Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

 Well. Halloween 2011 is almost over. I have my usual regrets, larger it seems than many years past. The month and life got away with me, and I barely had time to decorate a haunt. Next year I will work faster, smarter, harder on the haunt-- beginning November 1. You really do have to stay on top of these things a year a head of time, or you will find yourself overwhelmed.

 I did carve this pumpkin. With another three left uncarved. So. I did do many great festive things-- the haunted houses, constant stream of horror movies, reading (and seeing a dramatized version of) Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw," started to read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury. And I have much material for cemetery posts, in the coming weeks.

 Until then, I wish you the Happiest, most Haunted of Halloweens.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October in Forest Lawn, 2011

  Well, here begins my previously posted about trips to Western New York cemeteries during October. I have been keeping up with the trips, although they haven't as quickly translated into posts. While originally this was conceived as a weekly posting, I believe that this week leading up to Halloween will be Cemetery Week at Ghost Upon the Floor, and I'll update with new cemeteries ever day or so. I think it best to start chronologically, and start with my several trips to Forest Lawn I've made in these last few weeks of October.

 I photographed monuments, stones, angels, changing leaves and graves in what very well be my favorite cemetery. In the photo albums, which are more photo essays now, you will see things I've already photographed. Old friends such as the Pratt Monument and his angels make appearances, as do new statues and stones I discovered around the graveyard.

 While planting some deep fall colored mums in my recently discovered great-grandparents' urn in one of the cemetery's older sections, I discovered the grave pictured above, of Silas Henry Fish. Something just struck me about the way Silas' grave is constructed, on a shady hill, in his single, solitary above ground crypt. A huge cross lays on top of him, as opposed to the few stone flowers which adorn his wife's next to him. The first day of photography, as you can see above, I was there near sunset, and the sun setting shadows reminded me, for some reason, of the last act in Bram Stoker's "Dracula," as Jonathan Harker and company race the setting sun and the Prince of Darkness to his castle. When I returned a few days later for a series I will post later this week, I took several black and white photos of Silas Fish, and the stone work is even more striking and highlighted. I'm partial to the name Silas, too, I might mention, because of the character in Neil Gaiman's modern children's classic "The Graveyard Book." And this Silas lies on one of the most silent, peaceful hills in Forest Lawn.

 Always, I'm drawn back the short distance to the hill where the Pratt Monument stands. I took some shots of Pratt and his Angels in Autumn, and explored their section a bit more than before. Among the new stones I found were this pondering woman, who stands seated in a fenced in area among one of the older, circa 1900 areas of the graveyard. I'm ever fascinated by the artwork that lies within Forest Lawn. And however many times I visit the grounds, I always find some new beauty.

 I could spend hours among the stones, walking with my camera, finding and rediscovering new areas, art and the ways in which we remember those who have lived, and gone before us. I took far more photos than I have uploaded to the photo albums, but I tried to narrow the selection down to something I hope you, too, will find interesting-- a tour of the bright bursting orange autumn fall in this sprawling, magnificent cemetery.

View the photo albums from my first two trips below:

October in Forest Lawn, 2011
Fall in Forest Lawn Afternoon, 10-04-11


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More fear...

 Always, I don't feel like I'm doing enough to enjoy October. Life gets in the way of decorating, taking the trip out to the pumpkin farm. But tonight I did something right. I went to another area haunted house, Frightworld, with my friend Laura. And was, as is forever the case with Frightworld, absolutely pleased and surprised. 

 As I wrote about in my previous post, when we went to the Haunted Catacombs a few weeks back, a brainstorming session afterward led to the idea that the perfect haunted house incorporated a simple house, being outside, with preferably a cemetery. Frightworld's "Wicked Woods" seemed to walk right out of our talks, and had us walking through complete darkness, to a forest, to a cemetery in a forest, to a house. 

 And several more things managed to scare me. I appreciated how well the houses relied on complete darkness. Simple, easy, but so very effective, walking through complete darkness is the perfect build up to some good scares. One of their houses also perfectly executed a claustrophobic feeling, walking through rows of hanging laundry in what appeared to be an attic. Claustrophobia was also very well used with the use of those now famous balloon walls which have, until now, pressed against you from the left and right. Tonight, I went through my first room where the wall was the ceiling, and gradually went down farther and farther- until you were on your hands and knees. Very disturbing. Very unsettling, indeed. 

