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Last time on Betty Lou’s Treasure Trove…

On her fourth stint working for the Treasure Trove, Pauline was tasked with sorting muumuus, separating the vintage Hawaiian labels from everything else on two racks.  She noticed that the new blonde-haired mannequin was no longer there and now the dollhouse she had arranged stood alone in the front window with the mannequin children peering in at it from outside, having returned to their place on the bench.

“What happened to the new one from the front window?” Pauline asked.  “The one that Chester just finished.”

“Oh, that was a nice one.  Got snatched up by a resale boutique from the downtown district,” Betty Lou replied.  “Those lovelies are in high demand, they never last long here…  He’s downstairs now, finishing work on another beauty in the basement.”

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As Pauline finished separating muumuus, Chester clamored up from his workshop downstairs, carrying a new little girl mannequin who appeared about age eight.  Her curly red hair framed her pale freckled face and brought out the gold in her hazel eyes.  She was exquisitely detailed and remarkably lifelike, dressed in a white lace and taffeta Easter ensemble with a bright yellow sash tied gently around her waist.  He arranged the girl next to the dollhouse, placing a diminutive teddy bear in her hand as if she was putting it to bed.  Pauline thought she heard a small whimper arise from the mannequin as Chester let out a loud, hoarse cough.  She hadn’t recalled seeing any child mannequin parts in the workshop, but maybe she’d just not noticed them at the time.

Chester left the girl in the window and returned to the basement.  He reemerged with a heavy duty rusted out orange bucket filled with some kind of thick red liquid that stank of harsh chemicals and something else… whatever it was Pauline couldn’t quite place it over the astringent scent of bleach or degreaser or cleaning solution.  But something about the mixture smelled familiar in a stomach-turning kind of way, and as he exited out the front door she recognized the lingering odor of rotting flesh as it settled into the back of her nasal cavities, burning in that kind of dead funk that radiates off of road kill that has been sun baked in the right conditions.  Betty Lou gave the shop a good spray down with the tropical odor eater aerosol spray she kept up front by the register, and the smell was drowned out in cheap pineapple air freshener.

Pauline watched Chester as he dumped the bucket in the weeds that grew in the gravel driveway at the edge of the road and hosed it out to follow up with a second dump before returning inside.  Betty Lou gleamed, “You’ve really outdone yourself sweetie!”  Her eyes twinkled as she licked her thick lips.  He sidled up to her and she landed a passionate plump kiss on his receding hairline.  She rose up on her cane and hobbled towards the back of the shop with him in tow, calling out, “Watch the register, hon, we’ll be back in a minute…”

Pauline stood there in shock.  She wasn’t sure exactly what she’d just seen, but she was pretty sure she didn’t want to think too hard about it.  She didn’t even know how the register worked.  Not that it mattered, since the store was empty except for her and the mannequins.  She felt herself entranced and wandered over to the new little girl mannequin playing with the dollhouse.

The girl was definitely whimpering.  There was no doubt in Pauline’s mind this time – there was a faint crying sound sighing forth from the mannequin’s lips.  It was barely audible, but for once there was nothing to drown it out.  Betty Lou had left the television and radio off and she and Chester were off in the other room, engaged in God only knows what.  Pauline stood in what should have been total silence, acutely aware that there were faint whispered cries all around her.  The loudest came forth from the newest mannequin, the girl right in front of her, but she soon became attuned to the muffled screams that filled the rest of the room, radiating from some of the other mannequins as well.  The more lifelike they appeared, the more sound seemed to emanate from them.  Pauline’s heart raced as her eyes darted back and forth through the room.

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Pauline’s mannequin, the one that she was working off who now bore the SOLD sign, emitted a shrill yelp as if someone or something trapped in a distant and far away room was tucked into the dark recesses of her hollow Fiberglass bust.  A male mannequin with black Afro wig and vintage 60s fringed jacket, multicolored psychedelic flower power shirt and bellbottom blue jeans who was staged looking out the window, had a deep churning howl like a distant storm.  Standing beside the 60s hippie mannequin was a little boy wearing a sailor outfit with blue rickrack trim who seemed to sigh endlessly, like wind whistling through pine trees.  The shop was filled with barely audible hushed yowls.

