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Throwing a Widow’s Ball

Get it on – and dance ’til you’re dead. Victorian bowknot ballgown, 7 colors, $89.

A Widow’s Ball is the ultimate, gothic-themed night. Don your black and lace attire and get ready for a Halloween dinner party to remember.

The elements that go into planning a successful Widow’s Ball are the same as a regular dinner party –  just darker, spookier, and much creepier (yeah, we love it too!).

Learn how to throw a memorable Widow’s Ball event this Halloween, including invitations, decorations, and menu and gothic costume ideas.

 

 

 

A Gothic Theme Party – The Invitations

Bring your gothic theme into your party at every opportunity, starting with the invitations. To achieve a dark and eerie look, try distressing and aging the invitation paper. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Print off your invitations on a heavy paper stock.
  2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F.
  3. Crumple up each invitation into a ball and then smooth them out.
  4. Lay the invitations out on a standard baking sheet.
  5. Pour about 1/4 cup of steeped tea over the paper, spreading it around with a sponge.

6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of instant coffee over the invitations, allowing the crystals to splatter out.

7. After a few minutes, dab up the remaining tea and coffee with a paper towel.

8. Put your invitations in the oven, “baking” them for about five minutes.

Your antiqued paper invitations will have a truly gothic feel and look to them. Put a few strings of fake spider webbing inside the envelope with your invitation to get your guests in a morbid mood.

With your invitation remember to include directions to your house, costume guidelines , the date and time, and your contact information for RSVPs.

Your Own Costume

Don’t forget your own costume. A Widow’s Ball is about gothic glamor.

For women, pick a costume that combines the regal look of a Victorian ball gown with the dark morbidness of blacks, grays, and a splash of zombie make-up. For men, the classic vampire, undertaker’s uniform or simply a ghoulified suit should do the trick.

Add LOADS of Victorian/goth touches. Gloves, chokers and sexy fishnet stockings peeking from the bottom of your gown will add plenty of dark deliciousness to your Widow’s Ball.

For hair and makeup, create an undead appearance with a pale face, dark circles under your eyes, streaks of gray in your hair, maybe a fang or two, and black fingernails. Have fun . . . but not too much fun. This is a morbid affair, after all.

BONUS: Need makeup help? Here’s a GORGEOUS goth makeup tutorial.

Decorating the “Ballroom”

Give your house a spooky and eerie feel by dimming the lights, draping the staircase in black gauze, running fake cobwebs from the ceiling, and covering the tables with tattered lace.

Black roses are always perfect. So are coffin and crypt imagery.

Feel free to add dramatic touches like a fake graveyard on the lawn, creepy music, dry ice cauldrons on the snack table, and Halloween props that are dark and scary, but not cheesy or overdone. Think gothic lace, not fluorescent jack-o-lanterns.

If you’re a DIY carpenter, try making props like a coffin shaped dining table (easily done with inexpensive plywood), or gravestone covers for the stereo. You can also purchase great tombstone props and fake skeletons.

A Morbid Menu

Whether it’s for a full and formal dinner party or a simple snack table, planning a theme menu will help bring your Widow’s Ball theme into the food, but also give you focus.

For simple party snacks, try these fun hors d’oeuvre;

  • Puss and Dried Scabs (melted Brie with dried cranberries)
  • Creepy Cheese and Crackers (use a small Halloween-shaped cookie cutter to cut your sliced cheese into ghostly shapes)
  • Crispy Bat Wings (spicy chicken wings)
  • Gravestone Cookies (use food coloring pens to write your guest’s names on gravestone-shaped cookies)

For a full dining experience, try creating a themed menu. Here’s an example of a morbidly macabre meal:

Appetizer – Witches’ Cauldron Soup

For a broth based soup, put a dime-store miniature broom or witch (wash them first) in each bowl, and sprinkle fake cobwebs or plastic spiders around the plates below the bowls. For a creamy pumpkin soup, you can serve the soup from a hollowed-out pumpkin “cauldron.”

Main Course – Brain on a Plate with Flesh of Man

For the Brain on a Plate, make mashed potatoes that are either set in a mold or will be molded by you. To set your mashed potatoes in a brain mold, chill them overnight and then reheat them in the microwave before serving. For the flesh, serve your roast inside a skeleton (oh, come on, it’s a fake one!). Get a fake skull (or full bucky skeleton) to place at the head of your roast. Surround the roast with rib bones either picked up from your butcher or culled from the rest of your fake skeleton.

Dessert – Coffin Cake

Cut a pound cake into a classic coffin shape. Slice a 1/2 inch top layer off to make your lid and set it aside. Now, scoop out the inside of the cake to make your coffin. Fill the coffin with brownie crumbs, jelly worms, and candied insects and set the lid on top and slightly askew. Serve it on a wooden cutting board surrounded by dirt (chocolate cookie crumbs) and a shovel (a teaspoon).

Be a darkly merry widow and host your own Widow’s Ball. Invite all your undead friends – and it will be a grim and gorgeous affair to remember.

 

Brain Dip With Bone Breadsticks

 

Image credit: 4sonsrus.com; (inset) simplybeingmommy.com

Mmm . . . brains! The human brain is the preferred food of zombies everywhere, so why not serve it at your next Halloween party?

This recipe is actually a tasty red pepper hummus dip in a bread bowl. It’s easy to make and delicious. This dip is complemented by a simple bone breadstick recipe for dipping.

NOTE: Pressed for time or just don’t feel handy with “making” your own brain? Get an inexpensive brain mold. Follow directions below, place in mold, and chill.

Dig in!

