Monday, September 15, 2014

The Old Salem Burying Ground

      We came next to the Old Salem Burying Ground. The land in the middle of the city isn't big, and it isn't small. Following along the street, I first thought we might not be walking in the right direction for the cemetery. Past houses and buildings and storefronts it lies, simply there. The cemetery, and the souls, that have laid there for so many years.

      We walked into the cemetery when it was empty. The stores and shops and attractions had been full as we passed them, and it seemed somehow odd, a kind of wrong that those who lived this history that put Salem on the map lay silent, univisited. My ignorance on exactly who is interred in the Old Salem Burying Ground quickly faded when my friend remarked that the victims of the trials were not here, but the judges were. Why weren't the victims here, I asked? Because they were convicted witches, and could not be buried in afforded a Christian burial in hollowed ground, I found.

      None of the famous victims-- Rebecca Nurse, Giles Corey, Mary Eastey, John Proctor-- are buried in the Old Salem Burying ground. Most of their final resting places remain unknown, with the notable exception of Rebecca Nurse, who had family who removed her body from the shallow grave where she was buried with other victims near the gallows, and brought her back to the family homestead to be properly buried. The Rebecca Nurse Homestead, in present day Danvers, MA, allows you to visit the historical Nurse family homestead, and pay your respects at Rebecca's grave. We did not make it over to the Homestead this trip, which I regret. Perhaps on a future return trip.

     While none of the victims are within the old burying ground, there is an honest and moving memorial to the victims on the outer edge of the cemetery. Stone benches with each victim's name are placed around a rectangular area with an open entryway resembling an unbarred prison, adorned with quotes inscribed on the ground from the victims' proclaiming their innocence. Without graves, walking from stone to stone, from John  Proctor to Sarah Good, I was left with the feeling that I had visited them, and laid my respects.

     Laying just outside the memorial is Judge John Hawthorne, who is buried in the ground of the Old Burying Point. His gravestone, old and from another time, has been preserved in the way many others in the cemetery have been, and reinforced. The judge who had such a direct hand in the murder of the victims has been sentenced, in death, to lie beside the memorial to the injustice he carried out, and the bold poetry of that circumstance is-- if not just-- fitting.

      While gravestones like Judge Hawthorne's have been aided in the quest to last through time, others have not. Stones from over 300 years ago stand tall, still upright, many clearly marked up by visitors attempting to read them. White lines made with stones highlight names and dates on grave markers that have stood so long they are decaying their self. The inscriptions for Giles Corey's, the victim who was sentenced to be crushed to death, first wife-- and others-- have been marked this way.

     And the stones are beautiful. The level and style of simple, direct decoration used going back what is now a few hundred years are all their own, and standing in that cemetery, in Salem, you understand it. The crudely drawn skeletons with wings, perched atop a stone, the simple designs of intertwined hearts. You understand something about these people. What they believed, and what death looked like to them.

     Apart from the Judge, the other famous residents of the old burying ground are those who came close to the history that makes Salem famous. Mary Corey, first wife of victim Giles Corey, lies far and to the back of the cemetery. And in a section covered by a few trees, over to the side, lies Nathaniel Mather, brother of Puritan and witchcraft expert Cotton Mather. In his writings, Cotton Mathew documented the witch trials, and in many ways fueled beliefs that led to the hysteria-- to the point where his writings are even mentioned as something the fictional Ichabod Crane-- superstitious believer in witchcraft and all things occult-- reads in Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Standing in front of Nathaniel's grave, his brother Cotton Mather-- who was almost a character in the tale of the Headless Horseman, and certainly a player in the witch trials-- became more real to me, the fears and superstitions and prejudices of the trials stepping out of their graves and into the light.

     Walking out of the cemetery, we watched a bus of people on some type of senior citizen's tour disembark, and begin to file into the victims' memorial. And then, several other tourists began to wander in. We had, we found, caught the old burying point during a rare quiet time.

View my whole album of the first day in the Old Burying Point here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Witchcraft, Alive and Well in Salem

 After the Witch Museum, we decided to walk through Salem. The town, the city, is so beautiful. Being populated does not stop this New England community from appearing moderately sleepy, easily laid down and back-- but full of activity and life. So many people have come to Salem, to stay and to see, and because of this there are so many things to do while you are there.

