The Heart of Horror

Long time, no see ghouls and ghoulettes! It’s been a spell since we’ve spent some time together here in the Waiting Room! You see, instead of sharing information with you all about the glorious gore and fearful fatalities of the medical world I have been working on another project that you may enjoy as much. It’s a book, one with enough pictures to help those of you with, er, diminished attention spans. But more on that project later, let’s get on with some fiendish facts, no?


We’ve all been there. Huddled together with friends, opening an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus against our best reservations. As soon as the stone tomb belches its first gust of stale antique air, your stomach drops. You immediately have remorse. There is hope for you after all despite the mummified claw emerging to slide aside the slab lid; hope, because you read articles here on! You know that these sort of scenes never end well for our intrepid cast, and the time to run has arrived. So you turn and do so.

The demand your body has for fuel increases immediately, but no resource is as vital to your escape as oxygen. Your heart starts beating staccato rhythms hoping to force iron-rich red blood cells to trade waste carbon dioxide for oxygen as they pass through the lungs, and then continue down stream to deliver oxygen to any tissue that requires it. All non-essential staff should report at this time: only the components most critical to survival are fed oxygen. To help this sudden bullet train of blood, the vessels dilate to allow for more volume to pass and for more surface area for gas exchange.

Because the muscles working to carry you far away from a vengeful pharaoh use three times the oxygen their lazy, useless resting cousins do, the blood cannot supply life giving oxygen at the rate you need to survive. For this reason the lungs decide to pick up the slack with deeper, fuller inhalations. Everything in your body has been amplified, stimulated, and energized thanks to endogenic performance enhancing chemical. You are natures perfect fleeing machine.

That is to say, you could be. The problem is you’re a lazy monster kid that spends too much time on the internet and enjoying a universe of fried, sugary snacks (not to mention recreational pilgrimages into galaxies of alcoholic splendor). Your sudden marathon from murder is undermined by the physiological side effects of sedentary living and bad life choices.

Your lungs are trying to be the elastic bellows you need but the lack of use have made them the physiological version of balloons  evil clowns use to make animals for trusting children. Without regular stretching and deep inspiration, your lungs’ maximum volume is well below what you need to fuel a sudden escape. The little oxygen that does come in is competing with outgoing waste gas that fights for space. Inhaling and exhaling become uncoordinated and soon you are hyperventilating. Mummified murderers animated by the arcane rites of the Elder Gods or not, the body will stop everything until oxygen flow is restored. Congrats, you are helpless.


Or, you’ll find yourself running just far enough ahead to cling to the childish fantasy of escape into happily ever after. As you run, you exert far more effort than it should take to stay a few beats ahead of a creature that was ancient before Christ was first mentioned. The world spins, the stomach flutters in a fit of nausea, and the body is coated in a sickly cold sweat. We’ve already mentioned the lungs and their struggle against the symptoms of sedentary fandom, and here again shortness of breath sets in.

Discomfort beyond  your current fatigue and lactic acidosis starts to wrack your upper body. Your jaw tightens and aches, your back and shoulders scream out against invisible branding irons as the same searing assaults your arm and neck. You gulp for air but struggle on, against all of these evolution-gifted warning signs that you are in quite a pickle.

Your pace slows and you fully expect to feel the mummified mitts of murder upon you from behind. But you do not, yet relief does not wash over you. Instead you feel as if the great Sphynx itself is perched upon your chest. You look down dizzy and disoriented as you feel yourself being crushed, to see nothing causing the compaction. Like as many as one million Americans each year, you have just suffered a heart attack. You are in good company, no? Well, unlike you many of your colleagues in comorbidity will thankfully be near means to signal a squad of medical saviors. And none of them will be mere feet away from a beast powered by the Amulet of Nyarlathotep.

There are many things that contribute to your double-barreled death. As I mentioned, prolonged fasting from physical activity and failure to keep your lungs supple are two. The food you choose to consume like ravenous monsters also plays a role; high caloric content adds pounds that are oh-so-difficult to move in directions opposite of hoary threats, and cholesterol within the same food collects within the walls of your blood vessels like the secretions of a hive-minded xenomorph. This plaquey build up constricts the passage of blood, raises blood pressure the heart must pump against, and turns stretchy vessels into thick, fibrous pipes. And I’ve mentioned nothing about blockages, which love constricted vessels.