PART ONE: Brain Dip

4sonsrus.com

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed) paste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers (in a jar)
  • barbecue sauce
  • red and blue food coloring
  • 1 round loaf of sourdough bread OR bone breadsticks (recipe follows below this recipe)

Directions

    1. Place all ingredients (except bread) into a food processor. Process the ingredients for 4-6 minutes, until everything is well-blended. While processing, pause periodically to scrape the sides of the food processor to make sure the spices are included in the mix.
    2. If the hummus appears too orange for brains, add a few drops of blue food coloring and process again. Mix blue and/or red food coloring until you have a nice peachy-pink, brain-like hue.
    3. Chill hummus in the refrigerator for several hours. This will allow the flavors to mingle and the dip to thicken.
    4. While the hummus is chilling, cut the top of off the bread and use a spoon to hollow out the inside of the loaf. Make sure to save the bread pieces – they are great for dipping.
    5. When chilled, spoon the hummus into the bread bowl, smoothing the top to create a rounded mound.
    6. Now, it’s time for a fun anatomy lesson. Using a toothpick, divide the brain into 2 hemispheres – the right and the left.
    7. They say that each time you learn something, a new wrinkle forms in your brain. Use the toothpick to draw squiggly lines in the hummus to create these wrinkles.
    8. Drip a little barbecue sauce for “blood” on your shaped brain.
    9. Serve on a platter with chips, bone breadsticks, or pita crisps for dipping.

PART TWO: Bone Breadsticks

simplybeingmommy.com

These bone-shaped breadsticks are great for dipping in “brain dip.” This recipe uses refrigerated pizza dough for convenience.

To get the bone shape without having a bone-shaped cookie or biscuit cutter, roll each piece of dough into a tube shape, then push in and twist each end.

This recipe makes about 10 breadsticks, but the number of servings will vary depending on how big the breadsticks are.

Ingredients

  • 1 18 oz roll of refrigerated pizza dough
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence or Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • bone-shaped cookie cutter or stencil

Directions

  1. Roll out pizza dough on a cutting board. If you are using a cardboard stencil, brush the dough with olive oil so that it will not stick to the cardboard.
  2. Use either the cookie cutter or a stencil and a knife to cut bone shapes out of the dough. (Or roll each piece into a “snake”/tube shape, push each end inward and twist to get a bone-end shape.)
  3. Place bones on greased cookie sheet.
  4. Sprinkles with herbs, garlic salt and parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-8 minutes, until breadsticks are golden brown.

Now, with your bones dipped with brain matter, gnaw away, making sure to smack your lips a lot while making low groaning noises. After all, a zombie doesn’t ask for much. Just your head!

Rat Stew in a Pumpkin

This “Rat Stew” is complete with legs, tails, whiskers, eyes and entrails. This Halloween recipe is actually for a scrumptious Mediterranean stew, baked in a real pumpkin for a stunning presentation.

If anyone thinks they have identified the “rat legs” as chicken, simply give them an evil smile and say, “Well, they say everything tastes like chicken, right?” Even though it may look complicated, this is an easy recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 lb chicken wingettes (mini-drumsticks, for the rat legs)
  • 1/2 lb smoked sausage links
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 of a 6.75 oz package of maifun rice sticks (these are very thin Asian rice noodles, for whiskers. You could also substitute angel hair)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups chicken or beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • Black olives, for eyes
  • 1 8-10 lb pumpkin

Directions

    1. Open the top of the pumpkin. Scrape out the insides.
    2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    3. Mix 1/4 cup flour, salt, pepper, paprika and thyme together. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of this mixture for thickening the stew.
    4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Dredge the chicken wingettes in the remaining flour mixture and brown them in the skillet with the oil.
    5. While the wings brown, slice sausage into tails. To make tails, cut each sausage in half vertically. Then, cut each of these halves in half lengthwise. Cut the sausage halves into thin slices that taper to a point at one end, like rat tails. See the illustration.
    6. Chop bell pepper into long thin strips (think entrails). Also, chop onion and mince garlic.
    7. After chicken has browned, transfer it to the pumpkin.
    8. Heat sausage, garlic, pepper, and onion in skillet until sausage is browned and vegetables are soft.
    9. Put sausage and vegetables into the pumpkin with the chicken.
    10. In a bowl, combine broth, wine, Worcestershire sauce, and herbs. Pour into pumpkin.
    11. Place pumpkin on a strong baking sheet and brush outside with olive oil.
    12. Bake for an hour and 45 minutes at 375 degrees.
    13. Remove pumpkin. Break rice sticks into 3-4 inch long pieces and add to the pumpkin stew. If necessary, mix reserved flour mixture into a paste with a little bit of water and add to stew to thicken it.
    14. Return the pumpkin to oven for another 15 minutes.
    15. Remove the pumpkin from the oven, and season stew with additional salt and pepper if necessary. You can either add the black olive “eyes” directly to the stew or serve them on the side as a garnish. When serving stew, make sure to scrape some of the pumpkin meat off of the side.

Yum! Not too much rat in it. Just five or so. Enjoy!

Talking Boards: The Ghostly Powers of the Ouija

Back to Vol. 5, Issue 2-3

By Dusti Lewars

When I was a child, I (like many other bored and curious suburban kids) owned an Ouija board.

I can’t say I necessarily believed in its power (though I sure wanted to). I’d seen others use them, very obviously manipulating the plastic letter indicator (the planchette) as they asked questions about marriage and wealthy futures. So while I enthusiastically used the board and talked to a spirit named Glen who claimed to have been a vet, I did so with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Then one of my best friends got a board, and insisted that his board’s spirit was related to my board.

My level of skepticism hit new heights.

I invited Jason to bring his board over, with the goal being that we were going to get in touch with a real spirit this time.

We assumed the position in a closed basement room: knee to knee, board balanced on our laps, each placing our twenty collective fingers on the planchette. My brother stood off to the side, teasing us unmercifully for believing in ghosts of any kind…then, as he quieted down and left us alone, messages started to be spelled out on the Ouija board.