All at once, the new redheaded little girl mannequin shot a side glance at Pauline out of her wayward left eye, meeting Pauline’s gaze in a sudden jerky movement.  Pauline’s heart fluttered as she lurched into a rack of clothes in immediate response.  She lost her focus as she fell backwards into the clothing rack, her mind reeling.  As she righted herself, heart pounding ready to fight or flee, Pauline noticed that the little girl mannequin’s gaze focused forward on the doll in her hand, as it had from when she was brought upstairs and placed by the dollhouse.  Her eyes were still cast in that same vacant stare.  But hadn’t she just glanced at Pauline?  What was going on?  The room was painfully, deathly quiet.

The door to the back room opened and Betty Lou and Chester emerged, a bit bedraggled.  “Had to help get Chester ready for his next project,” Betty Lou exclaimed as she shuffled back to her Papasan nest in the front.  She flicked on the radio to blast forth with operatic music.  “Did anyone drop by?”

Pauline shook her head no, unable to speak and standing beside the upended clothing rack.  The air was suddenly heavy and smelled of lilacs and lavender oil.  Something about it seemed dizzying and drowned out, like incense smoked to mask another smell.  Pauline felt faint.  She watched, cemented in place, as Chester, wearing a hardware store respirator facemask, sauntered to the front door and dead-bolted it.  “It’s time,” he nodded towards Betty Lou, who was wrapping a long, loose scarf around her nose and mouth.  The room began spinning and Pauline fell backwards into the rack of clothes she had only recently extracted herself from.

Mannequin legs, detail from featured image with the writer
Mannequin legs, detail from featured image with the writer
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Giants Among Spiders

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So, as you may have noticed, we have a special fondness for spiders here on Nightmarish Nature.  Well, they are kind of the spokes-critters for horrifying animalia, perhaps because they are so freakishly different from us.  Or maybe it’s because I find them a little disconcerting for all that I try to take the “you mind your business, I’ll mind mine” approach, at least if they stay outdoors. Or just because I really like to draw spiders for all that I prefer not to find them sharing my home (though I’ll gladly take spiders over other bugs or mice or larger critters who didn’t get an invite).

Anyway, this segment is devoted to the largest Giants Among Spiders, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about already.  And the top place is contested based upon body mass or leg length.  Most of these are tarantulas, which globally take top place among the large arachnids.

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
I’m hungry… I bet you are…

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula

The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula of South America is the biggest brute of spiderdom, weighing in at over 6 ounces.  They build funnel burrows and are known to eat birds (although rarely), mice, lizards, frogs, and snakes, but largely any big insects including other species of spiders.  They have urticating barbed hairs that they fling at would-be attackers as an irritant to escape.  And people even eat them after they singe the bristles off. Here’s a National Geographic video showing this spider in action, in case you wanted to see a giant spider take out a mouse.

Giant Huntsman Spider drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Creepy crawly at it’s worst…

Giant Huntsman Spider

And with the longest legs, we have the Giant Huntsman Spider of Laos, with a leg-span of 12 inches.  Their legs have twisted joints and they move in a crab-like manner, which furthers their impressive appearance. ‘Cause they’ve got legs, and know how to use ’em.  They prefer to live in underbrush and cave entrances.  These are like the big relatives of their Australian cousins, which we’ve all seen online and developed a healthy aversion to.

Everything's cuter when it's fuzzy, right? tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Everything’s cuter when it’s fuzzy, right?

Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater & Brazilian Giant Tawny Red Tarantulas

Next we have two more South American species: the Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater, which boasts one-inch fangs, and the Brazilian Giant Tawny Red, believed to be the longest-lived spider with a lifespan of up to thirty years.   Both are in the tarantula family and have urticating hairs, a word you probably never read much before today unless you are in the hobby.  So apparently South America is not the best travel destination for you if you struggle with arachnophobia, though I suspect you’d figured that out already.  (I wouldn’t recommend Australia or Southeast Asia either.)