But perhaps the best defense, dear reader, is to never, under any circumstance, open a sealed tomb with warnings in languages dead centuries before you learned to crawl. The tombs of history’s hermetic overlords and eldritch emperors are much like those boxes of Pizza Rolls or repeated marathon couch time for binge Netflix viewing… they are best left alone.

Thanks again, foul fiends! Until next time, I’ll be here in The Waiting Room!

Waiting Room Reading #1

Hello again fiends! I was tidying up around the Waiting Room and realized something was dreadfully lacking… reading material! So I sent out my trained bats to scour the newsstands and drawing desks of our fine world to find me something to placate the patient souls who visit my creepy corner of the world. Soon, I was buried in monstrous mounds of macabre material! I suppose now I shall have to sift through them all and report what I find, no?

First on the pile was a little comic book called “Dead Babies.” With a name like that, I just had to peek inside to see if it was worthy for the end tables and wire racks of the Waiting Room. Written and drawn by Franklin Fritts, Dead Babies represents this ghoulish Georgian’s decade long dwelling over the concept of foul mouthed “dolls” with the souls of humans. Made of potato sack material, thread, and glass jars containing embryonic souls,  these little imps resemble what Little Big Planet would have looked like had Tim Burton designed the little sack creatures. The setting seems to be a large city with some runaway crime, not unlike any good comic book city. The background of the panels is sparse, featuring instead the exploits of the sack men themselves. The art does feel a little two dimensional, but many of the layouts during action sequences are quite inspired. We are seeing the artist find his style and learn his craft, which is an excitement that awaits anyone who dives into the world of self-published comics. Indy comics are creation for the love of the challenge and to spit in the eye of the establishment; something our good friend Dr. Frankenstein would tell us to revel in as well. Well, before his creator’s remorse. And disastrous wedding night. But I digress…

Our book’s plot revolves around these voodoo-esque animated dolls fighting to do what their souls drive them to do; either fight crime and clean up the streets or to create great mayhem. The art and story are decent, and I may have passed over placing this book in our archives except for something tantalizing its premise explores. The greater spirit of the story wrestles with the notion that souls are eternal and bent to a particular demeanor, regardless of the frame they inhabit. An evil soul will be evil whether it resides in a child or fabric-bound abomination, and a good soul will always struggle to find a way to interrupt the delightfully dastardly deeds of creeps and monsters (AKA “our people”). If the book survives its introductory arc to explore the richness within this topic, it will be a wonderful read indeed. I do hope the writer can rise to the challenge of exploring both the dark slapstick that seeded this tale in his mind while still in high school and the metaphysical condition his creatures represent.

So my fans, if you are interested in peeking into a new comic, stop by the Waiting Room, or click over to to inquire further about adding this gleefully grim gem to your reading pile. See you all soon with some more medical mayhem, but until them, farewell!

A Waiting Room Chiller


It’s time to check in, dear readers! Step into The Waiting Room! I, Dr. Carl Cadaver, will be your attending physician as we examine the world of horror through the eye of medicine. So have a seat and prepare to peer into the marvelous murderous world around us.

I hope you have dressed warmly for this episode because we will be examining the effects of a good chill. No, not the hair-raising tingle you receive from reading the material within this wonderfully wicked website, but the chill you feel as winter’s wind cut you to the bone.

Imagine yourself isolated from polite society and wintering at a lavish and storied hotel. You’ve been battling the worst writer’s block of your career and your nagging spouse and meddling child constantly pop in to remind you of your failure. So you do what any of our loyal readers would do; you chase them outdoors with an axe during a blizzard, only to become lost within a labyrinthine hedge maze. Happens to all of us, no? It’s a tale as old as time…

But when the demons of rage that boil and seethe within you suddenly flee and leave you a quivering husk of a human, how long will you last in the arctic environment? Sitting in a drift, wearing only blue jeans and flannel, trouble is soon to come. No, not the authorities, they won’t reach you until spring thaw. Instead you’ll be apprehended by the twin menace of hypothermia and frostbite.

It’s easy to keep your body warmed to its preferred core body temperature of 98.6 degrees (F) while nestled within a secluded Rocky Mountain hotel, but it’s a very difficult challenge once out in the elements. The human body starts to function in a less-than-preferred way once the core temperature dips below 95 degrees. Convection of wind, swirling of icy waters, and exposed flesh all accelerate the cooling process.