 The trend begun with the witch museum, where the legitimately historical (the Roger Conant statue) stand aside the melting pot which Salem has become (the museum) continues. On our walk to what would become our first official stop, the Old Salem Burying Ground, took us to a statue of  actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who for years played a fictional witch on the television show "Bewitched." 

We turned a corner and walked by storefronts of businesses belonging to witches, those who practice and or believe in magic, psychics, fortune tellers and every type of belief and person in between. Walking along the water, we found this desk-- which I so dearly would love to have taken home, at the curb on the boardwalk. Only in Salem. And this is what makes this place so special. I wish we could have seen more of the side of Salem, where those who practice the arts of telling fortunes, magic and Witchcraft are. Whenever the subject came up around locals, we were met with testimonials as to who was the real deal, who was not and which ones spent their time in between. The closest we came was stopping in two shops to buy crystals and stones, which were said to help those who carry them on their person with stress and anxiety in life. A post detailing their results will come soon.

 The witchcraft in Salem that is alive and well is no one witch. It is the victims of the witchcraft hysteria, it is the modern day people who practice the religion Wicca, it is Elizabeth Montgomery playing Samantha on "Bewitched," it is the burying ground in the middle of the city, it is the crystals and stones, the witch hat made of a plate and ice cream cones in the coffee shop. The witchcraft of Salem is everything the term has ever meant at once-- and the way the people, streets and places of Salem embrace this destination as a constant season of the witch is a wonderful thing.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Salem Witch Museum

We decided to go see "The Salem Witch Museum" first. For all Salem has become known to be, the Witch Museum is very much a tourist attraction, billed as one of the city's quintessential stops. I had no idea what to expect.

 On an island in a crosswalk just in front of the Witch Museum, stands a stern, cloaked figure from the past. With his tall hat and dress, one believes this grave figure long since faded to history to be a statue of someone from the Witch Trials. One of the judges, perhaps, who sent the innocent accused to their deaths. This man, standing just across from the door of the Salem Witch Museum, is so much the city, if you look the right way you might see the fearful, ignorant, extreme suspicion that fueled so much of the witch hysteria on his face. The man whose likeness the statue bears is Roger Conant, the credited founder of Salem. Conant died in 1679, years before the start of the witchcraft trials, and is oft-referred to as having nothing to do with Salem's witch history. Whether intentional or not, the likeness he bears here is very much of the times. Those dark, desolate years in a new world when so many were so uncertain of their survival. On the statue's face, you can see the time from which the trials were birthed.

Passing Roger Conant, you come to the door of the Salem Witch Museum. Housed in an old church, the Witch Museum keeps you guessing about what it will be. And a many things the museum is. There's something fitting about the main attraction being in a former church, the most vocal record of what this somewhat religiously-fueled hysteria became. When you buy your ticket for the museum after having walked through the large church front doors, you settle yourself in for an undoubtedly touristy experience. On goes the yellow sticker which sets you into groups to go in and see the show of the museum. The sticker bears the museum logo- a stereotyped witch, with a pointed hat, black cat and broom. Comically Gothic lights adorn the dark hall, while you wait with your group to go into the auditorium for the initial show. At this point, you are allowed no photos, and so there are no pictures I have of the historical and informational panels that line the front hall. Reading them quickly in the dim light, I was struck by the depth put into the writing on the wall, which seemed far more than I had expected until this point.

 The auditorium is large, and rectangular. There are seats all along the walls, and when you sit in them you look up to a series of stages-- also as long as the walls-- with darkened scenes. When everyone is in a seat or standing against the wall, the show starts.

 I don't know how long ago the narration was recorded, or how old the equipment used to play it on is, but the sound would-- just almost-- be at home on an old album crinkling from my childhood record player. Spooky sound effects start, and a gravely-toned description of what the residents of Salem believed as far as witches, spirits, devils and ghosts is read. And I was surprised. As each scene lights up, showing mannequins and dummies depicting John Proctor, the accusing girls and Tituba telling these girls fantastical stories on dark winter nights-- the museum paints a far more balanced description of the past than I was expecting. While the Salem Witch Museum may have gotten you in based on the depictions of the traditional, stereotypical witch, they waste no time in discussing how the accused were treated and abused, by ignorant people who were foolish and or terrified enough to believe in witches.

