Category Archives: Fun Facts

Legends and lore, news, opinions and other hauntingly fascinating facts.

Top 10 Ways to Repel and Kill Vampires

 

Look, we’re not hating. After all, vampires are people too. (Or they were.)

But here’s the thing: we’ve seen the old Hammer films, and it just doesn’t look like any fun to get punctured in the night and drained to the point of death (sexy Interview With the Vampire imagery notwithstanding).

With the above in mind, just in case you’re ever accosted in a dark New Orleans alley by something pale and winged, you’ll want to be prepared. Here’s how to stake out (see what we did there?) your quarry and put those hungry vamps where they belong. Read on for the scary scoop of mythical ways to kill vampires.

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Hauntingly pale with long canines for biting into flesh, vampires are, in common lore, much-feared creatures of the night who survive off the blood of the living. Strolling neighborhoods after dark in search of their next innocent victim, vampires are unsettlingly resilient and show no mercy for their prey.

Just how do you kill the undead?

They can’t be suffocated or drowned, they don’t die of lack of food, and they sidestep bullets a la The Matrix. So how can these ghastly beings of the underworld ever be slain? Never fear: here are the top 10 ways to rid yourself of a nasty (and deadly) problem.

10. Just Say “Hell No”

An interesting part of vampire tradition is that the flying dead can’t simply waltz into your bedroom for a midnight snack. To enter your home, a vampire must be invited, lore states. (The rules get a little bit fuzzy when it comes to hotel rooms, camper vans, tents and other non-permanent homes.)

Your easy fix: DON’T invite that ghastly presence in. And if he or she asks politely, answer back in equal politeness, “Hell no, Fangs,” and lock yourself in your room until daylight. (You’ll be just fine, we promise.)

9. Stock Up on Garlic

One of the best ways to repel vampires is with garlic, otherwise known as the stinking rose. Vampires simply hate the traditional recipe veggie and can be driven away by the pungent smell.

If you can stand it, wear garland around your neck, keep several bulbs in your pockets or simply rub your body with garlic juice.

For extra insurance, include a lot of garlic in your daily diet. Supposedly, the smell of your breath and sweat will be enough to keep the night prowlers at bay.

8. Have a Little Faith

Symbols of faith will make a vampire recoil in an instant, so long as the person holding it has enough belief and conviction. Traditionally, crucifixes and crosses have been used to repel these deadly beings, however, Stars of David, Wiccan pentacles and other symbols are now also thought to be just as effective.

Vampires are, according to stories, petrified of the potential wrath of higher powers, so they steer clear of true believers.

Close your eyes, grab your ankh, and watch those bloodsuckers flap away from you like, well, bats out of hell.

nosferatu7. Visit Your Local Baptismal Font

Water that has been blessed by a priest is also widely believed to repel evil and ward off dark forces. Vampires are forever damned and are literally terrified of religion, so anything sacred is the perfect deterrent.

Just a few drops of holy water will burn their uber-pale skin, so keep a little nearby for your own protection and be ready to douse unearthly intruders at any time — you never know when one might strike.

For the ultimate vamp repeller, fill a water pistol with holy water and mashed-up garlic. (Plus…it’s just so much fun.)

6. Keep the Count Counting

If you suspect a vampire prowls in an area near you, sprinkle poppy seeds, sand, beads or anything small and grain-like all around your ‘hood. The idea is that vampires are said to be compelled to count anything they see in a group. They’ll be forced to tally up every single grain and will be far too occupied to tap at your window.

The obsessive-compulsive nature of Nosferatu is not well-known, so using this little trick will almost certainly surprise your blood-sucking target, giving you plenty of time to put some distance between you.

Got it? Good. Drop those grains and run like…well, you get the idea by now.

5. Stake Through the Heart

We just love the classics! Driving a stake through a vampire’s heart is one of the most well-known methods to kill the already-dead.

Any wooden stake should be fine (though different woods are popular in different countries — hawthorn is favored in Serbia, for example). However, a silver stake is said to be guaranteed to reduce that troublesome vampire to ash and cinders. 

4. Annihilate the Leader

Folklore has it that the destruction of the leader of a group of vampires will free his minions from his dark thrall, returning their souls and rendering them human again.

Unfortunately, vampire leaders tend to be powerful, well-protected, well-connected, and crazy azz skillful. If you’re not Buffy or Van Helsing (or for that matter, Abraham Lincoln), leave this trick to the professionals. 

3. Grab Some Silver

Like a silver stake, a silver bullet  spells instant death for vampires. They are violently allergic to the pure metal and will crumble to dust upon contact, according to vampire lore enthusiasts.

If guns are inaccessible, think silver arrowheads, slingshot rounds, darts, or even cutlery. Practically anything silver will do — so long as you fling it hard enough.

2. Sunlight (Maybe)

Vampires are creatures of the night, lingering in shadows and only emerging from their coffins, caves or basements after the sun has set and most mortals are tucked up safely in bed. So sunlight should kill them.

Unfortunately, while vampire hunters agree that the undead shun sunlight, there is some debate over its lethality. Some argue that even the briefest exposure to UV radiation will turn a vampire into a pillar of screaming flames; others maintain that truly powerful vampires can move around freely during the daytime, suffering only the temporary loss of their super-human abilities.

We say: either way, it’s worth a shot. I mean you wanted to work on your tan anyway, didn’t you? Expose your frightening foe to some sunlight and while she’s writhing, go to town with a stake (see above).

1. Channel “the Slayer”

The slayer is a notorious vampire killer who goes out on the hunt for  deadly bloody suckers (think Buffy). They have no fear and are willing to risk their life to benefit others. Abraham Van Helsing is possibly the oldest and most well-known slayer in the world known for killing Count Dracula.

They say to every generation a slayer is born — so sharpen up on your mythical creature-killing skills. With enough training, the next one could be you!

 

Book Review: How to Haunt Your House, Book Two

How to Haunt Your House: Book Two

By Shawn and Lynne Mitchell

In their first book, Lynne and Shawn Mitchell took you through a gorgeous and macabre world of Halloween prop-building to haunt your house.  How to Haunt Your House, Book Two, we’re happy to say, is not a rehash of their first book, but a worthy companion that ambitiously expands on their haunting tutorials, while easily standing on its own with all new projects, styles and techniques, all presented in clear, glossy photos and instructions.

In their “dead”ication, the authors pay enthusiastic homage to all the things that go bump in the night. One can easily imagine being one the authors’ neighbors as summer begins to morph into autumn … “Strange lights are often spotted in the late, night hours and the occasional, stray sounds of owls, hissing cats and long, drawn-out cries of wolves will be heard echoing down the driveway.”

This successfully sets the tone for the lush and gothic world we are about to enter, and the shadows cast by their props begin to look just a little bit too alive…an effect we can produce by following their inspiring examples.

How to Haunt Your House, Book 2What’s Inside

So. What can you expect by this volume?

Well, how about a full tutorial on building (and deconstructing for storage) an entire scale model gothic mausoleum, complete with an old, rusty wrought-iron gate? Hard to believe it’s all achieved with wood frames, Styrofoam and PVC pipe!

Stock your kitchen with apothecary jars full of strange, glowing liquids filled with creatures you can almost (but not quite) recognize. Construct huge gargoyle columns, fashion a complete crypt that doubles as a hide-away for your electronic components, create foggy, bubbling cauldrons and turn store-bought props and mannequins into ghoulish hags and decapitated brides.

If that’s not enough, Lynne and Shawn devote a large section of their book on animated props. Using clear and detailed images, they show you the components you need, types of motors and connections, and suggested power supplies. Step-by-step, they take you through two motorized projects, one of a monster churning a pot by hand, and an undead creature turning its head in a cemetery.

A book on building and designing props would certainly be fulfilling, but all of these projects are unified with chapters on how to present an enthralling entrance, inside decor (with tips on lighting and accessories), and images and layout tips for a fully-stocked cemetery.

We’re impressed with their creativity, attention to detail, and willingness to peel back the moth-eaten curtains to teach you how everything is done. The ideas are presented with lush, full-page images and eerie backgrounds to keep with the mood.

We give it three thumbs up! (One for each monster hand.)

“The Dead Matter” DVD is Unleashed

Editor’s Note: Getting ready for Halloween – In July!

Special edition The Dead Matter DVD set including soundtrack and Midnight Syndicate Greatest Hits CD available at all HOT TOPIC stores nationwide.