What the heck is an Ouija board, anyway?

Talking_Board_Full_Moon“Talking boards” were first dreamed up around 1886, when modern Spiritualism was in its heyday. Everyone, it seemed, was trying to communicate with the dead. Automatic writing (where mediums scribbled across reams of paper, hoping that somewhere among the scribbles a ghostly message would appear) and table tilting (having spirits use the rocking of a table to tap out messages from beyond the grave) were all the rage, but the discriminating medium wanted an easier, more sophisticated method of communication.
Enter the “talking board” – a piece of wood with the alphabet, plus the words “hello” and “good-bye,” printed across its surface. One or two people could quietly, privately converse with the spirit world by placing the board across their laps, lightly touching their fingers to a tiny arrow-shaped table called a “planchette,” and allowing the “planchette” indicator to move at will.

History didn’t capture the name of the person who invented this contraption. However, use of the “talking board” spread like wildfire through America, and in 1890, three men shared credit for the patent of a new invention called “Ouija” (purportedly taken from the Egyptian word for “luck”, but – since this word was taken from a spirit rather than a dictionary – it’s more likely a warped spelling of a Moroccan city, Ouija).

Out of these three patent holders – Elijah J. Bond, William H. A. Maupin, and Charles W. Kennard – only Kennard took the financial risk and started manufacturing Ouija boards for fun and profit. Sadly, neither lasted very long, and by 1892 Kennard’s company was in the hands of new management – William Fuld.

It is Fuld who is known in the history books as “the father of the Ouija board,” and Fuld who claimed credit for the creation of this wildly popular tool/toy. Fuld and his family enjoyed great success with this product, and it wasn’t until 1966 that Parker Brothers took over, using the original Fuld design until 1999, buying the rights to the Ouija patent and trademark.

Though there have been many beautiful and bizarre variations on the Ouija theme over the past 100+ years, it’s the Fuld design that most people are still familiar with. And certainly, it’s Fuld’s board that has been seen in such movies as The Exorcist, Thirteen Ghosts, and Witchboard.

The horror story appeal is an obvious one. (We are, after all, speaking with the dead here!) But is there any reason to be afraid of Ouija boards?

It depends on who you ask.

Talking_board_dancing_skeletonsSome people absolutely believe that to tinker with a Quija board is to bring something evil into one’s life. Others accept the Parker Brothers definition – it’s a game, nothing more, nothing less. (‘After all,’ the argument goes, ‘if you were dead, would you be wasting your time making a little plastic arrow move across a lacquered board so that you can communicate with the living?’) Perhaps the planchette moves as a result of your subconscious desire to see your questions answered. A quick search on the Internet or in one’s local library will reveal many stories and much advice about how to safely go about communicating with the dead…if, of course, this is what’s really happening. (The jury will probably always be out concerning that particular question.)

My own belief is that it really depends on the people involved.

For example…my friend Jason was not (in my humble opinion) talking to a spirit At least, not until he and I sat down and worked with it.

You see, I watched Jason’s face intently as text started being spelled out by his Ouija board that day.

The words were, apparently, from a “new” spirit – Jason’s previous entity never made another appearance.

He got rid of his board soon after that. My Ouija, after being stored under my bed and inspiring a series of very disturbing dreams, ended up being unceremoniously thrown away, as well.

And my brother eventually admitted that the reason he had stopped teasing us was that, as he had been doing so, he felt a cold wind blow right through him and towards the board – and immediately after that, the planchette had started moving. Which was more than enough reason for him to decide that he wanted nothing to do with talking boards ever again.

Am I a believer now? Am I a believer?

Oh, yes. Absolutely.

www.museumoftalkingboards.com
www.prairieghosts.com/ouijal

The Addams Family: The First Family of Halloween

Back to Vol. 4, Issue 3

by By Dusti Lewars

The 1960’s were a magical time on television.

Vampires, genies, and witches claimed leading roles on prime time shows. TV viewers eagerly ventured into “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery,” realms where reality warped into something foreign, strange. And a slick spaceship staffed by humans and aliens boldly took its audience to where no man had gone before.

Into this era, two families emerged from Middle Class Suburbia. The first, made up of a Frankenstein husband and an exotic vampiric bride, ventured onscreen in early 1964. “The Munsters”, based on traditional Universal Studios monsters, was silly, familiar, good-humored…but quickly overshadowed by their gothic kin that followed, the definitely human, daringly sexy, mysteriously spooky Addams.

But what could inspire a show as bizarre as “The Addams Family”?

A raven-haired woman waits in the doorway of a decaying mansion. Before her stands a vacuum cleaner salesman; behind her, a bearded Boris-Karloff-looking butler.

The year is 1937. The image, a pen and ink cartoon, gracing the pages of The New Yorker magazine. The illustrator is New Jersey-born artist Charles Addams.

Not a particularly promising introduction. It’s not even one of Charles’ best-known cartoons. But a true lady is unforgettable, and so it was with the femme fatale that was to become Morticia.

In the 5 years since his work had started being published in The New Yorker, Charles had become known for his sometimes whimsical, frequently disturbing cartoons. But it was with the creation of “the Family” that a common theme began to develop in his artwork. First came the mistress of the manor, accompanied by the family servant; then, the husband, grandmother, children, and the Thing.

AddamsFamily_College HallInspiration for “the Family” came from what Charles knew. The image of Morticia reflected his ideal woman. Uncle Fester was a self-portrait of sorts. Lurch was created from traditional butler images; Grandmama, by Charles’ own grandmother. Gomez, Thing, and the children were pure fantasy. As for the family home – well, it depends on whom you ask. Some say that two houses in his hometown of Westfield, New Jersey, served as muse. Others point to his grandmother’s Victorian mansion. Still others believe that a building on the campus of his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, is the true model for Charles’ art.