 One last bit of note, what made these houses were the actors. They weren't all focused on simply jumping out and you and making you jump that way, but a woman dressed as a girl sitting on a bed in a room full of dolls with creepy voice and another woman singing to herself in the corner provided for more creepiness and frights than if they had simply jumped out at us. And chainsaws. How could I forget the chainsaw men. 

 Oh, how I love to be scared. As with so many October things, I wish these came more than once a year. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Have you heard?

 Of the Ghost of John. I recently discovered Kristen Lawrence, and her Halloween Carols music on YouTube. A Halloween and October-centric singer and composer, I do believe this woman has some considerable talent. I am fascinated with her rendition, with full organ, of the traditional verse "The Ghost of John." There is just something special about the lyric and her soft but strong melodic voice, and the sound of the carol, as if a Christian church hymn.

 The video, below, is set to All Hallow's Eve related stills. Enjoy. I've been listening to this as I upload and ready the first of the October cemetery visit posts, which will begin tomorrow. Until then, I wish you all a Happy Haunting and do wish you are enjoying the season as much as you can.

YouTube User: TheIndustrialClef

Monday, October 10, 2011

Something wicked...

A woman working at the Tim Horton's coffee and bakery shop suggested that I do this to my hot apple cider. Never had I heard about doing such a thing before- adding whipped cream and caramel to top off the hot cider. Tasted like a caramel apple, she said. And it did, to my delighted surprise.

My apologies for the brief post tonight- today was personally not a good day. Although earlier was fantastic- we ventured out to an October cemetery and I am preparing quite the post for tomorrow evening.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall in Sleepy Hollow

"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet." 

 -Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

 While doing my cemetery photo wandering this weekend, which I am readying to begin posting tomorrow, I had the random thought of how much I wanted to read Washington Irving's original tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. Always enamored with the tale, the above passage struck me as so beautifully representative of the glory of this season we are in.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Spirit's Tombstones

 I was impressed with many things at Spirit Halloween Superstore this year. The life size Frankenstein, Regan from The Exorcist and Scream killer were fun, and the giant black mug I picked up, with "Vampire Blood" written on the side, is very enjoyable, indeed.

 But there is something about these tombstones that appeal to me. On my first trip, I made a note to come back for them on a later visit.

When I went to pick them up, the only thing that prevented me from doing so is the fact that the backs of these stones aren't painted. Though they easily could be painted, and also very well could be placed in an area of my cemetery that wouldn't show the blank white back, the fact these stones seemed unfinished stopped me from picking them up-- at least for now. I may give in and buy one or both later on (although the $24.99 price tag is a bit steep.) Whatever complaints I may have about the unfinished quality of the backs, I want to stress that I remain fascinated and absolutely impressed with these designs, and the overall product. The imagery-- the angels, the angel of death, the weeping shrouded figure-- is original for Spirit, and executed wonderfully.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Some more fear

And now for something a bit light-hearted. These photos of people at Nightmare Fear Factory in Niagara Falls, Canada have been making the viral rounds on the Internet. Shot of a number of visitors at a certain point in the haunted house attraction, these show some of the-- shall we say, interesting-- reactions humans have to express their fear. I don't know if I find other people frightened amusing, but what does interest me most about this is wondering what, exactly, is in the bottom corner of the room that would elicit such good reactions.

 Seems like a possibly decent horror writer's workshop prompt to me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Conjuring up some atmosphere...

When I was thinking of what to write this evening, as I just begin decorating the house outside and in, the thought of what I like to have as a backdrop for my decorating (however late) came to mind.

 Whether I'm getting out the orange stands of lights, fog machine or tombstones, I have some essential needs for a soundtrack: horror movies. And not just any horror movies-- for this ghost, having John Carpenter's "Halloween" playing on the TV, followed by something older, something black and white and flickering like Bela Lugosi in "Dracula" is called for. And these are just two of many which will do.

 No matter how many times sequels, remakes or re-imaginings are made of "Halloween," film will never achieve, in my humble opinion, the October orange effect of Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode walking the autumn streets of Haddonfield with a pumpkin, to Carpenter's genius score. And no matter how often the character of Count Dracula graces the silver screen, films like Lugosi's will always carry a dreamy, nightmarish authority that I've always found something of a comfort in. These films, seen so many times, remain vibrant and needed for the season-- even if only in the background as we begin to decorate, or fall asleep to at night.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree"

Each start of October for the last few years, I've felt a desire to reread what may very well be my favorite novel of Ray Bradbury's-- "The Halloween Tree." A writer of science-fiction, the paranormal and tales not so comfortably labeled (but always with an October bent), Bradbury's seemingly young adult novel follows the lives of several young friends on Halloween night. "It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state," begins Bradbury's novel, which is no small literary feat.

