything is dead. Maple Street residents gather in groups, trying to figure out what's going on... it's a clear day with no electrical storm, and even if there was one, cars and battery operated radios shouldn't be affected. One of the men-Pete Van Horne- decides to walk over to the next street (Floral), to see if it too has no power, and another resident named Steve Brand suggests that he and his neighbour Charlie walk downtown to see if there's power there. The two men are stopped by nerdy teen Tommy who, as an avid science fiction reader, is sure that the meteor was a U.F.O. and that aliens who want to isolate them for some nefarious purpose are responsible for the blackout.
Tommy says that a situation like this occurred in a story he's been reading and, in the same story, aliens had sent some of their kind ahead, disguised as humans, to infiltrate the town and prepare for an invasion. Naturally everyone scoffs at this wild theory and Steve tells Tommy that like as not the meteor just caused some kind of interferance which disrupted everyone's power.
Suddenly, the car belonging to another neighbour- Les- starts running without anyone turning it on. Les is bemused, but a number of the street residents are suspicious... why is his car running- and by itself- when nothing else on Maple Street is working? Charlie starts muttering that Les has always been a bit odd, and another man says that he noticed that Les didn't come out of his house to look at the meteor like everyone else- didn't seem a bit interested, in fact. That's kind of weird, isn't it. Steve tries to diffuse the situation, but it gets even more tense when one of the women says that several times she's seen Les out in his yard late at night, staring up at the sky as though he was waiting for something- or someone. Les, incredulous and indignant about the overt suspicion being directed at him says that the only thing he's guilty of is insomnia. He also warns them that they're starting something dangerous.
As the evening progresses and darkness falls, the power remains out and peoples' nerves fray even further. A lot of them are still staring accusingly at Les, who is defiantly standing on his porch with his wife. Charlie in particular is confrontational, drinking and keeping watch on Les. When Steve tries to inject some sanity into the situation, Charlie belligerantly suggests that maybe he's in cahoots with Les, and wants to know just who Steve's been talking to on that ham radio in his basement. Now angry, Steve accuses the murmuring neighbours of trying to find a scapegoat- any scapegoat- and says that the only thing which will result from all this finger pointing is that they'll end up eating each other. He seems to be getting through to a lot of the gathered crowd as many start to look down or away, uncomfortable and ashamed. In the sudden quiet, however, they hear footsteps coming along Maple Street towards them.
Fearfully, the gathered residents peer down the street but all they can see is a shadowy figure emerging from the darkness, coming towards them. In a panic, Charlie grabs a shotgun and fires at the approaching form. It staggers and falls, and the crowd runs forward only to discover that it is Pete, returning from checking on Floral Street. He's dead. Charlie tries to make excuses... how was he to know it wasn't a monster? He was just trying to protect his home! But as he's babbling, the lights come on in his house. Accusing eyes turn on Charlie: why did his lights come on the minute he killed Pete? A vengeful Les pipes up: Charlie was awfully quick to point the finger at other people... maybe he was trying to hide his own machinations. Maybe Pete found out something about him over on Floral Street and Charlie had to kill him to keep him quiet.
Of course Charlie denies this but the crowd, transformed into a mob, is in no mood to listen to his pleas. Charlie is forced to flee to his house, pursued by his maddened neighbours who pelt him with stones. Terrified and bleeding, Charlie shouts that he knows who's responsible: young Tommy, who started all this trouble to begin with. Horrified, Tommy's mother denies it- her son is just a boy. Yeah, one of the other ladies points out- a boy who knew everything that was going to happen with the aliens. Tommy flees in terror as the hysterical crowd gives chase, while Steve futilely shouts at them to stop this madness. Suddenly, lights start flashing on and off in random houses all along the street, while lawnmowers, cars, etc. turn on by themselves as well. Terrified, confused and hostile, the mob turns on each other and the once idyllic street devolves into a scene of chaos and violence, with shots being fired, bricks thrown, and formerly friendly neighbours brutally attacking one another.
It is at this point that we find out that the meteor actually was a space ship and that two aliens are watching the ghastly scene on Maple Street with scholarly interest. One explains to the other that, by turning off humans' technology and stoking the fires of paranoia and fear, they could cause them to turn on each other. The other asks if this always happens and the first one replies yes, with few variations. He says the humans always try to find their most dangerous enemy and it turns out to be themselves. He also says that all they need do to conquer this world is to sit back and watch the humans destroy each other, one Maple Street at a time.
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices – to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill – and suspicion can destroy – and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children – and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is – that these things cannot be confined – to the Twilight Zone.”