Charles’ cartoons continued to appear in The New Yorker for the better part of 50 years, giving his own unique perspective on Christmas, childcare, marriage, and suburbia living. Collections of these cartoons were published in anthologies, and it was here, in 1964, that ex-NBC executive David Levy discovered “the Family”. Levy moved quickly, setting up a meeting with Charles to pitch the idea of taking “the Family” to television. Besides Charles’ agreement, though, he also needed character names, and within a few days the artist provided a list of suggestions to Levy. This was the first and last time Charles would have any input into the TV series. Most of his names were kept – though out of a choice of Repelli or Gomez for the father character, the latter won out, and when it came to the little boy, the name of Pubert was rejected in favor of Pugsley, for fear that Pubert sounded vaguely like a dirty word. And of course, their creator’s last name worked perfectly for “the Family” – and the Addams family was truly born.

The show was pitched to various networks, with no takers, until “The Munsters” was picked up by CBS. Levy stormed back into the offices at ABC, angered by the signing of what he considered to be a fourth-rate “Addams Family.”

Days later, ABC announced that “The Addams Family” was coming to the air.

The birth of a show isn’t an easy process. Different angles were discussed: Should the butler be the focus of the storylines? Should the show be somber or wacky? Who should play which role?

CousinIt_Gomez_MorticiaThis, above all, was probably the most important and difficult aspect of the show’s creation. Imagine if John Astin had indeed been cast as Lurch, as was originally suggested! What if Jackie Coogan had accepted the studio’s initial rejection of his audition for the part of Uncle Fester? And if Carolyn Jones hadn’t been able to shake her hesitancy of accepting the offer to play Morticia – it scarcely bears thinking about!

When the flurry of casting was over, the results were pretty much perfect. And the public agreed – from the initial wild approval of the 15 minute pilot to the 2 year run of the show to the movies, revival show, and cartoons that were to follow, the look set by the original cast has altered little over the 40 years that the Addams family has been seen on screens of various sizes.

But wait – the original show only lasted 2 years?

Indeed.

Though the show had a very strong following, occasionally even beating top-rated shows such as “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater,” the fact was that “The Munsters” was beginning to lose ratings, and ABC executives feared that “The Addams Family” would soon be following. The cancellation came as a surprise to all. The rush to the TV set to salvage souvenirs of the show evidences the strong following the show had attracted. To this day, very few of these items have been located; we know that one of Thing’s boxes was taken by Ted Cassidy (the actor who played both Lurch and Thing) and was bequeathed to Jackie Coogan’s son when Cassidy passed away; the one and only Uncle Fester costume was taken home by Coogan and eventually bought at auction by a fan. The only prop that’s survived and been used from the original show was the polar bear that lurked in the mansion’s foyer; this bear reappeared in the 1992 Addams family movie. All else remains missing.

So why is the Addams family still so appealing? Despite a failed reunion show in 1977, interest persists in bringing the Family back to life. Most fans know three movies were made in the 1990’s; not as many may know that there have also been 2 cartoon series, various games (including a wildly successful pinball machine) and, as recently as 1998, a new version of the weekly series aired on cable and ran for two years.

Gomez_Fester_MorticiaWhy revisit this particular show?

When one compares “The Addams Family” to almost any other sitcom – even its contemporary, “The Munsters” – there are some very basic differences. The most obvious is the house. The mansion is an amazing creation in and of itself, decorated in a museum-like style that remains unique even today. It reflects the character of those who live there – people who are human and different and completely accepting of what makes each other different. For example, Morticia cares for and coos over her African Strangler plant – she loves it for what it is, nurtures it, and encourages it, just as she does her children and her husband.

The relationship between husband and wife in this show is uniquely passionate and open. Insecurity is discussed and dismissed. The possibility of a ménage a trois is flirted with. Sexuality is blatantly demonstrated. One would be hard pressed to find as red-hot a marriage as the one that is experienced by Morticia and Gomez!

Then there’s the relationship between parents and children. Never are the parents made to look stupid; never are the children belittled or argued with. Even when daughter Wednesday runs away, she signs her note, “Love, Wednesday.” There are family problems to be resolved – but never does the viewer feel like there’s one-upmanship going on here. Always, love shines through.

That love isn’t reserved just for family members. There is a recurring theme of caring for strangers as well that’s refreshing and welcoming – even when said stranger doesn’t return that acceptance.

Ultimately, the Addams family is a wonderful bit of fantasy, an ideal that remains worthy of being sought out. And for those of us with a love for Halloween, finding these kinds of people in a haunted house comes as no surprise at all.

Strongly suggested reading:

The Addams Chronicles, by Stephen Cox
The Addams Family and Munsters Program Guide, by John Peel
http://www.theaddamsfamily.com

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: a Resume of Darkly Delicious Fun

 

When you think of Halloween, what celebrity comes to mind? If you’re like millions of us, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is one of the first on your list.

Since unveiling her character in 1981 as host of a local television program (Elvira’s Movie Macabre) in Los Angeles, Elvira – who was born Cassandra Peterson – has become known world-wide for her brassy style (among other things).

Peterson is affectionately known as the “Queen of Halloween.” Her trademark look and persona have made her an international symbol of the playful side of that dark holiday we know and love.

As Mistress of the Dark, Elvira has strutted her stuff across a broad and colorful variety of media. Here’s a sampling of venues that have helped the Queen of Halloween become the superstar she is today.

Stage

  • Routinely performs in a review style show featuring music, dance and comedy at Knott’s Scary Farm/Knott’s Berry Farm (with a record attendance of 140,000 people in 1997).
  • Appearances at Disney/MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida for both her “Halloween or Bust” and “Trick and Treats” tour.