July 30, 2010 (Cleveland, OH) Midnight Syndicate Films is releasing a special edition of The Dead Matter DVD that will include two bonus CDs by gothic Halloween music artists Midnight Syndicate. It will be available at all Hot Topic stores nationwide on July 30th. It will also be available online at Hot Topic, Amazon, and Midnight Syndicate’s site. The specially-priced set will include The Dead Matter DVD, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Midnight Syndicate, and a new Midnight Syndicate 13th Anniversary greatest hits CD entitled Halloween Music Collection.

The Dead Matter DVD features the much-anticipated dark fantasy film produced and directed by Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate Films and Gary Jones and Robert Kurtzman of Precinct 13 Entertainment. DVD extras include two Midnight Syndicate music videos, the music video to Eternal Legacy’s song, The Dead Matter, three of the finalists from Midnight Syndicate’s 13th Anniversary Video Contest, audio commentary with the producers, gag reels, and a feature-length behind-the-scenes production entitled Maximum Dead Matter. Produced by Frank Purtiman of Smudgeline Studios, Maximum Dead Matter allows viewers to watch the film in one area of the screen while behind the scenes footage, interviews, location information, and concept art comparisons related to that scene play in other areas of the screen.

Dead Matter movieThe Dead Matter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD contains the score composed by the film’s director, Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate, as well as several limited-edition remixes of Midnight Syndicate songs performed by Jerry “Haunt Rocker” Vayne, Destini Beard, and Pat Berdysz of the industrial band Encoder. The disc also features other music that appears in the film from bands like Lazy Lane, hipNostic, and Eternal Legacy.

Midnight Syndicate’s Halloween Music Collection is a greatest hits-type CD that features over 60 minutes of songs hand-picked by Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka to celebrate the band’s first 13 years. Both new CDs will also be available at Halloween retailers nationwide beginning in August.

Maximum Dead Matter behind the scenes trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzIYws_qb1U

The Dead Matter motion picture: www.TheDeadMatter.com
Midnight Syndicate Halloween Music Gothic Soundtracks: www.MidnightSyndicate.com
Hot Topic – Everything about the music: www.HotTopic.com

About The Dead Matter movie:

The Dead Matter is the remake of a film that director/composer Edward Douglas shot on a shoe-string budget of $2000 back in 1995. The film tells the story of a guilt-ridden young woman (Sean Serino of The Rage) desperate to contact her deceased brother who discovers a powerful ancient relic that controls the dead. Her dark obsession drags her into the tangled world of two warring vampire lords (Andrew Divoff of Lost, Wishmaster and Tom Savini of Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead) each with his own sinister plans for the artifact and a vampire hunter (Jason Carter of Babylon 5) who will stop at nothing to destroy it. This chilling gothic dark fantasy co-produced by Robert Kurtzman (creator of From Dusk Till Dawn, KNB FX) and Gary Jones (Xena, Boogeyman 3), also features a score by director Edward Douglas of the Gothic Halloween music band Midnight Syndicate. It’s a mix of classic horror themes with modern twists and a touch of dark humor that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

About Midnight Syndicate:

Midnight Syndicate has been creating instrumental Halloween music and gothic horror fantasy soundtrack CDs for the past thirteen years. The group’s music has become a staple of the Halloween season worldwide as well as a favorite in the haunted house, amusement park, role-playing game, and gothic music industries. From Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights and Hugh Hefner’s Halloween parties to Monday Night Football, X-Box games, the classic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, and Barbara Walters specials, their CDs are designed to take listeners on a journey into the darkest corners of their imagination.

Is Your Costume Offensive?

Every year there’s controversy over a certain Halloween costume, and this year it’s the “Illegal Alien.” The costume features an extra-terrestrial dressed in prison garb holding a green card (which is a legal document allowing you to work in this country, ha ha). If the pun is lost on some people, the words “Illegal Alien” are boldly stenciled across the front.

Depending on your point of view, it’s either a hilarious pun, a political statement, or an extremely insensitive costume to a group of people.

According to Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the costume is “distasteful, mean-spirited and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform.”

The organization successfully pressured retailers such as Target, Ebay and Amazon to pull the costume off its shelves. Another states the costume “perpetuates this idea we have about undocumented immigrants as alien foreigners, strangers, scary.”

Should Offensive Costumes be Banned?

illegal-alienShould this particular costume have been pulled from shelves? Did it cross a fine line? Or is it yet another over-sensitive political correctness issue that has been stifling free speech for the last two decades?

Is this costume distasteful? Definitely! However, and so as to leave nobody guessing, I believe it should not have been pulled, and here’s why: Halloween is supposed to be offensive. It’s the one night where people parody and make fun of frightening monsters, authority figures, celebrities, political and cultural issues (as this one is), and, frankly, anything else people are scared of, angry at or downright tired of.

Why else do you see over-sexed nuns, stereotypical rednecks, Bernie Madoff complete with a hammer to whack him with, revealing native American costumes (wow, racist and sexy!), and Obama masks (Obama-care – there’s a scary one!). The list is endless. A couple years ago, the big offensive costume was a guy dressed as a Catholic priest with an altar boy hanging by his … you get the picture. How about Harry Potter costumes promoting witchcraft? How about “evil witches” offending Wiccans?

As of this writing, there’s still a few places that sell this costume, such as here. (Disclaimer: I’ll make a commission on the sale – if you don’t agree with that, click here instead and search for it.)

The point is, poking fun at sacred institutions and cultural values is a healthy part of any civilization. It’s not just free speech – if nobody can poke fun at anything, the line isn’t too far away from a police state. It’s not insensitivity and racism, it’s a cultural safety value – one even the Romans had. More on that later.

Why Do We Celebrate Halloween, Anyway?

Most people will tell you the origins of Halloween comes from the Celtic Samhain, when the line between the living and the dead was weakened. Grotesque costumes were worn to scare away spirits who had come back to possess living bodies.

Medieval Christianity tried to erase pagan traditions by turning them into Christian holidays – hence, the creation of a competing “All Hallows Day” on November 1st – “All Hallows Eve” the night before, or Hallowe’en. (Christmas, too, is originally a pagan holiday.) Irish immigrants (there’s that “i” word again!) fleeing the 1840’s potato famine took this holiday with them to New England (which already had late October traditions, including pranks such as toppling outhouses.)

As our country’s population has shifted from rural to urban settings, Halloween traditions have shifted from the harvest and bobbing for apples to door-to-door trick or treating (which actually has its modern origins in the 1930’s).

Today, there’s another shift occurring. As parents are (alas) too scared to have their kids go door to door asking strangers for candy, the holiday is looking to becoming more of an adult celebration. And with an adult audience comes a more political view of Halloween – thus, instead of the cute princesses, goblins and witches, we now have more easily offensive “sexy” costumes, political masks, stereotypes and, of course, the “illegal alien.” Is this a bad thing? Does it show the moral decline of our civilization?

The Moral Code and the Right to Be Safe

mental institution costumeEverybody wants to be safe. It means you can grow up without being hurt or uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. However, we’re ingrained NOT to expect being safe all the time. We’re still programmed to watch out for lions stalking us outside our caves. But there are no more lions.

The result? We have to subconsciously make up our own fears. Parents believe all neighbors are mass-murderers, so trick or treating is out. Children are no longer allowed to play alone. Terrorists and child abductors are lurking around every corner. Gated communities and massive alarm systems are the norm.

Those of us living a safe, suburban middle-class life want to be scared, if only temporarily. (I certainly do not want an actual lion prowling my front lawn!) Deep inside, most of us wish for our lives to be epic, to be famous or be able to have an evil enemy to do battle with. Why else are Hollywood movies so popular?

Even deeper inside, we sometimes want to lash out at the moral constraints that being safe entails. If everybody is safe, nobody can be uncomfortable, and this means nobody can be offended and hurt. We all have to tread carefully to avoid insulting someone. Can we all restrain ourselves indefinitely? Heck, no! The pressure to be good, inoffensive and docile all the time will build up and eventually burst. We’re all human – none of us is perfect.

Fortunately, there are pressure release valves – violent video games, horror movies, the popularity of the t.v. show House (who offends everybody), the aggression of sports and … I’m finally making my point … the wearing of outrageous costumes.

What Does Halloween Represent Today?

