Goth Chick News: Fantasticland Is Well… Fantastic

Thursday, November 7th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Fantasticland-smallA couple months back, before the insanity of “the season” got into full swing, my Amazon account hit on an incredibly spot-on recommendation. Under the “ you might like” section was a book I had not come across previously; Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven. I opted for the audio book, as the description made it seem like a fine way to spend my daily hellacious commute in Chi-town traffic.

Since the 1970s, FantasticLand has been the theme park where “Fun is Guaranteed!” But when a hurricane ravages the Florida coast and isolates the park, the employees find it anything but fun. Five weeks later, the authorities who rescue the survivors encounter a scene of horror. Photos soon emerge online of heads on spikes outside of rides and viscera and human bones littering the gift shops, breaking records for hits, views, likes, clicks, and shares. How could a group of survivors, mostly teenagers, commit such terrible acts?

Presented as a fact-finding investigation and a series of first-person interviews, FantasticLand pieces together the grisly series of events. Park policy was that the mostly college-aged employees surrender their electronic devices to preserve the authenticity of the FantasticLand experience. Cut off from the world and left on their own, the teenagers soon form rival tribes who viciously compete for food, medicine, social dominance, and even human flesh. This new social network divides the ravaged dreamland into territories ruled by the Pirates, the ShopGirls, the Freaks, and the Mole People. If meticulously curated online personas can replace private identities, what takes over when those constructs are lost?

FantasticLand is a modern take on Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale that probes the consequences of a social civilization built online.

Fantasticland might end up at the top of my 2019 reading list. As a frequent visitor to Disney World in Florida, the parallels are entirely obvious, though Disney is presented as a competitor to Fantasticland.

The story is biting social commentary which explores themes we have all thought about – what would happen if our technology-rich environment was suddenly gone? It probes the prejudices, harassment and bullying that is all too frequent in today’s headlines, but pushes each to its most horrifying extreme. For me, it was all the more terrible taking place, as it was, against a backdrop that was the antithesis of all things negative; “where fun is guaranteed.”

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Goth Chick News: Count(ing) Dracula – There’s Always Room for One More

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Every Night is Halloween

First off, being today is the holiday around which the entire Goth Chick News year revolves, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! The Black Gate offices are positively awash in cobwebs and black candles, while the adult beverage maker is blending at top speed. It’s causing a brown out in the executive suite but is also serving to drown out John O shouting about not being able to hear his Robots of Gotham audio book. Black Gate photog Chris Z, who is wearing a Devil’s Rejects tee shirt with his kilt and army boots, is hosting a screening of Zombeavers for the interns, and the whole place smells like Fireball whiskey and pumpkin spice.

And never mind it’s snowing in Chicago…

So, before I head out to the Uber for my 24-hour bacchanalia of decadence marking October 31st, I had to take the time to give you this one tib bit of (hopefully) good news.

As you may or may not be aware, Dracula has headlined no less than 61 films since Mr. Stoker first introduced him to us in 1897. There has literally been a Dracula for all times and cultures, appearing on the big screen and small, and telling us about the children of the night in literally dozens of languages. But today we get a glimpse into the fanged-one’s spiritual homecoming. Though the vampire made his home in Transylvania, Dracula as a character was born in Cruden Bay, Scotland rooting his literary origins firmly in the U.K. and it is from London where he is once again being reborn.

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Goth Chick News: Beating You to Halloween… Literally

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist



Every year around the time of my favorite holiday season, reports make the news about “extreme” haunted attractions. This sort of thing is so far beyond your local Jaycee’s haunted house that putting them in the same category is just this side of dangerous.

Why, you ask?

Because around 10 years ago, someone decided jump scares and fake blood was no longer doing the trick when it came to getting one’s heart and adrenaline racing. Actually, the original someone’s were the proprietors of Blackout who launched their sadomasochistic experience in 2009 immediately attracting a very enthusiastic fanbase. For $50 and your signature on a waiver, you embarked on an hour-long odyssey which required a “safe word” in case you had enough of being screamed at, choked, blasted with a fire hose, and having all five of your rational senses otherwise assaulted.