Television

  • Recent appearances include MTV, Nash Bridges, E! Entertainment, Talk Soup, Hard Copy, Access Hollywood and K-CAL’s Halloween Scream. In all, she has appeared on over 500 television shows.

Literature

  • Elvira’s Nightmares, a series of humor/horror/mystery novels published by Berkley Publishing (Putnam) and written by
    Elvira with her writing partner-in-crime, John Paragon (writer/director of Pee Wee’s Playhouse).
  • Elvira’s Comic Book by Claypool Comics is in its fifth year publishing the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark comic series.
  • DC Comics published Elvira’s House of Mystery, a series of 12 comic books.
  • Marvel Comics comic book version of the film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Film

  • Encounters in the Third Dimension for nWave International. In the film Elvira performs the song Haunted House, the first music video shot in IMAX-D. Scheduled for release in ’99.
  • Documentary entitled Thrill Ride shown at IMAX theatres around the world.
  • Feature film, Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark

Video

  • Elvira’s Thriller Video, a LIVE Entertainment release home video series.
  • Rhino Home Video 15-title series, Midnight Madness.
  • Ketchum Vampires through Celebrity Home Video, a full-length animated feature about vegetarian vampires

Musical Recording

  • Rhino Records releases include Vinyl Macabre, Elvira’s Haunted Hits, Elvira presents Monster Hits, Revenge of the Monster Hits, and the single 3-D TV by Elvira & the Vi-tones

An entertaining new way for folks to experience Elvira’s campy sense of humor is by visiting one of her official haunted houses, Elvira’s Nightmare Haunted House. Built in association with Ray Productions, last year she opened the flagship house in Atlanta with another opening in Fort Lauderdale this year. Having seen the haunted house, I can assure you that you’re in for a spooktacular good time!

Elvira’s Resumé

  • “Elvira Day” declared both in Los Angeles, California and Atlanta, Georgia
  • Named Honorary Mayor of West Hollywood, California
  • Image is immortalized at Movieland Wax Museum
  • PETA’s Humanitarian Award for her participation in numerous animal rights causes
  • Grand Marshall for West Hollywood’s 20th Annual Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade
  • Presenter on MTV Music Video Awards
  • 22nd Annual Count Dracula Society Award from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films
  • Public Award and The Journalist Award at the 18th Annual Festival International De Paris Du Film Fantastique for her film, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
  • Best Game Award at the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) convention for best selling Elvira Pinball Machine
  • Best Role-Playing Game of the Year by Computer Gaming World magazine for Elvira’s fantasy role-playing computer game released by Accolade
  • Nominated by the British Comics Professionals as best humor comic for Claypool Comics release of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

What intrigues us about Elvira is no mystery. For men, she’s the ultimate vamp: sexy, smart and sassy. For women, she’s the woman we dream of being-assertive, independent and talented.

For more information on Elvira; including complete bio, fan club info and list of Elvira-bilia, visit her website at: www.elvira.com.

 

This Year, Get Spooky at Salem’s Haunted Happenings

It’s decked out in autumn colors, full of fun and unusual visitors, and it has a very creepy past. Plus, it goes on all over the city for the entire Halloween season. (We know. Squee!)

It’s Salem, Massachusetts’ annual Haunted Happenings, and if you’ve never been to this spooky all-city soiree, it’s definitely time to change that, Halloween fans!

Image: creativesalem.com

While communities around the world claim to play host to the ultimate Halloween celebrations, a few stand out head, shoulders and hung neck above the rest. At the top of that list is the city affectionately called “The Witch City.”

Haunted Happenings is about to open for its annual all-autumn bash, so get your ghost on! Here’s the scary scoop on this phantasmically fantastic festival.

What (and When, and Where) is Haunted Happenings?

Haunted Happenings is a city-wide celebration of all things Halloween, esoteric, and historic in and around Salem, MA.

Full of games, movies, contests, a gigantic Halloween parade, demonstrations and more, Haunted Happenings lasts through September and October and offers something for everyone.

First celebrated in 1982, Haunted Happenings began as the dream of Joan Gormally, former Salem of Commerce Executive Director; Susannah Stuart, former Director of the Salem Witch Museum; and a whole bunch of die-hard (see what we did there?) Halloween and Salem fans.

Image: theguardian.com

This ghoulish group sawHaunted Happenings as a way to bring national and international media attention to Salem. They also envisioned a way to put the frightening history of the Salem Witch Trials in a more modern light, while educating fascinating visitors.

Originally a three-day weekend affair, the popularity of the event grew to a full 11 days in 1992 and last year occurred over 24 days beginning October 10 through November 2. Referred to by Mayor Neil J. Harrington as “The Ultimate Halloween Destination,” Haunted Happenings welcomes tens of thousands of Halloween enthusiasts each year.

Plan Your Own Spooky Tour

Image: hauntedhappenings.org

There’s SO much to do at Haunted Happenings, and more gets added every year; check here for a current itinerary. Meanwhile, enjoy these traditional scares:

 

 

 

  • Autumn Equinox Workshop
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Haunted Dinner Theater
  • Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour
  • House of the Seven Gables
  • New England Pirate Museum
  • Peabody Essex Museum
  • Psychic Fair
  • Salem 1630: Pioneer Village
  • Salem Trolley, Corp.
  • Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers
  • Salem Witch Museum
  • Salem Witch Village
  • Tarot and Other Readings
  • Terror on the Wharf
  • Wicked Half Marathon
  • Wine & Cheese Stroll
  • Witch Dungeon Museum
  • The Witch House

Get more information and a Free Guide here. Enjoy, Halloween fans!