Halloween today looks to be more of a cultural pressure release valve, a day to let off steam (similar to the ancient Roman a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia” target=”_blank”>Saturnalia, where social order was reversed and slaves could insult their masters.). After being angry, frightened and weary after 364 days of watching our language, tiptoeing so as to not offend anybody, and fighting over polarizing issues like immigration and health care reform, not to mention worrying about our paycheck and keeping ourselves and our families safe from real and imagined terrors, we have one day to mock, poke fun of and laugh at all these serious issues and things in our lives.

That is why I justify offensive costumes. Every costume will insult somebody. I’ve been insulted more than once, or shook my head at the bad taste or pathetic attire long on the tooth (another pimp and ho? Please!)

However, I don’t believe people wear them to actually be insulting and mean-spirited. It’s an outlet to mock our beliefs and institutions and to laugh at our fears, if just for one night. It allows us to be someone or something we are not, to act as we normally wouldn’t, with the collective knowledge that we don’t mean anybody real harm. For one night, we can prove to ourselves that we are not so crushed under the moral and serious weight of living day to day and paycheck to paycheck that we can’t sometimes throw up our hands and laugh at it all.

The next morning we’re back to our real and imagined fears, helping others out, trying not to upset anybody, and debating serious political and cultural issues. We’ve let off some steam, the tightness around our shoulders are a bit more relaxed, and the offensive and insensitive costumes go back in the closet for another year.

What do you think? Is Halloween a way to let off some steam without harming anybody, or an excuse to insult and offend others?

Halloween Fun and the Plus-Sized Child

There are endless varieties of Halloween costumes for babies, children, teens, and young adults. It doesn’t matter if you’re the type of parent who is more conservative (those cleavage-showing costumes which have no place in your daughter’s closet or under your roof at all), or if you’re a bit more liberal with what your children are allowed to wear for Halloween (a vampire with a blood red pentagram patched into your teens forehead wouldn’t bother you at all), there is literally something for everyone on Halloween.

One of the best things about Halloween is that it is one of the few holidays where you don’t have to spend a dime to participate; Your child can make a decent Halloween costume with various things lying about your home, or in your closet. However, finding costumes for plus-size kids can be a little more difficult than finding costumes for the average sized child. This is because many Halloween shops only offer “one size” costumes, many which will not fit a plus-sized child.

Halloween pumpkin and child

Over the last few years, many new costumes on the market come in a variety of sizes – most of these will be found at large, online Halloween stores where they can afford a much larger selection. Thus, if your child is looking for the latest Disney costume, chances are good you’ll find your child’s size online.

Costume Ideas

The all-time number one costume for the plus-size child, that is Halloween themed and an absolute classic, is a good old Halloween Pumpkin. There are many creative ways to go about making a Halloween pumpkin costume. A simple one is to get a bright orange piece of fabric – cut it in a circle making a small hole for the head in the center and using a draw-string at the bottom, around the thigh or knee area. Many costume shops sell Pumpkin-costumes that are large and simply need to be “slipped” on.

Princess or other fairytale costumes are easy to make. Simply buy or wear an existing fancy gown, add a crown, a wand, and shoes. Add glitter to your child’s face, slip on some velvet gloves, and viola, your child is ready for the ball! For Alice in Wonderland, cut out an image of her “usual” look (blue dress, white body apron, black hair bow and white stockings) and look for those items in a clothing or second-hand store. Have her carry a bag with a teapot on it while trick or treating!

Superheroes are also a popular costume idea, and can be easy made with regular clothes. Find an extra-large spandex shirt, Iron a superhero emblem to the front, and stuff some shirts in the arms to make impressive, superhero biceps! A mask completes this heroic effect!

Anything with a mask is the next great option – everything from a werewolf, vampire, and celebrity masks can be easily found in any costume shop. Throw on some clothes but the Internet is where this method of finding a mask really shines. Around Halloween time, eBay is a cornucopia of Halloween costumes, and you can most likely find either a brilliantly made costume mask or even have one custom-made for you through an eBay vendor.

If you can’t find a witch costume in your child’s size, you can easily make it at home, or with a small shopping list.

Necessities:

  1. A long, black wig (purchased from any local Hair Shop)
  2. Green camouflage face paint (purchased from Wal-Mart or a dollar store)
  3. A black dress, available for around $10-15 dollars. This is such a common item around Halloween – they’ll have it in a variety of sizes.

In wearing the black dress of choice, next apply the face paint, and then finally the wig. Behold, you have your very own Wicked Witch of the West! An innocent Halloween costume that is sure to impress, regardless of age, size, or budget. Wicked Witch masks are common at Halloween time as well. In combining these two methods, the plus-sized child has the perfect costume for Halloween fun.

An overweight child shouldn’t have to be restricted from the same Halloween fun that all children enjoy. Just like any Halloween costume, the only limit to what can be done for a Halloween costume is the parent’s or the child’s imagination. For everyone, especially children, imagination is a limitless thing!

Mary Williams of WeightLossTriumph is a freelance writer providing tips and advice for consumers. She often writes about reviews for online weight loss diet plans.

Bringing Graveyards Home – How to Photograph a Cemetery

Nothing seems to evoke the spirit of Halloween quite like a graveyard in the fall, especially in New England.

The New England fall season is crisp with chilly air in the mornings, and a hard, penetrating light which makes the brightly colored leaves of the trees blaze across the landscape. These blazing trees, slowly losing their leaves to fall’s inevitable march towards winter, often stand guard behind the wrought iron fences and stone walls of the graveyards.

These silent sentries, amongst the markers of the dead, offer up endless possibilities to create unique photographs. Pictures of graveyards and individual headstones can add additional spice to your Halloween décor!

Spooky, Ancient Graveyards of New England

The older towns and cities of the Untied States (especially the seemingly ancient villages of New England), have a wealth of graveyards. The oldest of these burial grounds have tall and narrow headstones made from slate. Upon these slate markers are carved images which are both thrilling and spooky. Weeping willows, urns, skulls, hourglasses, and Death himself are engraved into the stone. Words, names, and dates – all in English hundreds of years old – speak of the long dead beneath the earth. Epitaphs of dire warnings and bitter assertions have their place as well, as does quoted scripture, all of them portraying the afterlife in a cold light.

graveyard-alevi-kalmistuGrave markers from the Victorian and Edwardian periods are of a different style, but they are no less impressive. Angels and lions carved from marble; granite obelisks and orbs; mausoleums and chapels, all of these – and the earlier stones as well – can be turned into inexpensive and mood setting art.

Tips For Taking Great Pictures of Cemeteries

With the ready availability of disposable cameras, digital cameras, and cell phones equipped with cameras, there is a wide array of ways by which to capture these various headstones. The fact that many computers come with standard photograph editing programs is also extremely helpful for the preparation of the photos as well as easy upon the wallet. Whether a photograph is scanned into the system, or uploaded, editing can be done quite easily. Standard stock photograph paper is also available at fair prices, making the printing of the pictures fairly simple as well.

Here’s some tips on taking great photographs of gravestones to print out and frame:

  • Choose either an early morning or late evening for your photoshoot. Unless the day is severely overcast, the bright sun will often wash out the colors of a scene, leaving it flat. In the early morning or late evening, the sun’s rays are angled such that it will give your scenes a soft light and soft shadows, perfect for those eerie cemetery scenes. Remember, when shooting, lighting is all that matters.
  • Use a tripod. No matter how steady your hand, there is no way you can give your images that crystal clarity that a tripod gives.
  • Have a foreground, a middle, and a background. If shooting an entire graveyard, make sure there is something in the foreground, like a tree, a grave marker, grass, etc. Then, think of what’s in the middle – the graveyard, of course. Finally, the background – trees in the distance, a pale dawn sky, etc. This will all give your landscape shot a satisfying, professional depth.
  • Emphasize either the sky or the ground. Don’t place the horizon in the middle. This makes your photo boring, because both the sky and ground are competing for your attention. Decide which section of the landscape to focus on.
  • Watch the Weather Channel – for fog, of course! There’s nothing more beautiful than fog in a graveyard. Get up early in the morning (really early, before the sun rises) to get that perfect shot of fog at dawn. Fog happens when the dew point and the temperature are near equal.
  • For close-up shots of tombstones, think of interesting angles. Instead of shooting right in front, try shooting from below or above for an interesting effect.
  • Also for close-up shots, if you have a professional camera, use the smallest aperture – this will bring your foreground into sharp focus, and make your background blurry. If you want everything in focus (for instance, for a general landscape shot), go for a higher aperture setting.