 The museum exhibit after the main show is even more enlightening. The rooms in the back depict a well-researched and presented exhibition of what the "witch" has meant historically, in the past and present of society. Beginning with early people who worshiped or regarded nature, moving into women who presented a threat to practiced medicine by using herbs and cleaning people, problems and wounds with things like water-- the museum shows how the marginalized other has so often been accused of witchcraft. The presentation even touches on McCarthyism in the United States in the 1950s, and the demonization of gay men at the height of the HIV/AIDs crisis. I was impressed.

 The gift shop at the Salem Witch Museum is a candy store for children of the night like myself. One of everything, yes, please. I believe I came back with prints, a Dia de los Muertos mug and Christmas ornaments, a mood ring, a witch sun catcher, several books, magnets, pens and other such witchy goodies.

 With the balance of confronting the past and the trials in a balanced way, and the embracing of the modern day witch culture, and the cultural meaning the the stereotype of a witch has come to mean, the Salem Witch Museum is highly recommend, and a highly recommend gateway into the experience of the city.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Entering Salem

     Last fall, when the wind was just starting to cool down, and the leaves were just short days from beginning to curl up and die, I made it to Salem, Massachusetts. Upon hearing the word-- Salem-- images are insantly conjured up out of the fall leaves, of one of the darker chapters in the history of the land and communitites we now know as America.

Artist's rendering of Tituba telling tales to the Salem girls

     From February 1692 through May 1693, in the community of Salem Village, 19 people were hanged, 1 pressed to death, as many as 13 people died in prison and at least 3 dogs were killed at the hands of a government fueled by hysteria began by young girls. Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr. and Elizabeth Hubbard, aged 9 to 12, began to have fits and go into agitated states. The girls would go on to accuse residents in and around Salem Village of engaging in the practice of witchcraft, which either directly or indirectly caused the girls' hysterical afflictions, so they said. The images of what happened because of these girls-- women and men being hanged for crimes of the occult with no physical evidence-- have exploded on the legacy of American popular culture, and been reinvented and used throughout the years as a cultural touchstone of injustice and the evils Americans-- and humans, the world over-- can inflict on each other. The words "Salem," "witchcraft," hangings" and "witch trials" all come together to create the Salem experience known to the world-- for better, worse and indifferent; for truth, and for myth.

     The truth of Salem, the real experience of what happens on the grounds of the village, are less well known. And may never be possibly known. However, to try and gain an understanding of the horror that occured there-- the deadly witchhunt launched by an ignorant, fearful and hysterical community-- to try and grasp that understanding, you have to go to Salem, and see and read and question and experience all you can. 

      At long last, I was able to travel to Salem, with some friends. 
     Salem, Massachusetts is a beautiful place. The kind of beautiful place that only increases with the vibrancy of late summer, and fall. Seated on the water, the city now known as Salem is a melting stew-- which may or may not be contained in a cauldron-- of all the histories, tragedies and beauties the land has experienced. 

     You come into the city and it looks like any other New England town. Sloping hills, winding streets. A more modern, flat and sprawling cemetery greets you before you come into Salem proper-- a hint at things to come. When the Salem Visitors' Center comes into view, you see Saint Peter's Episcopal Church-- founded in 1733, with Sunday services currently at 8AM and 10AM each week-- and see the old stone church still standing, with gravestones standing in a small rock patch, feneced in, on either side of the church's doors-- stones going back to the time of the witch trials. In Salem, the veil between the past and the present, spaces where lie hundreds of years, is so thin you often cannot see it.

     When you go to Salem, go to the National Parks Service's Salem Visitors Center. The eager staff have information you will need to make the most of your hours there. A government service, the Parks' employees cannot promote one attraction over another-- so the overview they give you, much detailed, gives you every option you will need to decide between the tourist attractions, museums, historical sites, attractions and all that is unique to Salem-- both related to the trials and not (and many places somewhere in between.) So much lies in the Visitor's Center alone-- a mapping of the attractions pertainig to the witch trials, to famous resident Nathaniel Hawthorne (who, in some different ways, is related to the happenings of the trials), to the maritime history of this place on the water. Taking it all in, we quickly decided that our first stop would be one of many, and a first stop many make: The Salem Witch Museum. While leaving the Visitor's Center, I noticed these gorgeous glass orbs hanging by a display of ships-- and made a note to come back to look at them. I would soon come to learn what those orbs were, as we walked the streets of Salem.