Mystic Fortune Telling for Your Spirited Party

 

Image credit: shiekh1939.com

The following is a fun and fascinating contribution from a guest author who really did her homework. Enjoy!

Once upon a time, telling the future was an integral part of Samhain (in Celtic times), and then Halloween (particularly in the late 1800s, at spooky, ultra-phantasmic parties).

Today, there just isn’t as much emphasis placed on fortune telling on that spookiest of days.

We think it’s time to revive a few fun, fascinating and fortune-filled old customs. Today we talk about all things fortune telling, and how you can make your own Halloween party all the spookier AND more, well, telling this year.

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In American Victorian times, fortune telling was one of the most important events at any Halloween gathering.

While “begging” for treats and dressing in costumes was still a few decades in the future, many a 19th to early 20th century maiden could be spotted be sitting in her parlor dropping a hazel nut in the coals of her fire on  All Hallow’s Eve. (She’d have named the nut for the one she loved; if it burned completely, he was sure to always be true.)

The traditions were many, and one or two survived, even to the present day.

Old Spells, Modern-Day Charm

Some old-time charms have disappeared into the mists of history, many have been revived by books and neo-pagan traditions, as well as a general fascination with all things vintage. In their earliest incarnations, these nearly always focused on love, marriage and other coming-of-age areas of interest.

A few of these old traditions are so easy, you can incorporate them into your Halloween party today with just a few simple ingredients. For example, check out these Victorian charms (make them a part of your next spooky gathering!):

A late 19th century marriage-ready girl might peer into a mirror at midnight expecting to see the face of her love. (Remember Bloody Mary, the twisted side to this sort of scrying?)

And “he loves me, he loves me not” with flower petals hearkens to just such love rituals. This is a simple incantation that can be done any time, anywhere but can take on special significance if you sit in a candle-lit dark room on Halloween and take turns slowly pulling the petals.

Charmingly, many of these “spells” are illustrated in antique Halloween postcards, particularly as in the 1910s and 1920s, Halloween parties became the vogue.

Party games were now fashioned with the same goals in mind as the old charms. In the 1912 book Games For Hallow-e’en by Mary E. Blain, one such game is the Dough Test. Here’s how: take water and flour and make dough; write on slips of paper names of several opposite friends; and roll papers into balls of dough and drop them into water. The first names to appear will be the future husband or wife.

The Spirits are Rising: Party “Games” Evolve

Also around the turn of the century, there was great interest in spiritualism, including seances to communicate with those gone on to loftier but perhaps restless pastures.

At this time, although most games were still focused on love and marriage, fortune telling items and games not strictly “Halloween” became popular. Many Halloween party guides of the era, such as the Dennison Bogie Book, suggest having someone perform as a gypsy, or crone, and read the tarot.

Today many Halloween collectors also collect all sorts of fortune telling items. One of the most coveted is the Sybil Fortune Telling Doll, seen here in her original turn of the century composition version and in her 1930s cardboard litho version.

 

In the 1930s cake charms became popular. You can still buys these at some party or novelty stores today. The idea is that you bake these into a cake, and when a guest finds a particular charm in his piece he checks it against the list of fortunes to see what lie ahead for him.

Other popular party fortune telling games were Halloween “punchboards.” These were cardboard pieces with multiple holes. The holes were filled with tightly rolled scrolls of fortunes and covered by a decorative paper front and a paper back. A metal peg was provided so you could punch the fortune through the paper. (This can be a VERY fun craft to make for your next Halloween party.)

Spinner fortune games in which one would use a spinner to point to one’s fortune were also popular. In one version the spinner may point to a symbol that would correspond to an accompanying chart or directly to the fortune.

In other versions the player may be required to do a stunt in order to get his fortune, thereby making the game more entertaining. Some of these spinner type games were Fortune By the Luminous Cat, Whirl-O, and Spin-O-Rama.

Two other interesting versions are a metal spinning fortune top and a metal disc that spins to reveal a window with a fortune underneath. This Halloween fortune game was called “What the Stars Say.” (You can make your own simple version of any of these games by drawing a circle pie-wedge divided, with fortunes written on each wedge; and a pendulum on a chain or dice to land on a pie wedge.)

Most of these games remained popular through the early 1950s and then seemed to lose favor, bowing to a more sanitized Halloween. The new era of Halloween party played more musical chairs and telephone, listened to a spooky story, or played the Grand Prize game.

A Fortunate Revival

Today’s Halloween party goers are once again enjoying the fun and mysticism of fortune telling. They bring their Ouija boards out, bring along a deck of tarot cards, perhaps the hostess bakes a cake with the charms in it or invites a psychic to foretell the future. And of course, tarot cards are more popular than ever.

Halloween collectors eagerly seek fortune telling items and Halloween games for their collections, some antique fortune telling games are extremely valuable. An antique McLoughlin Brothers lithographed fortune telling game, The Mystic Wanderer, recently sold on eBay for $820.

Perhaps you will be wooed to the mystic side of our favorite holiday. What is in the cards for you?

Yarr Going to Love This History of Pirates and Piracy

By Dusti Lewars-Poole

Piracy may well be one of the oldest known professions. With roots wrapped around Roman past and Viking exploits, piracy has inspired terror and fantasy for centuries.

Today, the word “pirate” brings to mind dashing rebellious male spirits with gold teeth, elaborate coats, and oversized plumed hats. Swords and pistols, handhooks and maps, eye patches and parrots – these are the tools of the trade. Treasure and freedom are the themes. The reality is, of course, a much more complicated matter.

Pirates, or more accurately “sea thieves”, were first mentioned in writing as far back as 140 B.C. For most of history, water has offered Man the quickest way to travel and transport goods. Ships and seaports were long recognized as holding the possibility of wealth – and where there’s wealth, there will be those who want to claim a share of it.