Framing Your Spooky Masterpiece

Frames for your various photographs can be picked up at discount stores, second hand shops, and fleamarkets quite readily. The pictures don’t need to be permanently placed into the frames, of course, leaving the frames available for other holidays and needs as they arise.

Once the graveyard photographs are framed, the pictures can be placed on a variety of surfaces, and even used as backgrounds for stationary displays of Halloween villages and dollhouses decorated for Halloween.

Happy shooting!

highgate_cemetery-1

How to Survive Halloween With Your Pets

Halloween can be a frightening experience for your dog or other pets. From the constant ding of the doorbell, to the many people out and about, and all the little hands that inevitably reach for him, there are many things aside from ghouls and goblins that can frighten your pup. Compound that fear with the reality that some dogs are skittish or anxiety-ridden, and well Halloween is right up there with fireworks and thunderstorm.

Instead of dreading the day, use the challenges. With the proper training you can have a very festive Halloween – complete with matching costumes for you and your pup!

Ding-Dong, Trick or Treat!

A dog wouldn’t be a dog if he didn’t bark when the doorbell rings. But on Halloween when your doorbell rings 50 times, well… it’s not so cute any more. This is the ideal time for a little in home dog training:

Get your dog to sit calmly while you open the door and tend to your trick or treaters.

pumpkin-and-dogOnce the doorbell rings, before answering it, make sure your dog is in a sit and stay position. As you open the door, keep your eye on your pup to make sure he doesn’t get up. If you are not sure about your dog’s reaction put him on a long leash. Your dog should be in your vision but not directly in front of the door. Chances are that the first few times will not be successful but your dog will get the picture. And when he does, click or reward him with treats or praise!

If your dog is confident and doing well, you can allow the trick or treaters to offer your dog some of his favorite snacks. Keep a few handy by the candy dish and when some willing children come to your door, give them a treat, parents permitting. Let them calmly put their hand out and allow your pooch to approach them to take it.

Tips to Help Your Nervous Dog on Halloween Night

If your dog is easily frightened of new people, then he might just be especially frightened of new people with masks on too. Matter of fact, your dog might also be afraid of yard decorations that stick out of the lawn and make noise!

  • It’s important to not force your dog into confronting his fears. If he’s afraid and hiding let him. You must remain calm and in a steady voice reassure him and talk to him as if nothing is wrong. The more even and calm you are the better chance you have at calming your dog down.
  • A trick .. so to speak that can help is to put a tee shirt on him. It mind sound silly but you will be amaze at how it can calm your dog down. You can use this on thunder and lighting nights as well.
  • Take your dog’s mind off the noise and what else is going on out there. This is the perfect time for some in home dog training. Practice sit, stay or lay down with a lot of treats. Even if your dog knows all the commands by heart, practicing something familar is comforting. Go for tasty treats like pieces of ham, sausage or hot dog. If your dog is playful combine the training with some play time.
  • Anxious and skittish dogs really calm down with classical music, massage or energy work. Simple dog massage techniques, touch or energy work can help nervous dogs relaxed and calm down.

A short note about candy … they are a no no for dogs.

It goes without saying that candy should not be given to a dog – ever, but just to reinforce the message, candy is terrible for dogs and chocolate can be fatal. Please keep kids treat out of their reach!

Catherine Potin is the editor of HappyDogConnections.com and offers free online dog training tips and resources from various experts so you too can understand and train your pooch better. From basic dog training to solving behavior issues, you will find solutions to get better result and create a deeper bond with you dog.

Making Halloween Memories: A Guide to a Season of Fun for your Child

Baby PumpkinAre you like me? Does Halloween form the basis of many of your favorite childhood memories? It was absolutely magical for me as a child. Now that I’m a parent, I try to bring that level of excitement to my own munchkins. I’m no craft-happy homemaker (don’t I wish?!) but I do try to piece together some special times during the season. Traditions form the fabric which weaves the happiest, richest holiday memories. I know, I know. Life is insane. There’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it. Work. PTA. Household chores. Community functions. Volunteering. Same here. The key is to plan a few simple things that will stay in your little ones’ hearts forever. Here are a few ideas that we use in our household to make it a memorable Halloween holiday season:

Gather Leaves as a Family and Decorate your Home!

Hunt for that perfect pumpkin… and take pictures!
Hunt for that perfect pumpkin… and take pictures!

The first event every year is to go on a long walk and gather fall leaves. Do this as a family. The leaves become decorations and crafts in my house. I do the old “wax-paper-with-iron” trick and make sure the prettiest leaves are “preserved” for the whole autumn season. They decorate my mantle, some bookshelves, and our dining room table. We do this at the beginning of October when the leaves are starting to turn and, again, closer to Halloween. It gives the family a chance to get some fresh air and exercise together. We also have occasion to see the progression of the season in the most concrete of ways.

Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

We also make an event out of pumpkin picking. Whether you go to a local farmer’s market, a pumpkin patch, or even your neighborhood grocery store, make it a real event. I have pictures of this yearly undertaking and cherish them. My children wear autumn colors or actual Halloween-themed clothing. What a blast we have! Each child gets to pick out their favorite pumpkin, be it large or small, perfectly round or as crooked as a gourd. Take pictures! It’s fun to see how the childrens’ tastes change over the years. After, we come home, enjoy warm apple cider and hot cocoa, and place the pumpkins prominently as indoor decorations while awaiting Halloween-Eve carving.

The Halloween “Advent” Calendar

Every year in September, we make our annual Halloween “Advent” calendar. We make it together as a family (yes, even Dad gets drafted to make a few days’ add-ons to the calendar!) Our calendar-making ritual allows us to keep the anticipation of Halloween at the forefront every day of October. Because we start in September, the season stretches just a bit longer as well.

Bringing Home the Pumpkins!
Bringing Home the Pumpkins!
Even Baby gets into the act!
Even Baby gets into the act!

Halloween Snacks and Meals

Because free time is sparse with the start of the school year and all that comes along with it, I buy round, ready-made sugar cookies. Add a touch of orange tint and some candies for the face — and you have precious pumpkin cookies that take no time to create! Finally, we always have the same kids-favorite meal on Halloween itself, before we head out for Trick or Treating fun. I make a homemade vegetable beef soup that’s warm and cozy (my delicious recipe is below.) You can make any dish your family particularly enjoys. The key is to have it be your annual tradition, much like ham at Easter or (gag me!) fruitcake at Christmas. With just a few events, you can turn a one-day holiday into a season of joy for your family. Plan just a few yearly rituals and you can ensure your children remember Halloween with a warm glow, too. Happy Halloween!

Bubble Bubble Goes the Cauldron: Vegetable Beef Soup

One package beef short ribs (4 or more ribs)

  • Six beef bouillon cubes
  • One large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 25 oz. can of diced tomatoes with 1/2 the juice
  • Tiny alphabet pasta – 3 oz.
  • 2 packages of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper

Place the ribs in a large soup pot with water, celery, half the onion, and the bouillon cubes. Boil gently for at least 3 hours. This brings out the flavor in the ribs. Remove ribs, allow to cool, and shred the meat off the bones. Discard the fat, and skim the soup base to remove the fat. I often put the soup pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow the fat to congeal, making for easier removal. Return the pot to the stove and add the chopped meat. Add the remaining half of the onion, tomato with 1/2 the juice from the can, the frozen veggies, salt & pepper to taste, and the bay leaves. Cook together for an hour. Add the pasta during the last 15 minutes of cooking, bringing the soup to a boil to cook the pasta well. Enjoy!

The Author’s Happy Halloween memories!
The Author’s Happy Halloween memories!

Interview with Lew Lehrman – Painter of the Dark

 

We recently had a chat with Lewis Lehrman, professional watercolor artist, teacher, author and Halloween painter who showcases his work on  a dedicated Facebook page.

Mr. Lehrman has created an incredibly rewarding niche for himself, working one-on-one to recreate clients’ memories.

From these recollections or entirely from the client’s and artist’s imagination, Lew creates a custom spooky painting, complete with a haunting backdrop, pets, hidden ghosts, people and decor. So cool!

His trademarked self-moniker is “Painter of Dark”, and that is exactly what this awesomely dark artist is! We were honored to have Lew for an interview here at Halloween Alliance. Here’s what he had to say.

HA: Your first commissioned work was to paint a Halloween scene as your client recalled it as a child. This looks to be a recurring theme in your work. Does your inspiration come from your own memories? 