     Up next: our experience of the Salem Witch Musuem. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Season of the Befana

     I hope you had yourself a scary little Christmas, holiday, solistice or whatever early winter rite
you may or may not celebrate. In seasons past, I have written about the scary ghost stories and things that go bump in the night around Christmas. Be it the four ghosts of Charles Dickens' carol, or the punishing Krampus, the Ghost here remains fascinated by the nightmares of Christmas.
     This year, I started reading about the La Befana, the Italian Christmastime legend. Anyone who knows the story of the Befana will know she is a kind, old woman with a broom who brings good children presents on Christmas. Many will tell you she is a witch. Delving deep into the Italian mythology, however, I have not found enough evidence to convict her of witchcraft. Perhaps the fact that Befana is old, with a broom at her side as a constant was enough for her to become a witch by association while the legend lived on and aged-- or, perhaps, it was the intent of the stories which were told to cast her always a witch. Never the matter; there is something about the legend of the Santa Claus-like woman being a witch which enamours the Halloween heart. And something, too, very true to the part of the witch in legend, where the indiviudal will become labeled a witch, for displaying simple pieces of the archetype.

     More formally, the story of Befana has tried to explain her as an heir to a heathen goddess, or at the least begetting her name from such an earth goddess. Befana is commonly described as a devoted housekeeper, who in the most often told story meets the three Magi on their way to visit the Christ child in Bethlehem, and, after they offer to have Befana join them on their quest, are turned down by her, for she has too much to do. Too many floors to be swept and kept clean, too much to do, to go on such a journey. Befana, on their leaving, regrets her decision, and has since spent the ages looking for the Christ child; finding other children on Christmas, and bearing them gifts, when she realizes she has not found the child she is searching for, yet.

     The Christmas ghosts, the Christmas horned-one, the Christmas witch. It would appear there is enough during the dark months while the snow is falling to keep a Halloween child involved, entertained, interested.

     To further celebrate my Befana Christmas, I attempted cut-out cookies of the old woman, with the help of one of my witch cookie cutters-- to questionable success.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Tis the season...

     Although the season I so love is over, and I have-- with regret-- accepted that-- I am still here. I have to admit, with all these jingling bells, snowflakes, red-suited men and reindeer, I feel terribly out of place, such as our friend Mr. Jack Skellington here.

     Over what I am sure will be a long, blustery, white, cold, dark winter, I will be writing more. Now that autumn has come to a close, I will have time to finally write of my trip to Salem, Massachusetts, this past fall, and my own personal season of the witch. And absolutely, I will-- while Christmas and snow rages outside-- find some time for some scary ghost stories. And share them here. 

     A happy, wintry haunting to you all. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

A dreadful, wintery urge

For this dark, cold, blustery early winter morning, some words-- and images-- of wisdom from the great cartoonist Charles Addams.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


     After Halloween, a photograph of Margaret Hamilton, in the dress of the character which made her famous and likely immortal, with Oscar the Grouch on Seasame Street came to my attention. Forever a fan of the witch, and Margaret's incarnation of the green, slipper-stealing role-- and of Jim Henson's mupperty-- I clicked over to YouTube faster than you can say "I'll get you my--" 

     And found nothing. After the fifth and sixth combination of "Margaret Hamilton Seasame Street" in my YouTube search bar, I realized something was suspect. Probably some copyright issue, I thought. Wrong. Clips of Margaret Hamilton, in character as the Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz, on Seasame Street are unavailable not because of some copyrigtht issue, but because the episode-- having been deemed too scary for children-- has not re-aired or been seen since its premiere in 1976. 

"The Wicked Witch responds by making it rain inside [Mr.] Hooper's Store and even threatens to turn Big Bird into a feather duster and David into a basketball.
Only Oscar the Grouch initially admires her and suspects he may even have a crush on the witch. The remainder of the episode's street scenes follow the witch's attempts to retrieve the broom, including disguising herself as a harmless old lady. Big Bird grows to like her, and is, saddened when the witch departs, but she drops the broom yet again."