Privateers – Pirates By Any Other Name …

Surprisingly, the actual “golden age of piracy” – the time when pirates such as Blackbeard hit rock-star-fame status – only lasted from (roughly) 1665-1716. And frequently, the status of “pirate” depended on who was attacking whom. Some acts of piracy were perfectly legal – nations would hire adventurous individuals as “privateers,” complete with legal military status, to attack enemy shipping.

Being a privateer rather than a pirate, however, didn’t guarantee any sort of safety if one was caught. A thief is a thief in the eyes of the ones being robbed, and legal privateers were punished nearly as harshly as any criminal pirate. Depending on one’s perspective, privateers had it worse, as they faced life imprisonment rather than death by hanging, which is the traditional punishment for being a pirate.

So Spain’s privateers attacked French ships, France’s attacked the Spanish, England’s attacked French and Spanish ships, and the Maltese corsairs happily attacked any Christian-owned boat that dared sail the Mediterranean. And all too often, the lure of wealth led many a soul to cross the admittedly vague line from legal attacks to illegal robbery.

Sometimes, the road to piracy was inflicted on a person. If one’s military ship is manned by pirate wanna-bee’s, it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where the crew might mutiny, taking over the ship, dragging a captain from a respectable life as an officer into a seedier career choice. Other times, the life of a pirate offered a person a chance to jump social statuses in a world where having the ill luck to be born to the wrong family trapped many a soul into a constrained life. And in times of peace, when there were too many sailors and too little salary, piracy had an obvious appeal.

Women Were Pirates, Too

Women made the very hazardous jump into piracy as well. History tells of at least two – Anne Bonny and Mary Read. They were women that disguised their gender at a young age in pursuit of a better life. Anne became a pirate because of love; Mary, because of being taken hostage by a pirate crew. Chances are very good that there were other ladies riding the waves as well – but considering that Fate was not kind to most women on board ships, it’s also very likely that these women would have tried to pass themselves off as men as much as possible.

Hollywood tells us that a pirate’s life was glamorous and wealthy, filled with buried treasures and hook-hands. A glance at history doesn’t entirely dismiss this version of the truth. A successful pirate was wealthy, squandering his wealth on luxury during his time ashore. Setting money aside for the future wasn’t a common practice. Pirates didn’t usually live to a ripe old age. Lost limbs were common. Disease and malnutrition frequently hit crews. A pirate captured during a raid was usually hung. While it’s true that some pirates succeeded in retiring from their rough life on the sea, it seems to have been the exception rather than the rule.

Democracy on the High Seas

One thing that Hollywood does not tell us is the fact that democracy was very common on pirate ships. Captains were often voted into power by the crew. Decisions that involved non-battle situations were usually reached by vote. At a time when most countries were still controlled by monarchies, the fact that pirate crews were figuring out new ways to govern themselves is one of the more intriguing aspects of piracy.

Aargh, Where’s Me Parrot? And Other Historical Inaccuracies

It may also be a surprise to learn that peg legs, parrots and huge sailing ships were actually not the norm in the world of the pirate. While limbs could certainly be lost in this very rough life, many people did not survive the amputation of legs, so it’s unlikely that peg legs would have been as common as Hollywood might portray them as being. Eye patches and hook-hands may have been seen more often, as the loss of an eye or hand is far easier to survive, and a hook is obviously more useful than an unadorned stump.

Parrots, frankly, are very high maintenance, and while their exotic look may have been appealing, it’s not likely that the limited supply of food on board, as well as the rough nature of the sea, would have brought much joy or health to a macaw. And while big ships with lots of cannons is a thrilling image on screen, small ships, quick to maneuver and very lightly armed, were a pirate’s first choice of transportation. Battles at sea would have been extremely dangerous. Most pirates preferred to race up to their target, hop on board, and steal as much as they could manage, and get away as quickly as possible.

Piracy Today

A final surprise: There are indeed modern pirates. Some are poor fishermen, sneaking on board docked ships and stealing anything they can get their hands on. Others are highly organized; heavily armed criminals that aren’t afraid to attack a moving ship. Somalia has become known as a place for sailors to be wary of. The waters around Indonesia had the most recorded acts of piracy today. The International Maritime Bureau warns that the area between the south China Sea and the Java Sea is a high-risk area.

Pirates today use mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They’re stealing oil and ships. They take hostages. They kill resisting captains. There is little that is glamorous or sexy about it. So let Hollywood weave its web of sexy glamor around the myth and history of piracy. Wrap yourself in the fantasy. Embrace the pirate-heritage our history books barely touch on. But don’t forget…it’s all as real today as it was 3000 years ago. Out on the ocean, there still be pirates lurking.

Halloween Trivia Game – Music Pop Quiz

Music and games: this classically chilling combo really sets the mood at your Halloween party. So just for you, we’ve pulled together this easy, awesomesauce  Halloween music  trivia game!

Quiz yourself or a creepy friend with these 13 creepy classics. They span nearly six decades so everyone can get in on the freaky fun. Enjoy!