Lew: From as early as I can remember, I have always been an artist. Even before my kindergarten and first-grade years, when a very special teacher, Mrs. Levy, encouraged my art, I found approval, and my parents were supportive, and my interest grew as the years went by.

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher took a group of her students to visit her sister, who was a watercolorist and whose home and studio were located high overlooking New York City’s Central Park. I watched, entranced, as she created a sailboat on blue water on a blank piece of paper. I was hooked!

A year later, in 1944, I was 11 years old, and my parents entrusted me to a Pullman car porter aboard The Wolverine Limited, en route to Battle Creek, Michigan where I was to meet my aunt and uncle. I spent a month at the farmhouse where they were staying while my uncle was enrolled in a special training program.

It was pretty special, but what really stays with me to this day, and directly answers your question, was that night in the Pullman berth, where I spent the night staring out of the window, watching the lights in farm house windows as they glided past in the indigo darkness. There was something in those lonely windows that touched me deeply, and I have never forgotten that night. I can still picture it clearly.

Tilted Angel by Lew LehrmanIt was years before I was able to devote any serious time to watercolor. Oh, maybe I did three or four paintings a year… high school, then college, then a couple of years in the army, then establishing a business, then a family. By the late 1950’s I had begun a freelance art business, and grew it into a substantial business over the years until 1984, when my wife and I decided upon pursuing a new life (another long story for another day) in which I could become a full-time professional artist.

Through all those tumultuous years, I had always nibbled around the edges of art. And night scenes, some of which were Halloween scenes, were a recurrent theme.

By the late 80’s, I was on my way to becoming a serious watercolorist. We had moved in ’84 to the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, buying and rehabbing a 200 year old Colonial, and turning our barn into a dream studio and gallery. My art began selling well, and when color Xeroxing came in, I made a few prints of a Halloween painting (which I had borrowed back from its purchaser, a friend).

I sold a few prints at the Gallery, where Halloween paintings were always popular, but when we decided to sell our Mass. home and move to Arizona, where we’d been wintering, those unsold prints came with me.

Then one day I decided to see if I could sell them on eBay. Each time I listed one, it received a load of bids, and the price shot way up. I knew I was on to something, and so The Haunted Studio was born.

But to anwer your question, which I realize I’ve completely bypassed:

Honestly, though I did enjoy the spectator aspects of Halloween, it was never a big participatory holiday when I was a kid. That was left to the rowdier element of my contemporaries, but it just wasn’t me, nor the kids I ran with. Occasional trick-or-treating with friends, or doing spooky stuff to other kids who came to our house, but nothing more. I don’t think my mother approved.

HA: How does the surrounding environment affect your paintings? Now that you reside in Scottsdale, how does this affect your work?

Lew: We discovered Scottsdale in 1987, when (my wife) Lola and I decided to get away for a month from another long, cold, snowy Massachusetts winter. Arizona was our choice. We fell in love with the light, the weather, the arts community, and everything else here. We “snow-birded” for six years, and moved here full-time in 1993.

Though cacti rarely show up in my spooky paintings, I did create a very spooky stand of sahuaros as landscaping for a commission from a fan west of Phoenix. But you’re correct: the great majority of my work shows a strong eastern influence.

HA: Have you always been interested in Halloween? Have you seen a change in Halloween from your childhood to today?

Lew: For people who love Halloween, their interest withstands time, as they’re usually based on a tradition of celebrating this holiday that goes back at least a generation, sometimes two or more.

As one of my fans told me, “It’s the only holiday that’s pure fun! You don’t have to buy gifts. You get to dress up in a crazy costume and go out and scare people! You go to fun parties with friends! And there’s all that candy!”

HA: That perfectly describes Halloween! Also, each of your paintings have a backstory, which really brings them to life. Do you think of a story first, and paint the scene, or is there another “kernel” that inspires you? A single scene, an emotion, a mood, a dream?

Lew: Sometimes there’s a story I want to tell, but more often, the painting tells me all I need to know. It’s strange. I may start with an inspiration because I’ve seen a spooky photo, or maybe a painting or a photo with peculiar lighting I’ve encountered in a museum or gallery. It could be a poem, or a photo and story a fan has sent me.

Or I might select a picture of an old Victorian, or a castle, or some other resource from our travels, and start painting it to see what develops. Or maybe just to express a mood, like “The Last Witness” or “Phantoms.”

It can begin with a kind of crazy “What if?” For example: What if there were a haunted tree house to frighten the kids? Or – What if all the movie monsters we feared as kids assembled for a reunion?

“What’s going on here?” Is a question that’s always in my mind as I work on a painting, so it’s not always under my control. Sometimes, in a way, the painting paints me.

HA: “The painting paints me” – I like that. What painting techniques do you use to create the “Gothic feel” in your works?

The Enduring Mysteries Of The McPike MansionLew: I use one of two painting techniques, each of them a different approach to watercolor.

Traditional watercolor, for me, is a very intellectual and controlled medium. I plan, and execute, each painting in a very specific way that has been used by American and European watercolorists for centuries.

Then there is an Oriental-based approach I learned from a master of the technique a dozen years ago, and which is much more emotionally satisfying. It requires a risky entrusting of what emerges to the vagaries of water on paper.

It’s very exciting, with an element of happenstance that appeals to me. I don’t usually know how the painting will look until I’m finished, though I’m never disappointed. And I love the look.

HA: How do you create a work of art for a client? When listening to clients describe what they would like to see in a painting, what cues and techniques do you practice to render what is in their imagination?

Lew: Most commissions begin with a fairly detailed email, or a package in the mail, describing what makes my client emotional about Halloweens of his/her own childhood, or of his or her experience with their own children’s Halloweens. Or of their own love of decorating the lawn and having great, fun parties.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with memories of a specific Halloween at all. They just want to see their home as a spooky, haunted, maybe ramshackle wreck at some time in the future. Some people are quite specific. Some have no idea. When that happens, I help them with suggestions

Other than Halloween, each commission seems to tap into deep feelings for the occult, or personal memories, or a personal vision they’d like to see brought to life. It’s my task to bring out their wishes, desires, and images, and express them in paint. I love providing a treasured heirloom – and making new Halloween memories for my fans through art.

*

 

Book Review: How to Haunt Your House

How to Haunt Your House

How to Haunt Your House

By Shawn and Lynne Mitchell

Sometimes, just sometimes, a book comes across your altar that makes your hands go clammy, that sets your heart racing, that makes your eyes go bug wide in wonder. How to Haunt Your House is such a book.

Its deceptively simple title sets the stage (literally) for what the book is about – a visual feast of step-by-step techniques on, well, how to haunt your house! I have never come across such effective, clear-cut pages of just how to create the fantastic props and effects that home haunters create for that one, single, magically, horribly satisfying night of the year!

Everything you need to know about building a haunt is here – starting with recipes for monster mud to working with Styrofoam, and effective spray paint applications to create that 200 year old marble tombstone.

From these basic but extremely effective tutorials, the authors plunge you into the real WOW factors that impress even jaded adults – floating heads and illusionary figures using television projections (“Pepper’s Ghost”), mausoleums that look endless by using trick mirrors, gothic fence-building techniques, 8 foot tall monster props, and eerie lighting effects.

Throughout, the authors guide you on how to put everything together into one fantastic, spooky presentation –  from your front yard and exterior of your house up the steps to your door, integrating delightfully spooky scares along the way.

This book is a must for not only the beginning home haunter, but for the advanced ones as well. There’s more than a few techniques that had me going “Good Lord! I never thought of creating fog that way. How so much easier!” Heck, I never even thought of creating moss for my tombstones using ordinary dryer lint and spray paint!

You can tell Shawn and Lynne Mitchell put a lot of care and work into this book – each page of their step-by-step instructions are also visually stunning masterpieces of art. Everything is clearly detailed, and nothing is left out.

Anybody should be able to share in the fun of “haunting out” their houses, and this book makes it extremely accessible to all Halloween lovers. The title says this is Book One, so I certainly can’t wait for the sequel!

 

How to Grow Your Own Pumpkin Patch

 

 

 

Ah, the orange, glowing, delightful jack-o-lantern: it’s perhaps the most immediately recognizable icon of Halloween.

Each autumn, thousands of families across the U.S. flock to farms, vegetable stands and even supermarkets to buy a pumpkin or two (or more!). But a few in-the-know growers avoid the rush by cultivating their very own decorative pumpkins.