     After reaction that included letters from parents complaining that Margaret's Witch was too scary for their children-- and  a response from a Wiccan who equated the Oz character with their religion-- it was decided the show would never be re-run. And to the Internet's knowledge, it never has. What a loss, what a loss. What a world, what a world.

      For some consolation that-- at least for now-- you are not able to watch Oscar the Grouch fawning over the Witch of the West, watch this later appearance by Hamilton, dressing in character on a popular children's television program which caused far less hysteria; when Mr. Rodgers welcomed the Witch to the neighborhood.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Novemeber fright

     The first few days of November are always a melancholy time. Pumpkins begin to leave windows, be thrown out, and gradually the orange glow and the crisp cool nights are replaced by images of turkeys, faceless pumpkins and cold, cold nights. All while Christmas carols begin to sneak their bells into the air.

 However, this year found me with appropriate bookends for the All Hallow's season. Earlier in the season, I wrote about how going to the "Frightworld" haunted attraction was the perfect beginning to set the spirit for the season. Last night, I found myself at "Frightworld" again, picking up what is now my new favorite t-shirt. Brilliantly, "Frightworld" was still open this weekend and delivering the scares. Walking into the building, hearing people scream, watching a group of girls walk out of a haunt clutching each other, I saw in the illuminated darkness that Hallowen is alive and well. Seeing the outside of the Eerie Asylum haunt, watching the lights flicker and hearing the screams made me want to walk through each one of them again-- and I would have, if it weren't for the people waiting for me out in the car.

 Thank you, Frightworld, for giving such a fitting beginning and end to Halloween 2013. Here's to next season-- and the three-hundred sixty-some days I have to blog about my favorite time of year until it is actually, again, here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

     Well. The day for the blog is finally here. The reason I write these thoughts here, All Hallow's Eve is here. And I seem to be spent from the day, the night. Always, the rush to get the lights up, the tombstones out, the costume on before the trick or treaters arrive. Again, this year I believe I did a fair job of it -- but not enough, never enough.

      Notable things I did this Halloween include the likes of watching "Halloween" (or having it on in the background, at least; and the original, of course) three times and "Hocus Pocus" two and a half today, and carving several pumpkins. Among my jack o'lanterns, I carved Winifred Sanderson from one of my favorite and most enjoyable seasonal films "Hocus Pocus" (with a pattern from Zombie Pumpkins) and Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon from Season 1 of "American Horror Story." The pumpkins, too, valiant efforts.

      God, do I love this holiday. Everything it stands for; every foam tombstone out in the yard, every trick or treater wide-eyed at my fog machine spraying fog on the porch, every wig and piece of makeup to create a costume. The harvest, the day when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinniest, when everyone, no matter living or dead, can walk amongst us, and everyone can be whomever she or he wants to be. Mask or no mask.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Cookie Baking 2013

     Tonight, the annual Halloween Cookie Baking is done. With the help of some dear friends and family with a penchant for baking and decorating the season in cookie form, we got it done.

     Notable cookies a part of this year go to two cookie cutters Laura and I brought back from Salem-- The Day of the Dead cookie cutter set, and a Vodoo doll cookie cutter, along with the eBay purchased "Undead Fred" set (all products from "Fred and Friends." The traditional El Dia de los Muertos skulls are ideal for cookie decoarting-- ideal, and challenging. The detailed designs and patterns on the skulls challenged us-- but were pulled off in a big way. For next year, we will read up on better and more efficient ways to decorate those cookies in particular. However, I think we did a valiant job.

     Back in September, for Stephen King's birthday, I had a plan to make Stephen King-themed cookies. This never fully materialized, but left me with a cookie cutter bought online that was supposed to be the shape of a "Princess." To this Ghost, the princess looked like she could pass for a prom queen, and pass I believe she did as I finally made my Carrie White cookies-- all decked out in her blood for prom. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Music for the Moonlight

     Tonight, the moon is high in the October sky; bright, beaming, cool and windy. I stood in the dark watching it for a few moments, understanding competely how people of less developed times may have been spooked by the moonlight, alone.

