Scary Research to Share in the Dark: A Halloween-Themed Roundup

If you’re anything like us here in the Scholarly Commons, the day you’ve been waiting for is finally here. It’s time to put on a costume, eat too much candy, and celebrate all things spooky. That’s right, folks. It’s Halloween and we couldn’t be happier!

Man in all black with a jack o' lantern mask dancing in front of a green screen cemetery

If you’ve been keeping up with our Twitter (@ScholCommons) this month, you’ve noticed we’ve been sharing some ghoulish graphs and other scary scholarship. To keep the holiday spirit(s) high, I wanted to use this week’s blog post to gather up all our favorites.

First up, check out the most haunted cities in the US on The Next Web, which includes some graphs but also a heat map of the most haunted areas in the country. Which region do you think has the most ghosts?

If you’re more interested in what’s happening on across the pond, we’ve got you covered. Click on this project to see just how scary ArcGIS story maps can be.

And while ghosts may be cool, we all know the best Halloween characters are all witches. Check out this fascinating project from The University of Edinburgh that explores real, historic witch hunts in Scotland.

The next project we want to show you might be one of the scariest. I was absolutely horrified to find out that Illinois’ most popular Halloween candy is Jolly Ranchers. If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters tonight, please think of the children and reconsider your candy offerings.

Now that we’ve share the most macabre maps around, let’s shift our focus to the future. Nathan Yau uses data to predict when your death will occur. And if this isn’t enough to terrify you, try his tool to predict how you’ll die.

Finally, if you’re looking for some cooking help from an AI or a Great Old One, check out this neural network dubbed “Cooking with Cthulhu.”

Do you have any favorite Halloween-themed research projects? If so, please share it with us here or on Twitter. And if you’re interested in doing your own deadly digital scholarship, feel free to reach out to the Scholarly Commons to learn how to get started or get help on your current work. Remember, in the words everyone’s favorite two-faced mayor…

A clip of the Mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas saying There's only 365 days left until next Halloween

Spooky Photoshop Tricks

This coming Monday is October 31st, known to most as Halloween. Besides passing out candy and dressing up, Halloween can be a fun opportunity to learn some new effects for your Photoshop skill book. Below is a short tutorial on how to turn a relatively normal photo into a creepy, grainy one!

To start, I’ll take this photo of a photogenic Labrador Retriever and add a grainy film effect to it, so he’ll end up looking like he’s Nosferatu’s dog. The steps are as follows:

Spooky 1

  1. There are a few ways to create a black and white image, but for this image I’ll be choosing to just put a Black & White adjustment layer on it. From there, I’ll fiddle with the controls to find what looks best for my image. (So, for my dog, I adjusted the preset to Maximum Black so that the shadows really come through.)
  2. After that, you can add any other adjustment layers you think will improve the image. So I added a Brightness/Contrast layer, where I lowered the brightness to -45, and increased the contrast to 20.
  3. Create a new layer beneath your adjustment layer and name it something like “Scratches.” Select the brush tool and make sure that the size is down to 1 pixel, and hardness is up to 100%. Choose a mid-tone grey color, then create a few random “scratches” on top of the photo to give it an authentically old look.
  4. Once you’ve done that, select the layer with your original photo. Go to the Filter option on the top ribbon. From the drop down menu choose “Noise” and from there, “Add Noise.”
  5. From there, you will see a pop up screen with options for your Add Noise¬†Filter. For this particular effect, I would suggest checking the box for monochromatic noise. You can choose either uniform or gaussian — I stuck with uniform. Play around with the percentage and see what works for you. I ended up with 38.07% for my photo.
  6. Crop however you’d like.

Spooky 2

There we have it! Your photo now looks older and creepier. Feel free to add some other effects, if you’d like. I decided to add a Hue/Saturation layer to the dog to make him green, use the burn tool on his eyes to make them darker, add and transform some text, and to add a little spider in order to make him Sparky the Zombie Dog!

Zombie Dog