The Pale Man is a creepy short story written in 1934 by Julius Long. It is narrated by the protagonist, a man whose name we never learn. We do learn that he's an assistant professor who is staying at a hotel in a small, remote town to recover from illness in a quiet place. He is extremely bored; the townspeople aren't particularly friendly to outsiders and there are only two other people staying at the hotel longterm as he is: an elderly woman who scarcely leaves her room, and a tall pale man who checked in shortly after he did. The fellow comes and goes but never speaks and his aloof attitude discourages the protagonist from speaking to him. The professor is staying in room 201, the elderly woman is in room 208, and the pale man is in room 212. After about a week, the professor notices that the pale man has moved from room 212 to 211. He also notes that the man never eats at the hotel, nor in any of the few eating establishments around town. All this puzzles our protagonist, who has little else to dwell on at this time. He meets the pale man in the hall on one occasion; they nod at each other but don't speak but the professor thinks the fellow as a rather malicious, knowing look in his eyes.
As the summer goes on the professor, reluctantly fascinated, watches as the pale man moves to room 210, then 209. He thinks to himself that, if the fellow moves again, he'll need to skip over room 208 because the elderly woman is still staying there. One day however, the woman dies- apparently of old age- and no sooner has her body been taken away and buried than the pale man moves into her room. At about this time, the professor is distracted by his own health problems; instead of getting better, he finds himself having blackouts and is confined to his bed for a few days. He then finds that the pale man has skipped a few rooms and is now in room 203, with only one room between them.
His health not improving, the professor summons a doctor who examines him and irritates him by merely telling him to keep to his room and avoid stairs. He's further irritated by the hotel clerk who looks at him as though he expects him to drop dead and suggests that he go to the local hospital. The professor stubbornly refuses to move from his room and, as he totters weakly along the hallway to his room, he notices that the door to room 202 is ajar and glances in. The pale man is sitting in the room and smiles at him knowingly. Unable to take it anymore, the next day the professor calls the clerk up to his room and asks him the identity of the man who is next door in room 202. Looking startled, the clerk says that 202 is empty: no one is staying there. The professor protests that he saw the guy- it's the same pale man who has been moving closer, room to room, all summer. The clerk vehemently insists that no such person has been staying at the hotel. After the clerk leaves, the professor gradually realizes just who- or what- the pale man is:
Thus it is that I can now understand the events of the past few weeks. I now comprehend the significance of the death in No. 207. I even feel partly responsible for the old lady's passing. After all, I brought the pale man with me. But it was not I who fixed his path. Why he chose to approach me room after room through the length of this dreary hotel, why his path crossed the threshold of the woman in No. 207, those mysteries I can not explain. I suppose I should have guessed his identity when he skipped the three rooms the night I fell unconscious upon the floor. In a single night of triumph he advanced until he was almost to my door. He will be coming by and by to inhabit this room, his ultimate goal. When he comes, I shall at least be able to return his smile of grim recognition. Meanwhile, I have only to wait beyond my bolted door.
***** The door swings slowly open.... -The End-
This story reminds me of Emily Dickinson's poem:
Because I could not stop for Death – (479)
Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality.
We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed Us – The Dews drew quivering and Chill – For only Gossamer, my Gown – My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground – The Roof was scarcely visible – The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity –
This illustration is from John Bunyan's 1678 novel The Pilgrim's Progress (From This World, To That Which Is To Come). It is an important example of early English literature and an allegory for Christian life. It is written as a dream related by the narrator and tells the tale of the protagonist Christian, who is traveling from his home in the City of Destruction (this world) to the Celestial City (Heaven). In the pictured scene, Christian is going to the House of the Palace Beautiful, which is a place for godly pilgrims to rest and rejuvinate at the top of the Hill of Difficulty. To enter the Palace, however, he must pass through a narrow passage inhabited by two lions. Naturally afraid, Christian thinks about turning back but the Porter- named Watchful- sees him from the door of the Palace and calls out encouragement. He tells Christian to have faith and not fear: the lions are chained to the wall. Christian can't see the chains but decides to trust the Porter and walks the middle of the path; the lions roar and lunge but cannot reach him and he arrives safely at the door to the Palace Beautiful. Allegorically, the Palace is the Church, and the lions represent the threats of civil government and the state church (of England)- Bunyan was a Puritan- to those who seek the true Gospel. The Porter Watchful represents a minister of the Word who watches and cares for the faithful pilgrims. Christian stays at the Palace Beautiful for three days and leaves clad in the Armour of God.
A weekend trip to New Brunswick, and a drive over the Hartland covered bridge:
The little town of Hartland in New Brunswick has one claim to fame- it's home to the world's longest covered bridge. Construction of the bridge began in 1898 and it opened in 1901, although it wasn't a covered bridge at the time. It originally looked like this:
Then, in April of 1920 river ice damaged the bridge, causing two spans of it to collapse. While structural repairs were being done, the bridge was also covered and its wooden supports replaced with concrete ones. It reopened in 1922. Later- in 1945- a pedestrian walkway was added. It now looks like this:
"The covered bridge belongs in the same category as keelboats, prairie schooners, and other picturesque and other largely obsolete traits of a formative stage in American development. Besides its romantic and antiquarian appeal, to the student of man and his works the covered bridge is a conspicuous detail of the cultural scene..." - Fred Kniffen, The American Covered Bridge