I remain conflicted about what to think of this whole thing, mainly because getting scared — whether at the movies or attending an October event — is generally a safe version of escapism. I mean, the chance of zombies actually chasing you is relatively low in real life.


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Goth Chick News: When the Size of Your Spirit Matters

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Giant Ouija Board 2

Long before the Travel Channel’s obsession with spirits and professional ghost hunters, folks in the mid-1800’s became obsessed with spiritualism and all it’s trappings. Among the ‘spirit photography,’ levitating tables, and crystal balls, perhaps the most famous and long-lasting are ‘talking boards.’

First appearing around 1848, talking boards were used to summons and communicate with spirits. Most Americans, especially anyone who has ever attended a teenage sleepover, are aware of the most famous talking board, Ouija, which was first introduced in 1890 by the Kennard Novelty Company and sold today by Hasbro, Inc. These days there is even an organization in Massachusetts called Talking Board Historical Society, whose mission is to research, preserve, and celebrate the history of talking boards along with the people who continue to use them.

Now, just in time for Halloween, the Talking Board Historical Society have gone and outdone themselves by breaking a world record with “Ouijazilla,” officially declared by Ripley’s as being the world’s largest Ouija board.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sitting there absorbing the fact there was even a Ouija board record to be broken, but moving on…

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Goth Chick News: Universal Studio’s HHN 29; The Real Horror Was the Cost

Thursday, October 10th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Universal Halloween Horror Nights 2019-small

Last month I told you how I was hopefully looking forward to having another look at Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN for you cool kids). I say “hopefully” because my last visit there three years ago pretty much put me off what had been one of my all-time favorite Halloween events. Lack of adequate crowd control, lousy foot-traffic patterns and an event that was way oversold, took what should have been thrilling haunted attractions and turned them into real nightmare for anyone not enamored of being pressed against a lot of other sweaty bodies in 93-degree-plus heat.

But this year’s offering was too tempting to pass up and I decided to give HHN 29 another go at the end of September. Now remember, Universal has been doing this for 29 years and with attractions themed off Stranger Things and Ghostbusters, anticipation was high.

So, how’d it go you ask?

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Goth Chick News: “Fright Fest?” I’ll Be the Judge of That…

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick 2019 Six Flag Fright Fest

Every September for the last 20+ years, “The Season” has begun the same way – with a special sneak preview event at our local Chicagoland Six Flags amusement park called Fright Fest. Saying I look forward to this is a significant understatement. Like the whole kid calendar revolving around Christmas in A Christmas Story, the whole Goth Chick year revolves around Halloween, and Fright Fest has historically been the high-water mark that kicks off the festivities.

Though every year has not necessarily been created equal,  one can usually expect copious decorations, a large number of staff in very high quality costumes (the Edward Scissorhands of one past year is still one of the best I’ve seen), and multiple themed “zones” throughout the park such as an alien zone, a zombie zone, etc, where everything is kicked up a notch. Some years back, Six Flags made the patron-sensitive decision to split the park in half for the protection of younger visitors. Enter the gate and go right, the experience is of more the pumpkin and skeleton varieties; go left, and a very high-quality wolfman could chase you half a city block. In other words, the experience was definitely “adult.” In addition, there were 5 to 6 “haunted houses” each year, again, ranging in intensity. However, the “headliner” houses, of which there were usually two, were high-quality experiences with good special effects, great décor and plenty of actors delivering the scares.

Alas, that was previous years.

Though Fright Fest 2018 had shown a marked decline, I didn’t want to call it a trend after one season. However, this year clinched it and I could not be sadder.

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Goth Chick News: Universal and Amblin Drop a JW3 Sneak Peek

Thursday, September 19th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist


There have been five movies in the Jurassic Park franchise since the original first blew our minds on the big screen in 1993. With a sixth installment due in the summer of 2021, it’s fair to ask what more can be done with this storyline?  I mean, five movies in, we’re very clear that when dinos and human intermingle, things are never, ever going to end well. Also, even the most money-hungry corporate entity (INGEN in this case) couldn’t possibly survive the continual carnage wrought by playing God. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said, “Ooo, ahhh, that’s how it always starts, but then later there’s running, and screaming.”

