Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve: XVII [FINAL POST]: “The Pumpkin Hall of Horror”

Skelton&Moon

I can often be found in dark corners of old libraries, pouring over ancient dusty tomes of arcane legends, forgotten lore and collections of 1950’s issues of Popular Mechanics and Playboy. In my researches of things unusual and macabre, I once came upon a large volume of images most horrifying to look upon.  To see them with your own eyes was like staring into the bright full moon, looking down the barrel of a cat-teasing laser or gazing into one of those weird instruments in the optometrists office.  Some of what was included in that book were early plates of mid-career Madonna’s wardrobes, or late career images of Cher, Ozzy Osbourne and Keith Richards.

In the bibliography section, I came across references to ancient Halloween customs.  Further research led me to rare and out-of-print books of popular costumes.  There I found references to the famous Tor Johnson mask, the Vampire dress (oddly indexed under “C” for cleavage) and early clay studies of Wayne Newton’s face for a possible mask.

When I got to the chapter on pumpkins, I uncovered an unusual fact.  There seems to be two schools of thought about pumpkin carving.  One school suggested that happy faces were the only way to carve pumpkins.  The other school stated that scary images were more in keeping with the true essence of All Hallow’s Eve.

By nature, I tend to gravitate toward the more ghoulish visages. How else are you going to scare the stuffing out of children who come to your door begging for candy? I mean, what kid is going to be frightened by a pumpkin face of Porky Pig or Casper?

Only kids from Connecticut would.

So, I googled the address of the school that held to the idea of “scary is better.”

I drove down the leaf-covered lane just outside of Amityville, NY. and pulled up to the gate.  It was late in the afternoon.  The sky was darkening and the sun was beginning to set.

“A strange coincidence,” I thought to myself. “Getting dark this late in the day may be a prelude of something sinister awaiting me. Gosh this is scary.”

An old wooden sign swung in the suspicious breeze.  It made a strange and haunting creaking sound.  It read: THE BATES SCHOOL, in perfect Times Roman.

“Needs a little WD40,” I said to no one.

Once inside the main building, I was struck by the awful quiet.  It appeared to be deserted.

“Was it vacation?” I asked myself. “Where is everyone?”

Then I noticed the directory mounted on the ancient maple wainscoted wall.

I looked at the names.  They seemed to come straight out of a gothic novel.

Prof. S. King     Room 531 Suite 47

Dr. Pangloss     Room 420

Dr. Vibes     Room 74

Prof. M. R. James     Room 221b

Dr. J. T. Ripper     Room 666

Dr. Who     Room BBC

Dr. John     Room d’Orleans

Hall of Scary Pumpkins     Basement (Don’t go down there!)

I descended the stairs, wiping away the cobwebs.  The rats scurried underfoot.  I stopped at the bottom step.  This was it.  An ancient stone hallway lit by 13 candelabras lit the way forward.  I saw something on the floor, a head. Along the walls were small shelves.  On these shelves were a series of the scariest pumpkins I have ever laid eyes upon.

The smell of beeswax from the candles permeated the room along with other odors most foul.  I detected sulphur.  I sensed brimstone (then I realized they were the same thing).  I felt dampness.  I smelled urine.  I looked down and realized I had wet my pants.

If you, dear blog reader, have a delicate constitution and are faint of heart or suffer from a slight inner ear inflammation or dandruff, then go no further with this post.  I won’t hold it against you. Send your children to a dark room and put “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on the DVD.

But, whatever you do, prepare yourselves!  You have been warned.

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Here, my friends, are the few photos I was able to take and email before they found me…huddled in a corner, my jet black hair had turned white as a Swede.  I no longer bore a strong resemblance to George Clooney.  I looked very much like that guy you see in the Mall.  A guy who looks a lot like that writer, Patrick Egan.

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[THIS IS THE LAST OF THE "WAITING FOR ALL HALLOW'S EVE" POSTS.  HALLOWEEN IS UPON US...A TIME, ACCORDING TO TRADITION, WHEN THE VEIL LIFTS AND ALL MANNER OF DEMONS AND SPIRITS ARE ALLOWED TO ROAM THE EARTH.  LIGHT A CANDLE. HANG OUT THE GARLIC. BREAK OUT THE HOLY WATER. CHECK ALL THE WINDOW LOCKS...ESPECIALLY IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE...WHERE YOU DON'T USUALLY GO. LOOK OUT AT THE QUARTER MOON. BOLT YOUR DOOR. STAY AWAKE AND WAIT UNTIL THE SAFETY OF THE RISING SUN. THE ONE EXCEPTION: IF YOUR DOORBELL RINGS OR YOUR KNOCKER THUNKS AGAINST THE FRONT DOOR...OPEN IT CAREFULLY. BUT BE STERN: MAKE THE LITTLE CHILDREN ASK: "TRICK OR TREAT', MAKE THEM SAY WHO THEY ARE DRESSED AS AND THEN MAKE THEM SAY: "THANK YOU."]