 It was the kind of moonlight no camera would capture, out there in the dark. While no photograph will capture that feeling, perhaps, some music can. And so, for tonight, in the high moonlight, here is some original Halloween music by Michael Szmania. For the moonlight, for your pumpkin carving, to play as your trick or treaters come to the door. Some great October ambiance.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Language of Fear

      I know not what show this is, I know not what ethical waivers the producers may have entered or what these, for lack of a better word, contestants may have known going in. I know not what anyone here in this clip from Brazil is saying, but I know one thing.

 They are scared.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Death of a Pumpkin

      It is with some sorrow that I annouce the passing of one of my two pumpkins. The first one which started to grow I soon came to find, after harvesting, had likely been left on the vine too long. My pumpkin had started to rot from the inside. What had once been firm and strong started to soften and cave in from the top. Next year, if I have any pumpkins, I will be sure not to leave them on the vine too long.

 Without researching online whether or not the seeds of a rotting pumpkin could keep, or be roasted, I decided to try and save the seeds anyway. I cut into the soft pumpkin skin and removed all the pumpkin, as much of the seeds as I could, and submerged the pumpkin in water to separate the seeds. It remains to be seen how they will turn out.

 Before throwing away the pieces of rotted pumpkin, I did the pumpkin right and cut a face into one of the firmer pieces. All this work, all the planting and watering and weeding and tending to harvest the thing-- all to cut into it for seeds and a face.

 In happier pumpkin growing related news, I have a third-- smaller, but very strong-- pumpkin still mostly green, but soon ready to harvest. I had not placed much faith in this third pumpkin; however, the plant I believe will soon prove me very wrong.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

 A brief post tonight. Here is an image very likely-- and likely to be believed-- as Edgar Allan. This portrait was pained by a John McDougall, about 1846 in New York City. This likeness is one of only a select handful of images believed to be authentically Poe. Unlike the more commonly thought image of Poe moustached and with deep, sullen and sunken eyes, this picture would likely be more close to how Edgar would have looked during the composition of some of his earllier works. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frightworld Night

     In Western New York, it may be taking our weather longer than it should to chill from summer, but we are getting there. The leaves have turned, started to fall. But so far this October, I have not felt October-- at least as strongly as I should have when I start to see pumpkins for sale and ghosts in windows. Tonight fixed all of that for me-- with a visit to Frightworld, our annual trip to one of the best experiences of fear you can have.

 I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk with the man behind Frightworld earlier this season, to see what new things we could expect with the haunt-- which made us here at the Ghost that much more excited to see what would lie in the haunted houses this year. One of my personally best loved features of Frightworld is the ever-evolving journey of the haunts from year to year. Every fall, Frightworld offers something new, innovative-- whether that be in the actors, mazes or an entirely never-before-seen haunt. And every year there are pieces of Frightworld's history still very much a perfectly connected within the haunts. Think coming out of a new maze of cornstalks you've never traversed before, winding among the scarecrows, to meet the eeriely wonderful Headless Horseman you came to love in years past.

 This year was no exception. At a new location not far from the former, Frightworld this year has multiple new houses like the backwoods, masked wearing terrors of "Condemned" and what was my stand-out favorite of the night, "Eerie State Asylum." In Frightworld, fear is found in many a place at first thought unlikely but is in reality ideal-- like a secluded, watery cave in one of the new haunts. Across the houses, old and new, I was thrown right into what I love about Frightworld, and what Frightworld gets so right about fear. Many of the houses have superbly talented and dressed actors and incredible props and effects-- but still work in time to use some of the simpler tricks of the trade which work hand in hand together to create fear: walking in the dark, sometimes alone, through a maze, not knowing what is around the next corner, or who, or where that corner may be. Or when the claustropbia of the balloon walls will end, and when-- or if-- you will make it out alive. (And, yes, Stephen was right: they are longer this year. And something else, too.)

The H H Richardson Complex, formerly the Buffalo State Asylum.