Which pretty much sums up the last four Jurassic movies.

So where do we go from here plot-wise, without causing audiences to pull a muscle doing a collective eye roll? As it turns out, there still might be one last trick in the JP bag.

This week, Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment released an official short film giving us a view into what we can look forward to in Jurassic World 3. The 8-minute short, entitled Battle at Big Rock, occurs a year after dinosaurs escaped into the wilds of California at the end of JW2: Fallen Kingdom. We see a campground in Big Rock National Park where a family is enjoying grilling chicken wings with other campers. The dad tells the daughter to take the food inside the camper before it attracts bears and…

Well check it out for yourself.

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Goth Chick News: Receiving Transmissions in London

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Transmissions comic

I know I’ve said it before, but one of the greatest things about working for Black Gate is the talented artists, actors and other creatives I get a chance to meet. They all share a passion for what they do which is contagious, and whether its an indie filmmaker, a special-effects creator, an author or illustrator, it is impossible to spend time with them learning about their particular crafts without admiring their amazing imaginations. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I have the opportunity to remain in touch beyond that initial interview, and follow their creative evolutions over a series of years.

Such is the case with comic book author and editor at TPub Comics, Neil Gibson.

I first became acquainted with Gibson during his appearance at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) in 2014 where he was promoting book one of his Twisted Dark comic series. Seven volumes later, I’m not only completely hooked on this particular story line, but have also become a fan of Gibson’s other tales as well, most recently The Traveller, which was released in August. Full disclosure, I couldn’t help fan-girling just a bit when I found my praise of the Sneak Preview on the back cover.

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Goth Chick News: Wading Hip Deep in the Horror of Universal Studio’s HHN 29

Thursday, September 5th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights-small

It’s been several years since my last foray into Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN for you cool kids). I used to be quite a regular as you can imagine, being that Universal pretty much became what it is today as a movie company, based on tales of terror. There really didn’t seem to be a better place to celebrate my favorite time of year than by exploring an entire theme park designed by the masters or big-screen scares.

And that was entirely true for a long time.

Unfortunately, in recent years, even with a coveted VIP pass in hand, the ‘haunted houses’ were allowed to get so crowded that walking through them resembled a conga line which pretty much destroyed even my very willing suspension of disbelief. My last event was HHN 26 when I was packed into the incredibly elaborate and detailed houses so tightly that the only thing I got a good look at was the back of the tee shirt of the guy in front of me. It’s impossible to get into the spirit when instead of anticipating a wonderfully terrifying event, I felt like I was crammed in line for a Backstreet Boys concert. Sadly, I swore off HHN and focused my attention on the high-quality scares to be had here in my beloved home town.

But this year’s offering was too tempting to pass up and I’ve decided to give HHN 29 another go at the end of September

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Goth Chick News: Wizard World Chicago and a Goth Chick Wannabe

Thursday, August 29th, 2019 | Posted by Chris Zemko

Wizard World Goth Chick 1-small

Let me start by painting you all a picture. Everyone’s favorite Goth Chick comes to me (Black Gate photog Chris Z.) and says “Guess what…you get to write the article for Wizard World Chicago this year!”

“Excuse Me?…What?…Who approved this?”

Apparently even Goth Chicks need a vacation away from the world of Horror and Mischief at Black Gate magazine. Who knew? Anyway, I headed down to the Black Gate office complex by myself and made my way down to the Goth Chick bunker. Upon arriving, I noticed it’s a lot creepier then I remember. I called “Big Cheese” John O and he said, “Just don’t stare at anything with eyes.”

“OK…well here goes.”

So this past weekend, Goth Chick News headed over to the 2019 edition of Wizard World Chicago. This year’s production included guests such as Jeff Goldblum (A Goth Chick Favorite), John “Vinnie Barbarino” Travolta, Zachary Levi (Shazam) and the flippin “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”!

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