How do these home growers do it? Pumpkin growing isn’t as difficult as you may think. All it takes is a little patience, a lot of yard space and a few tips on how to grow the best pumpkins in the neighborhood.

Read on for a tutorial on growing your very own pumpkin patch.

Selecting Your Seeds

Your first consideration is how much land space you have for your pumpkin patch. This will partly determine what variety you’ll be growing (hence, which seeds to choose).

Be aware that pumpkins require a lot of space—often ten feet or more per vine, depending upon the variety —so be sure you have a sufficient area available.

If space in your garden or yard is limited, try one of the two following options:

  • Semi-bush hybrids. The most popular variety among these is the Spirit Bush Hybrid. It requires a mere 4-5 feet of space per vine and yields 10-12 lb. fruits, suitable for carving.
  • Miniature decorative pumpkins. Jack B. Little, Wee B. Little and Baby Boo all fall under this category. Although the vines on these minis can still get quite long, the light weight of the fruits makes them ideal for a space-saving hanging garden. Simply fill a large size hanging basket with nutrient-rich soil, plant one to two seeds and allow the vine to dangle (it may reach the ground by the time its growth cycle is over). Be sure to keep the soil well watered and fertilized.

The most common commercially grown pumpkin in the U.S. is the Connecticut Field (Jack O’Lantern); you will find seeds for this variety in any plant nursery or store gardening section. Other popular carving-size choices include Howdens, Autumn Golds and Happy Jacks. Each has its pluses and minuses, so choose the variety that is best for you.

Preparing the Soil

Begin preparing your pumpkin bed after all danger of frost is over. Be absolutely sure of this timing – pumpkins are a warm-weather plant and new seedlings will not survive a frost. Depending upon what area of the country you live in, Final Frost will occur anywhere from mid-March to early May.

Choose an area that receives a lot of direct sunlight in the spring and summer; pumpkins prefer at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Pumpkins do well in nutrient-rich soil; consider starting a compost heap or purchasing a fertilizer that contains manure. Otherwise, try turning shavings of your food and lawn leftovers into the soil. (Fruit parings and fallen leaves are popular choices among growers.) Do this well ahead of your planting date so your additives have time to decompose into the soil.

Dig an area approximately 4’X5’ and about 2’ deep and fill with your compost and soil. Remember that your plants will grow beyond this area; the bed is for the initial seedlings and the first root shoots.

Planting the Seeds

Credit: countryliving.com

If you live in a northern area which experiences very short, cool summers, you can get a jump-start on your pumpkin growing by planting seeds in peat pots about 4-6 weeks before final frost. Otherwise, sow your pumpkin seeds directly into the soil. Poke a hole in the earth 1-2” deep with your finger and drop in two seeds; cover loosely with soil and water well. Space your seed mounds several feet apart (refer to your seed packet for the exact distance your variety requires).

Credit: gardeningandplanting.com

In four to six days, you will be rewarded with a view of your first seedlings. As the plants grow, keep them well watered, but try not to let the leaves get wet; this can promote diseases, including the powdery mildew that is common to pumpkin plants.

Pollination, Maturation and Harvest

When your seedlings are approximately 2-3” high, cut the weaker of the two plants in each pair. You want the soil nutrients to go toward your most viable plants. Now sit back and watch your vines grow! Pumpkin plants grow at an amazing rate.

Credit: beeaware.org

About 40 days after planting, you will begin to see flowers on your pumpkin vines.

Pumpkins produce male and female flowers; generally, the males appear first, with the females following a week or two later. Female pumpkin flowers have a tiny “node” below the base of the bloom. If pollinated, this node will begin to grow into a pumpkin.

(l-r) Male and female pumpkin flowers. Credit: http://www.leafrootfruit.com.au

Insects will probably do the pollinating for you, but if you’re unsure, take the pollen from a male flower with a small paint brush or Q-tip and transfer it to the inside of each female flower.

Depending upon the variety, your pumpkins will be mature and ready to pick 95-120 days after planting. Be sure to leave a few inches of stem on the pumpkin when you cut it; an accidental slice into the fruit will dramatically shorten its shelf life. Store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to carve them.

Pumpkin growing is a delightful activity for adults and children alike. Get your kids in on the growing action by involving them in every step of the growing process. You’ll leave them with an experience they’ll always remember. Just be sure to save some seeds for next year’s growing season!

Boo!, Not Boo-Hoo’s – A Parent’s Safety Guide to Trick or Treating

Next to their own birthday and Christmas morning, there’s little that kids anticipate as anxiously as Halloween.

And why shouldn’t they? With fall carnival rides, pumpkins to carve, huge quantities of delicious, sticky goodies, and a few thrill-giving scares, Halloween has all the makings of a childhood favorite.

Kids have their own priorities (“What should I go as? How much candy can I score in one night?). But as adults, it’s so important to also consider Halloween safety.

A few reminders about protecting our kids can help guarantee that this is a Halloween everyone in your family will want to remember for years to come.

The Real Spooks on Halloween Night?

According to reports by US Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Halloween Safety: Safety Alert” and another by the University of Michigan Health System, “Expert Offers Tips for Picking Safe Halloween Costumes” on Halloween safety, the three primary dangers relate directly to costume choice. Children are most likely to be injured on Halloween by tripping and falling, receiving a serious burn, or being involved in a pedestrian accident. Due to the large numbers of children who will be out trick-or-treating after dark and wearing dark clothes, our kids are four and a half times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than on any other night out of the year. Keeping these very real dangers in mind can help us make simple and smart choices to keep them safe. Here are some tips to avoid them.

Safety First When Choosing or Making a Costume

When it comes to avoiding a traffic accident, we cannot be careful enough and we have to give our kids every opportunity to look out for themselves. Avoid buying hard, plastic masks. Most of these masks cover the whole head and leave only small openings for the eyes and mouth. Besides making it harder for the wearer to breathe, these masks often cover the ears and block out peripheral vision. This seriously impairs the wearer’s ability to notice approaching traffic and limits how they can respond in a truly dangerous situation.

Instead of masks, try face paint! From pirates to princesses, from Christmas Angels to Santa’s Elves, from Indiana Jones to Dora the Explorer, there are endless costume ideas out there that involve no masks at all.

Make sure that motorists have every opportunity to see you and yours. Choose bright colored costumes, costumes with sparkles, lights, or glitter. If the preferred costume is dark, make sure to add reflective tape to increase visibility. Wear white sneakers with reflective highlights or add reflective tape to shoes. Also, pass out flashlights to your party and make sure the batteries are good.

Even Halloween Ghouls Need To Look Both Ways

Finally, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Talk to your kids about traffic safety. The magical feeling of Halloween night can create a sense of invincibility, but that won’t protect them from an oncoming car. Remind them to look both ways and only cross at corners (young trick-or-treaters have the bad habit of dashing right across the road). Discourage older children from riding their bikes as they might crash into walkers or put themselves at greater risk by riding in the road. Dangling costumes might also get caught in bike gears and cause an accident.

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye

Before the big night, make sure your child has a wide range of motion in their costume. Let them try on their costume before Halloween and let them play in it. Kids will love the opportunity to dress up ahead of time and you’ll get a chance to make sure that they can run and play safely in their disguise. It’s also a good idea to have your kids trick-or-treat in their tennis shoes rather than having them wear costume shoes that might be uncomfortable or dangerous. Especially our little girls who want to be fairy princesses for the night are best off in comfy play shoes, not high heels.

We say don’t run with scissors for a reason! Falling down with or on something sharp can lead to a serious injury. While no Captain Jack Sparrow is complete without a sword and no Hermione Granger is complete without a wand, these should not be stiff or sharp objects in your child’s hand. Make sure that all your child’s accessories are made of a soft and bendy plastic and have rounded edges.

Finally, it might be a good idea to have a talk with your posse about trick-or-treating etiquette. Remind them that there’s plenty of candy for everyone, so there should be no need to run or shove.

Fiery Jack-O-Lanterns – Not a Laughing Matter

Avoiding Burn Injuries:

When you check out your child’s mobility in their costume, also take a look for any loose fabric that might be dragging the ground. Be certain to hem edges or fringe that might catch a low flame like a jack-o-lantern candle.

Also, when picking a Halloween costume, don’t forget to read the label! Even if your child is convinced that they’ve found the one, don’t take it home without first checking to make sure that it will keep them safe from burn injuries. The costume should say that it is either “flame resistant” or “flame retardant.” According to the experts, 100% polyester is the safest choice. Avoid 100% cotton which burns quickly and doesn’t allow adults enough time to respond to a child in distress.