 Without a doubt, what impressed me the most this year about Frightworld was "Eerie State Asylum." What so often is a part of what puts Frightworld a step above the rest is the local roots the attraction has, roots which can clearly be seen in the "Erie State Asylum" house. Any haunted attraction can give you a haunted house, or creepy woods. Only Frightworld has given me a house based on Buffalo's H. H. Richardson Complex, a building built in 1870 as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. The Asylum, which operated until the 1970s is without a doubt haunted in likely many forms. If you ever pass the building by, which sat empty and neglected for decades until recent projects have hopefully begun to revive it, you know. Just looking at the towers, the imposing structure of the building, you feel what happened there. The sadness, the terror, the fear of the unknown. Volumes of local lore and ghost stories have been told, time and again, throughout the years. In fact, the Buffalo State Asylum is likely one of Buffalo's biggest ghosts. I have long had a deep, personal connection to the building, one that has lead me to do a great deal of research on the place and its history-- research that will appear later this month here on the blog. To walk in and see one of the haunts made out with a complete recreation of the fomer Buffalo Asylum Building-- complete with lights flashing in windows, and the famous bronze green of the asylum's towers (made, I would come to find out, of actual bronze)-- was, and is, something special. And that was just the outside. The inside of the haunt excelled.... but I promise not to spoil the outside or what lies within here. 

 Whatever the weather outside may be, if it is not yet quite as cool, calm, windy as October will become so very shortly-- this is October. Within the walls of Frightworld lies October, in all of its pumpkin flickering, heart racing, chainsaw weilding, bump in the night, ghost story glory. For all the fear, for all the October-- thank you, Frightworld, for bringing us Halloween.

Two ghosts, Bryan and Laura, on either end of Frightworld's GM, Stephen Szortyka

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Good news for Edgar

     Some very welcomed Poe-themed news came my way today. For today, in Baltimore, Maryland, the Edgar Allan Poe House in museum reopened to the public. The historic attraction closed almost a year ago, after the city of Baltimore cut funding for the attraction that up until then had drawn tourists each year by the thouands.

 The brick museum which was home to the visionary Edgar in the 1830s was designated a landmark in 1972. In this home, Edgar lived during pieces of his prime, with his dear Virginia. I have never been able to make the trip, though it is certainly somewhere I want to see before I leave this life. 

 The newly formed organization "Poe Baltimore," which was helped with city funding and has worked toward ways to make the historic site financially sound and self-sufficent, has now assumed all responsibility for the operating and funding of the museum.  

 Someday, I hope to visit that space. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

"The Witch" by Shirley Jackson

   For something different this evening, a little reading. While my just past trip to Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the infamous 1692 witchcraft hysteria and trials, still freshly settling in my mind, the subject of witches won't seem to leave me. Who they are, who they were, who they weren't and who they could be.

 And this lesser known short story by the author "The Haunting of Hill House" and "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson, came to mind. Something interesting to experience while thinking of the season, while thinking of Salem. From a mind who also, it just so happens (though I haven't read the work) written about the Salem happenings herself.