The first thing your traitorous biology does is constrict blood vessels and shunt blood away from the skin so that this red miracle (which we discussed previously) doesn’t freeze into a useless Icee. This leaves your tender tissues susceptible to damage since your warm blood isn’t there to embrace them. After this, your core temperature drops more and the body goes to plan B; shivering. Involuntary rapid successions of contraction and relaxation use energy, which also generates heat (I’ll save the details of why to the physics-fetish or sci-fi site of your choice). For a while, this works and as snow falls around you, you still have your wits to realize you must find shelter soon or die.

Now that you’ve been sitting for a while, your body is running out of tricks. It’s main concern is to save the brain at all costs, so blood flow is rerouted away from luxury organs like the heart, lungs, and liver. In this time of surrender and retreat, fatigue sets in as breathing becomes shallow, the heart slows down, blood pressure drops, and the brain, ah the brain! The brain purposely limits its activity to preserve precious time, creating a state of confusion that becomes nearly comical to behold.

As the body begins to long for death’s sweet caress speech becomes confused and nonsensical. Memory fails and even if a victim of hypothermia manages to find a working phone, the ensuing call to 911 will rarely yield any useful or comprehensible information. Imagine the bitter thrill of hearing the voice of a potential savior only to reply to “what’s your emergency?” with “the cattle are of the roof screaming at me in Spanish!” Oh, so fleeting is the hope of rescue for the soul exposed to the fury of the indifferent universe!

Exposing the brain to lethal cold deserves turnabout, no? As the icy fingers of frigid finality reach in to switch of the lights, a hypothermia victim will engage in paradoxical undressing. Exposure leads to exposure! This is exactly as delicious as it sounds. A victim will strip down to their birthday suit and face life’s exit as naked as they faced its entrance.  Of course for you voyeuristic onlookers this will fail to be titillating, as the victim’s nudity will be a canvas of pale, bloodless flesh highlighted with all manner of lesions, blisters, and extremities swelling (only to eventually fall off in a hail of auto amputation).

The solidified streaker will not be visible for long because Evolution’s most primal prank is about to be played. Naked, frozen, and with likely-irreversible end-organ damage, the human Klondike Bar will crawl into a nearby secluded confined space to breathe their last breath. This is called “terminal burrowing,” or the more delightful “hide-and-die” response. Bodies will be found behind furniture, inside of trashcans, and even in drainage pipes. Nothing beats entering the Big Sleep mimicking a hibernating bear, is there?!

So dear readers, think twice before you let professional failure, familial stagnation, and the demons of sobriety drive you deep into a snowy night for a little murderous hide-and-seek. Layer up, plan ahead, and for all of our sake, keep all undressing as non-paradoxical as possible. Farewell friends and fiends, until next time, stay cool…

(note: the Dr. Carl Cadaver art was provided by the marvelous Brad who can be found on Twitter @comicwasteland. Please consider contacting him for any art commission or project you may desire)

Welcome To The Waiting Room

Welcome friends, fiends, and friendly fiends! It is I, Dr. Carl Cadaver! Druggist to the damned! Medic to the monster! Osteopath to the Old Ones! Surgeon to the strange! Physician to the forbidden! Come into my office and learn the horrors of our own bodies, won’t you?

For our first topic, let us choose the crimson fluid that runs through all things horror as well as through each one of us. Without it, there would be nothing worth living for. There would be nothing to curdle, nothing to spill, and nothing to avenge. Yes, dear reader, I am talking about BLOOD!

Blood is life. About 7% of the weight our bodies display on Earth is the blood we carry and depend upon for so many important functions. We each only have about 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of this red, red wine which is why we flee in terror from the slashers and creatures that would spill it from us! As our tell-tale hearts pump this fluid through us, it carries nutrients, oxygen, chemicals, waste, and the substances needed to fight insidious infections and heal grievous gouges.

Just over half of the blood that circulates through capillary, vein, and artery is made up plasma; a dense muck of white and red blood cells. The white portion, leukocytes, is responsible for finding tiny invaders bent on destroying all peace and wellbeing. We’ll look upon the sneaky bastards our leukocytes seek to devour in the future and learn what true body horror is! For now, it is enough to mention these paladins in white ride into battle to save us from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and all manner of parasites. Oh, the delicious tales they could tell!