ANOTHER IDEA: IF YOU WANT TO READ A FEW GHOST STORIES, GET MY BOOK “IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES” ON KINDLE (OWEGO FRIENDS…GO DOWN TO JOHN AT RIVERROW BOOKS AND GET A COPY).  SETTLE BACK AND READ THE TWO GHOST STORIES SET IN OWEGO, NY….if you dare!

I’M ADDING ONE LAST IMAGE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PUMPKINS.  IT HAS TO DO WITH LIFE.  LOOK AT THE PAINTING…my wishes to you who have followed these posts: Live your life to the fullest…every minute, every second. Live your life the best you can, love to the limit of what your heart can give…because you never really know when the bell will toll for thee……

Clock&Grave

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XVI: “Is My Childhood Home Haunted?”

420 Front St.-

Sometime in 2005, I handed the keys of my childhood home to the new owners.  That action was very difficult for me.  This was the only home I had ever known from birth to the time I went off to college.  But, even in the years since 1965, when I hopped into a car and headed for my higher education experience in Louisiana, the house was always a special place for me, my children, my nieces and nephews.  That sense of ‘home’ was not just in my heart but also found its way into others.  We all brought our girlfriends and wives to the house to show them the nooks and hallways and hidden rooms.  See my post “This Old House” on WordPress to read more of this experience.

But, on that afternoon, as the new owners sat and faced me…before I would give up the key…they had questions.  The daughter was quite interested in whether or not the place was haunted.  How could I give them full disclosure?  How could I tell them of the little things that happened over the years that had a meaning only to me, or my brothers?  No, I said. Not that I know of.

I was telling the truth.  I didn’t really believe it was haunted.  But this was something the new owners would have to find out for themselves.

Another reason I didn’t say anything was that I simply didn’t have the time to tell all the stories.  I couldn’t go into every odd sound, every feeling, every visceral reaction I had…not to mention the experiences of my brothers and parents who were not present to tell their side of events.

So, here, for the first time, is a short list of occurrences that happened to me or my family (who related them to me).  I was present for some of these events.  Others, I relied on the honesty of others.

So, was 420 Front Street haunted?

–My mother always said the house was devoid of anything ghostly but…she told me more than once that when she would go into the backyard to tend to the weeds or just take a walk to the river, at a certain place, at the bottom of a slight decline in our yard (which marked the ancient riverbank before the river meandered to its present location), she felt the presence of an ‘indian” as she would say.  A chief or a brave.  But she felt his presence very strongly…but only when she stood at one spot in our yard.

–My older brother, Chris, once told me that he was lounging in the bathtub on the second floor.  He distinctly heard the front door open and close.  Then he heard footfalls on the wooden stairway leading from the front foyer.  (Years later, the stairs were carpeted).  He claims that the footsteps never reached the top of the stairs.

–My three brothers and I always seemed to have a cat.  One particularly fertile female, Portia, gave us litter after litter.  One evening, three of us were playing with her in the large front bedroom.  She loved to get high on catnip and do goofy things.  On this evening we were just watching her bounce about from bed to bed.  Suddenly, she went stiff.  We stood in front of her.  She arched her back and hissed…really hissed.  I was there and I recall that the cat seemed to be looking beyond us toward the wall.  She ran from the room.  I won’t forget her reaction…to nothing we could see.

–We had a pool table in our cellar.  It was an unfinished space so there were many cobwebs and a great deal of dust.  Many of my friends in Owego will recall the games we played.  Once, after making a great shot off the bank, I let the cue stick hit the floor a little harder than I wanted.  The concrete floor sounded hallow.  I tapped around and the area seemed solid but the one spot where I had put my cue stick was hallow.  What could it have been? An old well? An old furnace pit?  I never knew.

–The second oldest brother, Dennis, was born in 1942.  My father bought the house in 1945.  So, Denny would have been 3 years old when my parents came to look at the place.  Denny swore that he remembered coming into the house and entering the living room.  He insists that there was an old man sitting in a wing-back chair reading a newspaper.  The man put the paper down and look at Den and smiled…then went back to his paper.  My brother always stood by his memory of that day in the winter of 1945.  On many occasions, I asked my father about the old man in the chair. He insisted that the house was absolutely empty.  Nothing and no one was in the house the day he and my mother looked at it.  He never changed his story. Who was right?  Both of them?

There are other stories, small memories, tiny happenings, obscure sounds, and dreams that I can attest to.  But, I’ve said all I want to say.

Part of my soul, my memory, my childhood and my sensitivity was in that key that I pressed into Lauren’s hand that day. The house is now on the market.