1) According to the song “Werewolves of London,” what was the werewolf at Trader Vic’s drinking?

a) a gin and tonic

b) a pina colada

c) a sex on the beach

d) a sloe gin fizz

(Answer: b)

2) According to the Charlie Daniels Band, what fiddle-player did the devil encounter when he went down to Georgia?

a) Billy Ray

b) Cotton-Eyed Joe

c) Trevor

d) Johnny

(Answer: d)

3) In the Disney classic children’s Halloween song, what do the Grim Grinning Ghosts come out to do?

a) socialize

b) haunt the mansion

c) awaken the dead

d) dance

(Answer: a)

4) What Australian rock band wrote “Hell’s Bells” in an album released Oct. 31, 1980?

a) Black Sabbath

b) White Zombie

c) Alice Cooper

d) AC/DC

(Answer: d)

5) What spooky television theme song was nominated for a Grammy in 1965?

a) The Addams Family Theme

b) The Twilight Zone Theme

c) The Munsters Theme

d) The Outer Limits Theme

(Answer: c)

6) The Spanish-influenced classic “Black Magic Woman” by the band Santana has an alternate name. What is it?

a) Gypsy Queen

b) Witchy Woman

c) Borderlands

d) The Spell

(Answer: a)

7) What world-famous bad boy did the Rolling Stones have sympathy for in 1968?

a) Pilate

b) the devil

c) Vlad the Impaler

d) Joseph Stalin

(Answer: b)

8) Who wrote the song “Spooky” (“…Love is kind of crazy with a spooky little girl like you”…)?

a) Mike Sharpe

b) Dennis Yost

c) The Classics IV

d) Atlanta Rhythm Section

(Answer: c)

9) How many horns did the Flying Purple People Eater have?

a) one

b) two

c) three

d) four

(Answer: a)

10) What must you leave at the door if you wish to enter the Dead Man’s Party?

a) your weapons

b) beer

c) your body

d) your inhibitions

(Answer: c)

11) According to the rock band Eagles (bonus trivia: it’s just “Eagles,” not “the Eagles” – yup, really!), she’s been sleeping in the devil’s bed. Who is she?

a) Melania Trump

b) the Enchantress

c) the Witchy Woman

d) money (it’s symbolic)

12) His jarring “Cupid Carries a Gun” was used as the theme song for the short-lived TV series Salem. Who is he?

a) Marilyn Manson

b) Rob Zombie

c) Dannie Elfman

d) Thomas Dolby

(Answer: a)

13) Apparently, this group LOVED trick-or-treating in the 1980s! Who performed “I Want Candy”?

a) Bow Wow Wow

b) The Bangles

c) Cindy Lauper

d) The B-52s

(Answer: a)

Image credit: 123rf.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Story Behind Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Universal Studios

Madame Tussaud’s Sculpter Creating the Wax Frankenstein

Universal Studios, an industry leader in creating horror films, celebrated the anniversary of several Universal classics horror classics in 2001. In a landmark relationship, Universal Studios Home Video (USHV) joined Tussaud’s Group of London and Madame Tussaud’s worldwide attractions to pay tribute to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Development of the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy characters for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museums coincides with USHV’s 2001 national campaign for a new Golden Era of Horror, celebrating several “monstrumental” anniversaries that have defined Halloween entertainment for generations. And, this is the first time Madame Tussaud’s has created wax figures of celebrities in costume and character makeup.

Madame Tussaud’s artisans created lifelike wax figures of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula persona to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Dracula (1931). The film combined gothic and supernatural elements to create an eerie, unforgettable story of the undead. Dracula established horror as a viable genre in the emerging era of talking pictures and was one of the most influential films of its day.

Larry King
Larry King checks out eyeballs for his wax figure.

Boris Karloff’s portrayals of Frankenstein and The Mummy are immortalized in wax alongside Dracula. Also celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2001, Frankenstein is considered by many critics to be the greatest horror film of all time. Based on Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, the film, directed by James Whale, was a milestone in the genre. This film expanded the use of special effects, while Karloff’s nuanced performance made the creature both oddly affecting and deeply terrifying. The Mummy (1932) remains a monster movie classic. A high priest, the Mummy, was embalmed alive for trying to revive a vestal virgin after being sacrificed. The Mummy is accidentally revived after 3,700 years by a team of British archaeologists and he sets out to find his lost love. Seventy years after initial release this brooding, dream-like film remains a masterpiece.

The three classic monster wax figures are featured in Madame Tussaud’s New York. “For more than 200 years, Madame Tussaud’s has created incredibly lifelike figures of the world’s most recognizable individuals,” said Robert Roger, acting CEO for The Tussaud’s Group. “With enthusiastic support of Universal and the Karloff and Lugosi families, we have the unique opportunity to pay tribute to two renowned actors and their contributions to the early success of the horror genre on film.”

Madame Tussaud’s New York displays nearly 200 celebrities along with Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. The New York facility opened on November 15, 2000. It is a prestigious, $50 million, 85,000 square foot, five-story interactive attraction located at 234 West 42nd Street in New York, The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information online visit their website at www.madame-tussauds.com or contact them by phone at 800.246.8872.

Paper Bats

I know you are thinking – I must be nuts to suggest using paper bats as a serious decoration. I am nuts when it comes to these little beauties and just wait until you try them, and you will see why. The bats are fun and quick to make and add a lot to a room, at very little cost. You can add bats to any area of your room including your mini blinds by hot gluing them on clothes pins! You can have several different sized bats hanging from fishing line on the ceiling. Take a ball of rubber tack and stick them on your walls, pictures and mirrors. I tell ya, there are so many ways to use these simple paper bats, and I think you will agree once you try them.

Here is what you need:

  • Bat pattern
  • Heavy black paper stock
  • Fishing line
  • Hot glue gun
  • Tape
  • Clothes pins
  • Office tack

Draw a bat or find a pattern that you like and photo copy your pattern in three different sizes on card stock. Cut the copied pattern out and trace them onto your black paper. Now look around your room/s and try to decide on how many bats you want to make and where you would like to have your bats. Take a bat and hot glue it to the clothes pin and let it cool for a few seconds. It is ready to be pinned. Be sure that your bats aren’t all glued on to the clothes pins going just one direction. Turn some sideways, upside down and right side up. It will help you create a more realistic pattern on your lamps, ceiling and mini blinds. Take a piece of tape, carefully fold the wings together and hang them near the ceiling upside down like the bats are resting.