Again, make sure you talk to your kids about keeping an eye out for jack-o-lanterns or other flaming decorations. Reminding everyone, including yourself, to be vigilant is the best protection. Even better than a flame resistant costume is not having to rely on that label at all.

Enjoy the Boo! Avoid the Boo-Hoo!

Keeping the dangers in mind can only lead to a safer Halloween experience. Make sure you set a curfew for older kids and plan a route for trick-or-treating with your youngest. Don’t let a careless and avoidable mistake spoil the life-long memory of a fun Halloween! Happy and safe trick-or-treating!

About the Author: Angela Lytle is a self-employed mother of four and publisher of Christmas-Decorations-Online.com, a website featuring holiday decorations from artificial Christmas trees to outdoor Christmas lights.

Wish to Patent Your Halloween Project?

Scary Halloween Patents

When decorating for Halloween, folks often realize better ways to do things or better ways to make products that they use in games, parties, decorating, etc.

This is often a fleeting idea brought about by the frustration of dealing with a poorly thought out product or method. The idea may start with the thought “Why didn’t they build it like this” or “This would be a better way to do it.” These fleeting ideas might be golden opportunities that fly away and never return unless acted upon. Halloween and other holiday products can be big sellers!

As a Halloween enthusiast, you have insight into the needs of a person decorating, planning parties, organizing games, etc for the holiday. You likely have ideas for new products or improvements in existing products that could make you money and improve the safety, efficiency, and enjoyment of people celebrating the holiday. You can protect these ideas by getting a U.S. patent.

Unfortunately, obtaining a patent can be an expensive process. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) fees for filing, searching, and examining a patent application are available here. You have to pay filing, searching, and examination fees right off the bat, then an issue fee if your patent is approved. If you pay a patent agent or attorney to prepare and prosecute your patent (as opposed to doing it yourself), you could be out thousands of more dollars. However, a good patent on a useful product can pay off in a big way.

Some random examples of patents for inventions related to Halloween are:

Publication or Patent Number

Title

Inventor

Company or Person that the patent or application is assigned to

6,904,612 Weather and climate adaptive Halloween costume Spongberg; Rod Chosun International, Inc.
D491,485 Decorative Halloween pumpkin Kumar; Sanjeev Hosley International Trading Corporation
6,619,810 Halloween treat carrier including glow-in-the-dark material, pumpkin decorating kit, and method for decorating a pumpkin Kramer; Bruce Elliot Not Available
D430,817 Halloween trick or treat artificial tree Salandra; Anthony J. Not Available
5,662,328 Halloween board game Pecoy; Cyrilla Dianne Not Available
D480,984 Halloween decorative item Trappani; James Atico International USA, Inc.

You can view these patent applications and more by going to the patent office and searching either issued patents or published applications (some of which have not issued into official patents yet). Search the titles, abstracts, or specifications for “halloween” to get a good sampling.

The company you work for may demand that you assign your invention to them . . . especially if you develop the idea on their time and they make related products. Also, unscrupulous goblins are willing to steal good ideas and capitalize on them. Therefore, you have to be very careful about when, where, and how you develop your idea and whom you talk to about it. Don’t even tell your jack-o-lantern about it unless you have a confidentiality agreement!

Taking an idea and protecting it with a patent can be an expensive process but it can pay off in a big way. Even if you don’t get any direct financial compensation for your patented idea, it can be very satisfying and your name will be recorded as an inventor at the USPTO for as long as they exist (Abe Lincoln’s patent #6,469 for “A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals”, on May 22, 1849, is available in the online database!) Plus, the patent plaque will look good on your wall and your product may make the lives of celebrators just a little easier and/or safer.

By: Danny R. Graves, Patent Agent, MSEE, PE
615-513-9200
301 Clearview Drive
Springfield, TN 37172
http://www.ipexamine.com/

Author Bio: Danny Graves is a patent agent, engineer, college instructor, author, and inventor with two U.S patents. He was a finalist for the 2001 Charles C. Gates Award for Excellence. He has dealt with numerous holiday related inventions including some relating to glow-in –the-dark items, toys, and yard decorations.

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

Unmasking Michael Myers: An Interview With Chris Durand

Image credit: Halloween Wiki

Throughout history, storytellers have been prized by the cultures they live in. A great storyteller captures the imagination and pulls us into the story so that we experience emotions – both good and bad – as if they’re really happening to us.

Promo shot: Halloween H2O.

Halloweenites’ favorite stories are generally suspenseful in nature – especially those that bring us face to face with terror. And what character is more terrifying than Michael Myers, the quintessential bogeyman in Halloween H2O?

Actually, we ask ourselves: who could be more appropriate to play the role than Christopher Durand, a savvy storyteller who just happens to also be an actor and stunt man? Without uttering a single scary word, Durand uses his physical presence and uncanny acting to bring Myers’ chilling demeanor to life.

The Silent Michael Finally Speaks

Mr. Durand in a publicity shot.

In an interview, Durand reveals the origins of the Halloween franchise: “I did not see any of the other [Halloween] films. In speaking with the director, Steve Miner, we wanted the character to be right but didn’t want to mimic [previous portrayals].”

The director wanted Michael not just as a lumbering form, but appear alive and determined. Michael doesn’t run, he doesn’t rush. He’s relentless. The focus was on keeping the performance simple and clean, nothing fancy.

On the Myers character, Durand explains, “It’s your nightmare. He’s the bogeyman. He just keeps coming back and can’t be killed.”

Through expert storytelling, Durand allows us to meet the monster of our nightmares. But who is the man behind the Michael Myers mask? You might be surprised.

The Man Behind the Mask

Like Michael Myers, Durand is relentless is his pursuits. Whether that has meant learning a new hobby, such as woodworking, or living in France for a year at age 13, Durand says he has always been a very determined person.

This trait served him well when he decided to enter the movie industry. While there was, at that time, no school available to him for performing stunts, Durand, a native of Los Angeles, combined his skill in martial arts, gymnastics (which he began at 18) and rock climbing and hustled his way onto studio lots.

When necessary, Durand would sneak in or jump fences to be where the action was. He states, “Once you get your foot in the door, you learn from each other and expand.”

Since landing his first role in Cameron’s Closet in 1986, he appeared in many films, including Armageddon, Forest Gump, Star Trek: Generations, Demolition Man, The Mask, Tango and Cash, The Last Boyscout, Encino Man, The Crow, The Doors, Rapid Fire and many others.

Whatever the challenge, Durand is prepared to do whatever is necessary to succeed.

The Power of Storytelling

Durand uses stunts to provide the physical slant on storytelling. When

Publicity shot with Jamie Lee Curtis.

done properly, stunts are an important part of the overall story. Yet without a good story on which to build, stunts become meaningless, Durand believes.

Besides bringing stories to life through performing, Durand has also been involved in writing screenplays, giving him the chance to tell tales from the other side of the camera.

His love for storytelling, along with history, attracted Durand to archeology while at UCLA. He found in the artifacts the remnants of history that links the story of humanity through the ages. Regardless of the source, the power of storytelling is a strong attractor for Christopher.

A Labor of Love

Without a doubt, Durand loves his work. Working on H2O was a great experience for him for several reasons, he says, including working with the crew.

Michael as we know and love him. Getty Images.

He states, “It was lots and lots of fun. One of the most fun crews and definitely a nice crew. Usually I’m in one day of the whole run and bounce around between jobs. It was nice to stick with one crew the whole time.”

For another, friends and family have been extremely supportive of his work on the film. The high level of fan support has overwhelmed Duran, he says. What’s most surprising is the diversity of the fans who come from every walk of life, from lawyers to policemen.

Halloween, the holiday, is a joyful time for Christopher. He especially loves the trick-or-treaters and “the absolute joy in the eyes of the 3-4 year olds who are so excited and innocent.”

It’s this level of joy that Durand rediscovers daily in his work. “I love my business ’cause I get to play everyday I work. It’s about creating and having fun and being with other nice people and being nice to people. Life’s too short. People have to relax a little bit.”

In unmasking  the sinister Michael Myers, we find a creative, fun-loving individual who brings passion to everything he does.

The question remains: will we see him again as the notorious horror figure? We hope so. After all, there’s no stopping the bogeyman. . . or Christopher Durand.