"THE WITCH Shirley Jackson

  The coach was so nearly empty that the little boy had a seat all to himself, and his mother sat across the aisle on the seat next to the little boys sister, a baby with a piece of toast in one hand and a rattle in the other. She was strapped securely to the seat so she could sit up and look around, and whenever she began to slip slowly sideways the strap caught her and held her halfway until her mother turned around and straightened her again. The little boy was looking out the window and eating a cookie, and the mother was reading quietly, answering the little boys questions without looking up.
  Were on a river, the little boy said. This is a river and were on it.
  Fine, his mother said.
  Were on a bridge over a river, the little boy said to himself.
  The few other people in the coach were sitting at the other end of the car, if any of then had occasion to come down the aisle the little boy would look around and say, Hi, and the stranger would usually say, Hi, back and sometimes ask the little boy if he were enjoying the train ride, or even tell him he was a fine big fellow. These comments annoyed the little boy and he would turn irritably back to the window.
  Theres a cow, he would say, or, sighing, How far do we have to go?
  Not much longer now, his mother said, each time.
  Once the baby, who was very quiet and busy with her rattle and toast, which the mother would renew constantly, fell over too far sideways and banged her head. She began to cry, and for a minute there was noise and movement around the mothers seat. The little boy slid down from his own seat and ran across the aisle to pet his sisters feet and beg her not to cry, and finally the baby laughed and went back to her toast, and the little boy received a lollipop from his mother and went back to the window.
  I saw a witch, he said to his mother after a minute. There was a big old ugly old bad old witch outside.
  Fine, his mother said.
  A big old ugly witch and I told her to go away and she went away, the little boy went on, in a quiet narrative to himself, she came and said, Im going to eat you up, and I said, no, youre not, and I chased her away, the bad old mean witch.
  He stopped talking and looked up as the outside door of the coach opened and a man came in. He was an elderly man, with a pleasant face under white hair; his blue suit was only faintly touched by the disarray that comes from a long train trip. He was carrying a cigar, and when the little boy said, Hi, the man gestured at him with the cigar and said, Hello yourself, son. He stopped just beside the little boys seat, and leaned against the back, looking down at the little boy, who craned his neck to look upward. What you looking for out that window? the man asked.
  Witches, the little boy said promptly. Bad old mean witches.
  I see, the man said. Find many?
  My father smokes cigars, the little boy said.
  All men smoke cigars, the man said. Someday youll smoke a cigar, too.
  Im a man already, the little boy said.
  How old are you? the man asked.
  The little boy at the eternal question, looked at the man suspiciously for a minute and then said, Twenty-six. Eight hunnerd and forty eighty.
  His mother lifted her head from the book. Four, she said, smiling fondly at the little boy.
  Is that so? the man said politely to the little boy. Twenty-six. He nodded his head at the mother across the aisle. Is that your mother?
  The little boy leaned forward to look and then said, Yes, thats her.
  Whats your name? the man asked.
  The little boy looked suspicious again. MR. Jesus, he said.
  Johnny, the little boys mother said. She caught the little boys eye and frowned deeply.
  Thats my sister other there, the little boy said to the man. Shes twelve-and-a-half.
  Do you love your sister? the man asked. The little boy stared, and the man came around the side of the seat and sat down next to the little boy. Listen, the man said, shall I tell you about my little sister?
  The mother, who had looked up anxiously when the man sat down next to her little boy, went peacefully back to her book.
  Tell me about your sister, the little boy said. Was she a witch?
  Maybe, the man said.
  The little boy laughed excitedly, and the man leaned back and puffed at his cigar. Once upon a time, he began, I had a little sister, just like yours. The little boy looked up at the man, nodding at every word. My little sister, the man went on, was so pretty and so nice that I loved her more than anything else in the world. So shall I tell you what I did?
  The little boy nodded more vehemently, and the mother lifted her eyes from her book and smiled, listening.
  I bough her a rocking-horse and a doll and a million lollipops, the man said, and then I took her and put my hands around her neck and I pinched her and I pinched her until she was dead.
  The little boy gasped and the mother turned around, her smile fading. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again as the man went on, And then I took and I cut her head off and I took her head—“
  Did you cut her all in pieces? the little boy asked breathlessly.
  I cut off her head and her hands and her feet and her hair and her nose, the man said, and I hit her with a stick and I killed her.
  Wait a minute, the mother said, but the baby fell over sideways just at that minute and by the time the mother had set her up again the man was going on.
  And I took her head and I pulled out her hair and---
  Your little sister? the little boy prompted eagerly.
  My little sister, the man said firmly. And I put her head in a cage with a bear and the bear ate it all up.
  Ate her head all up? the little boy asked.
  The mother put her book down, and came across the aisle. She stood next to the man and said, Just what do you think youre doing? The man looked up courteously and she said, Get out of here.
  Did I frighten you? the man said. He looked down at the little boy and nudged him with an elbow and he and the little boy laughed.
  This man cut up hi little sister, the little boy said to his mother.
  I can very easily call the conductor, the mother said to the man.
  The conductor will eat my mommy, the little boy said. Well chop her head off.
  And little sisters head, too, the man said. He stood up, and the mother stood back to let him get out of the seat. Dont ever come back in this car, she said.
  My mommy will eat you, the little boy said to the man.
  The man laughed, and the little boy laughed, and then the man said, Excuse me, to the mother and went past her out of the car. When the door had closed behind him the little boy said, How much longer do we have to stay on this old train?
  Not much longer, the mother said. She stood looking at the little boy, wanting to say something, and finally she said, You sit still and be a good boy. You may have another lollipop.
  The little boy climbed down eagerly and followed his mother back to her seat. She took a lollipop from a bag in her pocketbook and gave it to him. What do you say? she asked.
  Thank you, the little boy said. Did that man really cut his little sister up in pieces?
  He was just teasing, the mother said, and added urgently, Just teasing.
  Probly, the little boy said. With his lollipop he went back to his own seat, and settled himself to look out the window again. Probly he was a witch.' "