I’d buy it…but you really can’t go home again.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XV: “The Ghost Who Called My Name-A True Story”

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What I am about to tell you actually happened to me.

But, do I have the absolute right to say that a “ghost” called my name?  No, I cannot.  Declaring it an actual spirit from beyond the grave, requires scientific proof…and I cannot offer you any.  But, I have no other word to describe the voice of the woman that night, the woman who called my name.

So many years ago…

I believe this happened on New Years Eve, as 1991 rolled over and became, in the moment past midnight, 1992.  My wife and I decided to escape the noise of Manhattan and instead, spend a quiet holiday in a lovely little town in the center of New York State.  It was to Cooperstown that we drove that cold day.  We had booked a room for two nights in a quaint B&B on Chestnut Street.  I will not reveal the name of the establishment.  No, I cannot do that for two very good reasons:  some inn-keepers would prefer not to have that kind of ‘stigma’ attached to their establishment.  After all, there are travelers who would balk at the idea of spending a night in a house…with an unknown entity.  The other reason is even more concrete.  I simply do not remember the name of the place.  So, let’s leave it at that.  If you want to find this place, just drive along Chestnut Street and look for an old white Victorian-style home.  It may be the very place where ‘she’ stood outside my door in the dark hours past midnight.

After checking in and putting our suitcase in the room at the top of the stairs, we chatted with the inn keeper for a few minutes.  She was middle-aged and carried herself with grace and intelligence.  Her husband was away for a few days.  So was her daughter.  It was just the three of us in the old white house.

We made the short walk to the main street and had dinner in a small restaurant.

The wind blew cold from the far reaches of Otsego Lake.  (The outlet of the beautiful body of water, often called Glimmerglass, was a small creek that was to widen and become the great Susquehanna, the very river that flowed past my childhood home in Owego, NY.)  At the mouth of the lake, you could toss a pebble across the water with the slightest effort.

We bar-hopped for several hours and watched the patrons prepare to welcome the New Year by donning those little cone-shaped hats.  We decided that we would prefer to spend the midnight hour back in our room watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, again.

Around 1:30 am, I tired of reading (my wife had already fallen asleep) and turned off the light.  The window was open a crack to let the fresh and chill air in to the room.

I pulled the covers to my chin, closed my eyes and in a few minutes I was lost in a dream.

I sat up suddenly an hour or so later.  Someone had knocked on our door which was an arms length away from my pillow.  A woman called out: “Patrick.  Patrick.”

“Yes?” I replied and I slid off the bed and approached the door. “Yes?”

“Patrick,” was all I heard.  She had called me three times.

I began to worry.  If the inn keeper was calling me at this hour, then clearly something was wrong.  Perhaps a small fire had been detected and she wanted us to get out of the house.

I stood at the door.

“What is it?” I asked. “Yes, what is it?”

Silence.

I unlatched the door and opened it a crack…

There was no one there.

I opened the door wider and stuck my head into the hallway.

“Hello?” I called out.

Silence. There was no one in the hall.  No one was near the stairs.

My wife was sitting up in bed.

“What did she want?” she asked.

“There’s nobody there,” I replied. “But you did hear her?”

“I heard a woman call your name several times.”

So, it wasn’t a dream. I was awake.