Then there are the red blood cells. Red, ah yes red! Their positively bland medical name is erythrocyte, which would fail to excite even the wildest vampire. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, an iron-rich matter that temporarily binds with oxygen for transport and gives our blood its red sanguinary splendor. Imagine the Grand Guignol  or the works of Bava and Argento if humans were cursed with blood that was pale yellow instead of dear old profondo rosso. Truly terrible to consider.

As our lungs huff and puff to grasp the oxygen needed to flee our attackers, the red blood cells bond with molecules of oxygen to be delivered where needed. The more oxygenated, the more bright and splendid the hue of red. The less oxygenated it becomes, it takes on a dark, deep shade that is not without its own visual appeal. I imagine lycanthropes prefer one to another much as those our own fattened stock prefer milk chocolate or dark.

So desperately we much protect our blood! Yet, there are many methods to rob a living victim of this miracle nectar or at least hinder the erythrocytes’ mission. One particularly nasty trick would most likely be entertainment in an old dark house; the act of poisoning. Cyanide has long been a tool of choice for ornery souls with a bone to pick. This delightful compound is found naturally in many species of foul flora. Why, it is even in many seeds within the sweet fruit you snack upon!

Once cyanide finds its way inside you, the body is unable to utilize oxygenated blood. This blood never has to part with its precious cargo so it retains its glorious bright red color. Of course, the body turns blue and suffocates despite all the oxygen being pumped throughout the circulatory system as the heart beats ever faster, faster in panic of impending doom. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink, eh?

Another rude transgression occurs when carbon monoxide (CO) builds up in the blood stream. As CO tricks the lungs into allowing it entry, it waits red blood cells to snatch up and bonds irreversibly with the hemoglobin. In effect, oxygen must stand by as it watches a killer climb into the family car and drive off… with the wife and kids inside!

Again, suffocation from inside, but this time with some flair. The new CO-heme complex tears through the brain, disassembling precious lipids and turning the brain into a leaky, pockmarked ball of hamburger meat. Why, even casual exposure to CO to the blood can slowly diminish the central nervous system: memory, intelligence, and movement coordination. Makes you desire sitting in an idling automobile, cuddling up to a wood burning fireplace, walking behind a lawnmower on a warm summer day, or puffing on a cigarette does it not? Slow murders are sometimes the most delicious.

Of course there is a much easier way to insult the blood we need so dearly. A body can be robbed of its spark simply by bleeding. Every Voorhees worth his sequel knows that the easiest way to stop a licentious teenager is to drain them quickly of what their throbbing hearts are circulating. Not all the blood needs to be spilt for trouble to begin, oh no! At 20% blood loss decisions and actions become harder. Panic and general restlessness set in, and a terrorized runner may just run right into that dark, decrepit woodshed against all better judgment. Delightful!

However at 40% blood loss, which is 2 liters of blood for those of you curious souls reading, shock sets in. The body starts to shut down organs and systems in reverse order of what is most necessary for the arbitrary designation we call “life.” Hoping that the hero will save the day in time, a bled body drops unconscious. If our villain is talented and wily, death’s icy fingers grasp our bleeder. The heart spasms, lungs labor, brain unplugs, and soon enough our unfortunate soul is off for The Beyond.

There is an art to bleeding a victim, and we can thank our martial minded friends in feudal times for mastering the techniques. Hacking and slashing with kitchen implements is one thing, but if done right and arterial laceration will spring forth a cranberry fountain as high as 7 inches against gravity or 16 inches laterally. What a glorious canvas Pollock could present if only he had traded brush for bowie knife! Our master swordsmen from the East even perfected a cut which made an artery whistle as it liberated a foes lifeblood. Whistling or not, after 30 seconds our fun is unfortunately spoiled. Our gashed gash and disemboweled douche will expire, having been pumped dry. Next, please!

Well there you have it, creeps and creepettes! Blood in all its gory glory. Protect its integrity, won’t you? Perhaps by passing that hitchhiker, avoiding that food from unknown sources, and politely declining that invitation to that rustic cabin you will live to read another installment. But please, don’t let me ruin your fun… life is about risks, no? Farewell reader, farewell!