 Throughout the boys' night, they come to know and understand the origins of All Hallow's Eve, as they are taken on a fantastical tour through history of humanity's ability to deal with the harvest, the darkness, the coming death. The passages in the novel, as the boys literally travel the history of Halloween night and are confronted with their own mortality, are simply beautiful. Rarely has Halloween been so perfectly captured, described, explored than in this book.

 And while the inevitable animated adaptation is not in so many ways the novel-- it is a very respectable job. Narrated by Leonard Nemoy and with a script by Bradbury himself, the adaptation, rarely shown and hard to find on VHS even on the internet, does the work proud.

 I think I'll go find my copy, and crack the spine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Short Film: "The Closet"

Tonight, a short film. I submit for your approval "The Closet," a short heart-thumper I found a while back, and made a note to save this for a post on a rainy night. What always impresses me most about short films like this is the fear they can create with so little-- time, money, effects. I do believe this one does a pretty good job bringing the fear.

YouTube User: DayWaltFearFactory

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Halloween Candy Project

 Tonight, I bring you the "Halloween Candy Project."

I'm always amazed at the amount of sweets I'll allow myself to indulge upon during the holidays (beginning with All Hallows Eve through that other holiday of the more wintry persuasion.) As I recently finished my second Cadbury Halloween Buzzard Egg of the season, I had a bit of an idea. What if I kept a record of all this candy which I consumed during the Halloween season?

 With full knowledge that my findings likely may be disturbing, frightening or simply uninteresting, I have decided to take a photo of all the candy I eat or encounter this season-- and upload them to their own folder in my Google Photos, aka the "Halloween Candy Project." I only have the eggs and chocolate covered pumpkin Peeps so far. However, if any of this interests you in anyway whatsoever, please check back in the album from time to time. I believe the results of what I amass by the 31st should be amusing, if nothing else.

Halloween Candy Project

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What are you afraid of?

I do believe I'm starting October off in many of the right ways, even if the house decorating is woefully behind schedule. Tonight, I visited one of our local haunted houses, the House of Horrors and Haunted Catacombs in Buffalo, NY. A yearly feature of my life since childhood/adolescence, the Catacombs and other area haunted houses have been a highlight of my seasonal celebrations. There are few things like the air beginning to chill and sky darker sooner, and the houses opening-- bringing the fun of the scare.

 Last year, the Catacombs took a year off, and naturally I was looking forward to going with my friend Laura and seeing what they had come up with during the year off. I wrote a post similar to this last year, and talked about how I'd rather not spoil certain scares or new techniques for anyone out there who may have yet to experience them-- suffice it to say, I was eerily surprised and pleased by a scare consisting of a video, a zombie and a shotgun. And I remain petrified of the balloon walls you have to walk through as they press against you; for they bring out a claustrophobia I'm not usually familiar with the moment I'm between them.

 While some of the houses left a few things to be desired (or relied too heavily on strobe-lighting), all in all, my experience at the Catacombs was a good one. We shall see how it compares to the other area houses, which I plan on consuming sometime soon this month. As we left, my friend and I brainstormed the best elements to a haunted house-- what worked, what didn't. For us, the classic theme of a house haunted is best-- with some outdoor woodsy, cemetery scenes preferred. Strobe lights would be kept to a minimum-- and never relied on-- with more spaced out scares, to never become too predictable. And the actors and props should leave the haunted house visitor some time-- not too much-- to take in all the scenery around she or he. Some rooms were spectacularly decorated, and I'd wished we'd had time to look at some more of the detail before screaming and/or running out with a scare.

 So. My question this evening. What are you afraid of? What makes a good haunted house for you?  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's here.

One may think that people who live the season would feel more ready for October to be here.

But, as always. I feel behind and running out of time and almost panicked-- and yet, so, so, so happy that October is finally here. Creeping up, seemingly out of nowhere, with the speed of this video of a time-lapsed pumpkin's growth.

 Must start decorating today. No time to lose.