I fell back asleep.  I would talk with the inn keeper in the morning.

~~~

At the breakfast table, someone else served us.

As we went through the parlor to get our coats for our walk to the main street, I noticed the inn keeper sitting at her desk.

“What did you want me for last night?” I asked.

“Pardon?” she said. “What do you mean?”

“You came to my door and called me…it must have been sometime after 1:30.”

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t call you.  I was fast asleep at that time.”

“Well,” I joked, “must have been the ghost.”

Her mood quickly changed.  She looked away for a moment.  Then she looked me in the eye.

“Well maybe and maybe I should tell you the story.”

“Story?”

“Yes, you see, shortly after we bought the house my daughter and I were raking the leaves and cleaning the lawn.  My daughter asked me who the “lady with the grey hair tied in a bun” was.

“My daughter said she had just seen an elderly woman in a dark dress standing at the second floor window watching us.  I told her that there was no one in the house except her father, and the two of us.  We wouldn’t open the B&B until a month or two later.  But my daughter insists she saw this woman.  She described her just as I’ve told you…grey hair tied in a bun…the old-fashioned way.  Later, my little girl and I went to the library to check out a few books.  I took the opportunity to introduce myself as the new owner of the white house on Chestnut Street.  I asked about who the previous owners were.  She said she knew the house well.  And then she said that one of the owners, many years ago, was a widow…elderly woman who always wore a black dress.  I asked her if she could tell me anything else about her.  She thought for a moment and said that she never met the woman because she died before she had become the librarian.  But from things she picked up over the years, she could say one thing…she always, always wore her grey hair in a bun.”

I stared at the inn keeper.

“Guess, that was who called me last night, right?”

She smiled and said: “Certainly seems like it.”

Me? I can say only one thing for sure.  I did not dream of the knock on the door and the voice calling my name.

So, I can tell you what it was not…it was not a dream.  But I cannot tell you what it was or who it was.

Or, why a voice in a dark hall called my name.

 

 

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XIV: “Great Ghost Photography, Again”

The camera captures an image.  It’s nearly always a moment of joy, celebration and living.  But every so often something creeps into the frame…something the photographer didn’t see through the view finder.  And, the wonderful people in image almost never see what is happening behind them…in the bushes, windows, doorways, behind the tombstones or standing beside them.

In the older days of photography, the image was on film.  The cameras were simple.  Darkroom tricks could be used to ‘doctor’ the photo.  The cameras often had the ability to create ‘double exposures’, an easy thing to do.

But, today, with digital photography almost universal, such creative effects can be photoshopped into the picture.  Usually an expert can pick up a doctored photo quite easily.  Even double exposures can be detected.

Still, some things show up on film that cannot be explained.  The experts are baffled.

Personally, I am a skeptic…but I find these ‘spirit photographs’ fascinating in so many ways.

In the end, who knows with absolute certainty what is real and what is not?  Some things cannot passed the ‘scientific method’ and be explained.

So, if you dare…take out some old photos and look them over.  I mean, really look at them with a suspicious eye.  Get a magnifying glass.  What is in the window? A curtain?  What blur is that beyond the large tombstone in the country churchyard?

Do you have a suspicious photo?  Post it.  I would love to see it.

Meanwhile, as we wait the coming full moon and the days of zombies and goblins and ghouls…ponder these photographs:

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What’s going on here?

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The dog once belonged to a military officer…when the dog was alive.  These students never saw the dog when the portrait was taken.

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Who is in the car?  The photographer claims it was an empty junked auto.

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The husband stands behind his wife.  She’s still alive.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XII: “More Spirit Photography”

As promised, I have more photographs of spirits.  Are they real? Faked? Do you believe?

These are taken from various places on the internet.

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A photo attributed to Tom Petty. It was taken at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. The monument in front of the man is the new stone marking the grave of Jim Morrison.  Jim is seen in the background in a “concert” pose.

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This was taken by a mother of her child in a toddler seat. Who is in the background?

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Here is a young girl crying.  Did her brother die? Is she mourning his passing? Is that him sitting on the stairs?

Remember, these were taken and published long before Photoshop was invented. The real question here is this: did the camera pick up something that the photographer did not see?

Sweet dreams….

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve XI: “Ouija–Game or Gateway?”

OuijaBoard

It sells for about $20.00 on Amazon.  Barnes & Nobel carries a Glow-in-the-Dark version. It’s a ‘parlor game for a lot of people.  But, for many more, it’s something that should never be allowed in a God-fearing home.

The origins of a “talking board” type of game goes back to China…almost 1000 years ago.  But it was not marketed as a board game until 1900.  A woman named Paula Curran began using it as a divining tool around WWI.

There was a town in the mid-west somewhere they had a bon-fire to burn Ouija boards and copies of Harry Potter books.  And this was in 2001!

Do you own a Ouija board?

Read the following testimony from a site on the Internet:

 “I can see you through the window”

I was about 12 or 13 spending the night at a friend’s house, goofing around with the Ouija board with him & his sister and we were getting all sorts of gibberish plus words spelled out, just kind of scaring ourselves for fun not taking it very seriously when we got the message “I can see you through the window” and then “I can see you through his eyes” or something like that…there was just a small window in the basement room where we were, and just the back yard and woods past the driveway visible through that window…we asked it more questions and it said “I’m under the car” so we somehow got up the nerve to go out with a flashlight and peer under the car, where we saw a huge black stray cat which was hissing.

So, do you own a Ouija board?  Where is it?  Is it on the game shelf in your den, next to Monopoly and Scrabble?  Is it gathering dust under your bed?  Or…is it put away, in the attic, where the kids can’t find it.  Where you won’t be tempted to open it and light a  candle…and place your finger on the little moveable piece and ask questions…

Above all, don’t go looking for it at 2:45 am.  So that at 2:57 am you’re ready to play.

And don’t begin asking your questions at 3:00 am.  For it is widely known that is the ‘witching hour’ when the shadows of darkness descend over the earth.

Have you ever used a Ouija board?  Have you had fun innocent experiences with it, or did you have an unpleasant encounter with someone from the ‘other side’ that made you feel…less than funny?

Please share any experiences you may have had in the Comment section of this post.

I’d love to hear your stories.