 

 

The Truth Behind The Mask: Why We Conceal Who We Are

By Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Ph.D.

© Visionary Living, Inc. 2002

You open the door on Halloween and there before you stand the good, the bad and the ugly-fairies, superheroes, villains, creatures, monsters, even terrorists. You know them by their masks.

Halloween is an evening of fun and entertainment, and masks are essential to the party. But did you know that masks have a long history as a sacred and mystical bridge to other dimensions and worlds?

You’ve heard the adage, “you are what you eat.” When it comes to masks, you become what you wear!

Conceal or reveal?

Masks are ancient and powerful mediators between the worlds-the living, the dead and the spirit. We have worn masks from the beginning of our recorded history. At first glance it may seem that the main purpose of a mask is to hide and disguise, but actually it’s true purpose is to reveal what is hidden, and thus to transform.

We use the term “unmasking” to refer to exposing the truth. There are many stories about beauty hidden by masks of ugliness. The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast are two well-known examples. In both cases, the hero suffers from his outer ugliness. People see only the superficial, and turn him into an outcast. He lives in an imprisoned world. The Phantom hides in the subterranean tunnels of Paris; the Beast is a lonely recluse in his forbidding castle. The true beauty of the ugly hero’s soul can be unmasked only by true love.

One might assume, then, that the hidden secret truth is more desirable than the mask, but such is not always the case. In Todd Browning’s 1931 film, Freaks, a beautiful circus trapeze artist consents to marry a dwarf who is madly in love with her. She doesn’t love him; she can’t even stand him. Her real intent is to murder him and get the fortune he has saved. At the wedding ceremony, attended by the other circus “freaks,” she cannot hide her revulsion and makes fun of them. The freaks vow revenge. They succeed in transforming her into one of them-an ugly “freak.” Her beauty has been her mask, and when it is taken away, it reveals the true ugliness of her soul.

In both types of stories, however, the end result is the same: we are shocked by what the mask hides, and thus we are transformed to see a truth in a powerful way.

A bridge to the gods

Ancient peoples understood well the power of the mask. Evidence of mask-wearing in prehistoric societies shows that masks may have been intended to magically transform the wearer in order to achieve or acquire something. Perhaps the first prehistoric masked dancer is the “Sorcerer,” a Neolithic-Age cave painting at Trois Freres in France. The masked figure is half-human and half-animal, wearing stag antlers and poised in dance-step. The image suggests a ritual for a successful hunt. His mask reveals and liberates the animal nature within the man, which would have enabled him to come into contact with supernatural forces or the spirit of animals and petition them for help.

Masks have been with us throughout our history in our rituals, liturgies, theater and folk art. The mask has been revered as a sacred object of power, a living thing that either has its own persona or represents the persona of another being. It enables the wearer to bring to life, and even become, the persona or spirit being represented by the mask. While the mask is on, the wearer is no longer completely himself, but shares his identity with that of his mask. He has freedom-and permission within society-to act differently, even outrageously. The transformation has its limits and controls: the wearer cannot go beyond the bounds of the mask itself, and is transformed only during the wearing of the mask. When the mask comes off, it’s back to “ordinary” reality.

The transformative power of the mask can be explained in Jungian terms. A mask connects its wearer to archetypal powers residing within the collective unconscious. The mask is a mediator between the ego and archetype, the mundane and the supernatural, the sacred and the comic. It connects the present to the past, the individual to the entire collective of race, culture, country-and humanity.

Living presence

In cultures where the mask is treated with reverence, mask-making is a respected and skilled art. For example, in Bali, masks play major roles in rituals and performances. The masks are carved from wood. Before carving is begun, the sculptors meditate on the purpose of the mask, the persona in the mask itself, and the performer who will wear it. The performer also meditates upon the mask prior to wearing it. He may even sleep with it next to him in order to incubate dreams based upon its appearance and persona, which will inspire his performance to greater depth.

The challenge of the Balinese performer is to literally bring the mask to life-to make the wood seem elastic and capable of illuminating its fixed expression. Actors who have the gift to animate their masks are respected as “having taksu.” Taksu means “place that receives light.” Actors who have no taksu are called carpenters-they just push wood around the stage.

Good or evil?

In most cultures, masks symbolize beneficent spirits: nature beings, deities, the ancestral dead and the animal kingdom. North American Indians have used masks to represent evil spirits, over which the medicine men are believed to have power. Similar attribution is made in Ceylon.

Masks play important roles in religious, healing, exorcism and funerary rituals. Sri Lankan exorcism masks, for example, are hideous in order to frighten possessing demons out of bodies. Among North American Indians, bear masks invoke the healing powers of the bear, considered the great doctor of all ills. In funerary rites, masks incarnate the souls of the dead, protect wearers from recognition by the souls of the dead, or trap the souls of the dead.

In the West, however, masks have lost much of their sacred and deep symbolic meaning. Once, they were integral to Greek drama, both secular and liturgical medieval ceremonies, the Renaissance court masque, and 19th century mime and pantomime.

Today we see masks as entertainment props rather than as living things. We focus on the superficiality of masks rather than on the essence of what they represent. We look at masks as concealers rather than revealers. They hide flaws and ugliness. They also hide our true identity when we want to get away with something-criminals and vigilantes use masks to avoid being recognized.

Halloween secrets

Historically, the true intent of Halloween masks is to frighten. The practice of wearing masks and disguises stems from ancient beliefs that on this night the souls of the dead and unfriendly spirits walk the earth. It is desirable to conceal your true identity from them so that they do not follow you home. Masks also frighten them away.

In contemporary times, most of us are more entertained than frightened by scary masks. By wearing them, however, we may be reaching into the collective unconscious to express our secret, inner fears and shadow side. The masks let us reveal the asocial self-the monster within and also our deep fear of death. Halloween is one night when, through masks, the underbelly of human consciousness is permitted to be displayed without disapproval. The mask may even relieve some deep collective stress. We are able to face what we otherwise don’t want to see. As we party away in our masks, we may not be consciously aware of these strange dynamics.

We can learn a great deal about a person by the mask he selects. What is the message being sent by the mask? What is the mask concealing and revealing? Is a vampire mask a statement by a disempowered person for a desire to be powerful over others? Does the fairy queen mask speak to someone’s true thoughts that they are not as attractive as they wish? Or perhaps that they wish they had a magical power?

Our choice of masks may unconsciously reflect something moving within the deep currents of a collective consciousness. For example, in 2001 Osama bin Laden masks were popular. This popularity might have been more than just a commercial cashing-in on the terrorism attacks of September 11. Perhaps we were attempting to confront the evil we feel he represents, and to reduce its power to a comic, and thus more manageable, level.

Next Halloween, give some extra thought to the mask you choose. Remember that the mask reveals more than it conceals!

Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Ph.D., is the author of 30 books, including The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits and Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. Her website is www.visionaryliving.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!

Book Review: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

Explore Your Fangful Fantasies With the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. Sink your teeth into the dark-and-deep reads below.

*

Are you a secret Van Helsing fan?

Do you watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” cheering her on…but secretly missing the darker style of Faith?

Meet Anita Blake, vampire hunter.

She lives in a slightly twisted version of modern-day America. In Anita’s world, vampires, zombies and werecreatures live side by side with regular humans. Laws protect the preternatural, giving them legal rights. But when they break the law, normal cops aren’t equipped to deal with what ensues. So the police turn to a special division called “The Spook Squad,” where Anita serves as detective and, in three states, vampire executioner.

It’s not her only job, mind you. She’s also an animator – a talented necromancer who can raise zombies when needed (the dead do, indeed, tell tales). A grisly job, but one that allows her to put her natural affinity for the dead to good use.

The cycle of books written by Laurell K. Hamilton that detail Anita’s adventures are a highly creative, visual roller coaster of a read. Though vampires do of course form the series foundation, the presence of voodoo, werecreatures, necromancy and faerie add a level of richness that set these novels apart from others in this genre.

In Anita’s world, the vampires are sensual, powerful, scary. The werewolves, wereleopards, and wererats are alien, earthy, truly animalistic. And the heroine is tiny, scarred, and armed to the teeth. Let the hunt begin.

Suggested Reading:

Guilty Pleasures
The Laughing Corpse
Circus of the Damned
The Lunatic Café
Bloody Bones
The Killing Dance
Burnt Offerings
Blue Moon
Obsidian Butterfly
Narcissus in Chains