Face Size Tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Face-Size, sorry no Face or Face Hugger for scale

Face Size Tarantula

And finally the Face Size Tarantula, which has a very terror-inducing name reminiscent of the Face Huggers of Alien-glory.  Anyway, these spiders have an 8-inch leg-span and live in India and Sri Lanka.  They look kind of like big hairy wolf spiders with stripey legs, sometimes with pink and daffodil coloring.

If you enjoyed this eight-legged segment of Nightmarish Nature on Giants Among Spiders and their larger than life kin, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

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AI journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 3 Final

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So here is our last installment of our AI journey exploring the idea of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad wolf being one and the same. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva. Feel free to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this exploration if you missed them.

Forget this talk of sheep, it isn't helping..., Dark Fantasy style, Aug. 1, 2023
Dark Fantasy style, Aug. 1, 2023

A non sequitur I know, but I couldn’t resist. If you picked up where we left off you’ll get it.

So what about Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf?, Dark Fantasy, Aug. 1, 2023
Dark Fantasy, Aug. 1, 2023

Seriously?! Again with the cropped off head cop out…

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, seriously we want to see her face!, Artistic Portrait, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait, Aug. 1, 2023

Finally! That was a journey. And not even worth the result, in my opinion.

Anyway, here is a bonus montage I made out of a bunch of additional Red Riding Hood prompts for an article that never happened…

Little Red Riding Hood AI art montage, Nov. 4, 2023
AI art generated Nov. 4, 2023

Prompts for Montage:

1.) What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf were one and the same being?
2.) Her wolf face peering out of her red cloak, fangs dripping with the blood of another victim, lost in the forest and never found.
3.) Little Red Riding Hood closes in for the kill, lunging from her red cloak, her wolf fangs dripping with blood.
4.) I am Little Red Riding Hood. I am the Big Bad Wolf. I am coming for you.
5.) Howling within, the rage sears forth from the red cloak, discarded in the deep woods. Red Riding Hood succumbs to the lycanthropy.
6.) Heaving breaths. Dripping blood. Red Riding Hood is not what she appears. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
7.) Her red cloak masks the fangs hidden below the surface.
8.) It starts with a long sighing breath. Waiting. The wolf within stirs.
9.) Red Riding Hood trembles. She succumbs to the lycanthropy.
10.) The wolf bursts forth from within. It takes over Little Red Riding Hood’s mind, her body, her being.
11.) Red Riding Hood howls. She is ravenous with hunger for blood. The wolf within has taken over. Mind, spirit, body. She feasts on the blood of the moon.
12.) Big Bad Wolf Red Riding Hood ravenous blood moon feast
13.) Blood moon beckons. I. Little Red Big Bad Riding Hood Wolf. Freedom howling night curse.
14.) Beware. Bewolf. BeRedRidingHood. Betwixt. Beyond.
15.) I pad quietly as the forest dissolves around me. Red Riding Hood and Wolf, one and the same.
16.) Wolf within howling dark recesses of the mind, Red Riding Hood lost
17.) Red Riding Hood HOWL wolf bane true existence polymorph within-and-without.
18.) Red howl Riding Wolf dark existence brooding within

So thank you for joining us on another AI art journey. You can still catch the last AI art journey on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 2

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Continuing our AI journey from last time exploring Little Red Riding Hood herself as the Big Bad Wolf… All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

How very… Phantom of the Opera predatory… this is definitely not what I had in mind. Maybe something more cutesy?

Little Red Riding Hood woman with wolf head instead of her own, Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023
Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023

Ugh. Maybe not.

Wolf face peering out of red hooded cape, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

Wow, that seems like such a cop out, cropping off the head so you don’t have to depict it. And I don’t want to lose the Little Red Riding Hood reference completely.

Wolf in sheep's clothing as Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

So no surprise there, I knew that was too many references to work.

And we continued to devolve, join us again next week for the final installment to see how this ended… And again, if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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