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.' " 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Treehouse.

Tonight, a bit of newness from a relatively new holiday tradition. For me, the animated television show "The Simpsons" have always done Halloween specials right. Their annual "Treehouse of Horror" episodes are something I always look forward to, and things I often rewatch. Making the rounds on social media this evening, the opening for this year's episode (directed by Guillermo del Torro) proves no exception. For your viewing pleasure, this year's opening. Try to keep track of every horror reference that lies within-- everything from Poe to Lovecraft to King to del Toro's own work. Well done, in my book.

 And for something with a more nostalgic feel, my personal favorite "Treehouse of Horror" episode: the Simpsons tackle Edgar's "The Raven." Cinema, and TV, have not been kind to Poe's work, and their true spirit. This clip, with Homer as the poem's spearker, I've long considered to be one of the kindest to Poe's source material; something I heard echoed, even, during more than one college course in English.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The dance begins.

 Tonight, a double-subject post. I posted this animated film by John McCloskey, a visual interpretation of Camille Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre" some years back, but after all the versions, all the videos, all the Internet incarnations of this autumnal standard, this remains one of my favorite pieces to usher in the season. 

 And, with the ushering in of this time of the year I am so partial to, I begin another year of "The Halloween Candy Project," with a rather healthy kick-off, brought to you by a trip to my local Mayer Bros' cider mill for some apple-inspired treats.

The Halloween Candy Prioject 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


 October, finally, in all its leaf falling, burning red, cool nights of glory, is here. At once, the joy of knowing that it is the most wonderful time of the year, and the panic that sets in knowing that never, whatever I do, will it be enough.

 This year I have something different, however. My efforts caused these pumpkins to grow. I can now say that I have grown pumpkins-- only two, but two nonetheless, and two bright, round, beautiful orange pumpkins I could not be more proud of.

 I bought the plants this spring, from a local herb and plant farm, grown organically. I wasn't even sure at the time if I would find or have a place to plant them in, let alone if they would grow. I did, and grew they did. With some love, care and a lot of rain that I am sure did not hurt things.

 What better way may there be to start off October, than a harvest of pumpkins?

 Should you be as fortunate to make it as far as I did in the pumpkin growing experience, I found this video from the University of Maine helpful in the harvest.