Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Party at Punkinhaus

Frau Punkinstein and I had the Halloween Party on Saturday the 30th rather than on the Night itself.  This was for simple reasons of practicality.

Below are some pictures of the 'before' set up and a few from the party.  I'm afraid that I am woefully technically inept, which means that several pictures I took simply did not come out at all.  Either that or were so blurry as to be impossible to view without pharmacological assistance.

Spider infested tree-backside

The sacred bonfire, pre-lit.  I freely admit that I had to call on the God Of Rock, who happened to attend the party, to get it going.  Which is just awesome when you think about it.

The front side of spider infested tree...note the creepy egg sac

The unnamed spirit that haunts the corner...much spookier in the dark

Darrin Stephens...our ghost.  This is a great effect and well worth the investment.  The grave spews fog as well.

Unladen food tables...

Facade of house.  Note the witch in the black robe.  Chauncey has been roaming more often, as evidenced by the lean he sports and Rupert (his crow) seems more bedraggled of late. 

Frau Punkinstein, in full Seer Form being menaced by the one, the only CELTIC PUMPKIN!

The Church sends its best and brightest to save the party

And yet the CP lives on!

That was how it started faithful friends.  The thing I had felt menacing the house turned out to be me.  Once manifested fully the party could begin and begin it did.

What will come tonight I wonder?

Now more than ever...keep your pumpkins lit.

Today is the greatest

Good morning,  my friends
Halloween is on today
Yay the pumpkins sing



As always, keep your pumpkins lit.

Friday, October 29, 2010

There is something in my house...

This hastily snapped photo was the only glimpse I got
I keep hearing noises at night.  After lights out.

A few days ago I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

Last night I was able to snap this picture but then my camera stopped working...

I'm scared.

Keep your pumpkins lit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cucurbit Rhinoplasty

Well, not really.

Tonight was pumpkin carving night!
Ah, the traditional carving of the Jack O' Lantern (Celtic Pumpkin Halloween Ritual #13, not on the previous short list {see 'Rituals' post from earlier this month}).  This is a very important ritual, for the connection between mortal and produce is a tenuous one at best.
Frau Punkinstein had chosen her pumpkin weeks ago, as had I.  Her's was a tall, majestic spheroid with a wickedly curved stem.  My own choice was shorter and more oblate with a truncated stem, but it spoke to me.
So we deliberated and stared at the blank orange surfaces for a bit.

Then the cutting.  Now Frau Punkinstein is methodical.  She carefully lays out the cuts with a Sharpie, even the lid pattern.  I am less methodical at first, plunging the knife into the top to remove the scalp, pulling it free to reveal the stringing pulp-guts within...
How to spot your faithful blogger when presented with two very similar things...look for the Jewfro

Then, once scooped clean, I take the marker and see what face shall be revealed from my mystic gourdkin.  This thing must serve double duty after all, protecting my property and guiding my ancestors home.
My pumpkin has herpes...which is interesting because...well let's not go into that...

A wicked grin begins to form...
The beloved Frau Punkinstein, always comfortable holding a sharp object...

Meanwhile Frau Punkinstein has prepped and begun the ritual evisceration of the fruit...
Frau Punkinstein enjoys this too much methinks...

I should take a moment here to stress how important all of this really is.  The carving of the Jack O' Lantern is one of the older, albeit somewhat changed, traditions we have for the holiday.  Yes, it is no longer a turnip.  Yes, it seems a lark, but this is one of the older traditions and we keep it, more or less, what it was.  This one even gets to keep the Irish name, ferfecksake.  Treat it proper and it will treat you proper.  Respect the pumpkin.
Knowing what I know about who inspired the forthcoming Jacko...this is just disturbing

Sod off!  I'm not ready yet.

After much work we have our sacred guardians revealed:
A hazy snapshot of the twain caught in the flash and unprepared



All lit up...heh

And finally a pair of close up solos pics of the guys:

Maurice
Cindy

So that's the pumpkin carving sacred rite of Halloween write up done then.  With the grand event just days away I hope you all take the time to ritually scarify a vegetable right proper and as always, keep your pumpkins lit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ghosts: Part 2

The Grim Ghost!

Continuing the theme of ghosts as superheroes I present the Grim Ghost, who briefly (3 issues) graced the world of comics in 1975.  The character was part of the Atlas company's line of comics.  Although I am given to understand that the company lasted a short time, I enjoyed reading the small collection of back issues I found in my local comics shop.

This character might be confused with a DC Comics character that was originally known as the Gay Ghost, but then times changed and DC changed the name of the Gay Ghost to the Grim Ghost (which is how I first encountered the character in Who's Who) and I do not know which of the pair was Grim first.

It hardly matters, I just threw that in for trivia.

So the Grim Ghost (Atlas) will be our topic.  The origin story/concept is fairly simple: Highwayman dies turns into agent of Satan acting to consign evil souls to Hell.
We've heard this story before; quite a few times, really.  So it is another avenging spirit, and created some 35 years after the paradigm avenging spirit of comics, the Spectre.

Ghosts make good candidates for superheroes.  I think I have said that before.  Let's run down a few reasons, shall we?

1. Intangibility
2. Invulnerability
3. Invisibility
4. A lunchbox of powers as suits the writer at the time including time travel, cold manipulation, scare people to death
5. Unfocused temporal perspective (the dead know things outside of linear time)



So already Grimmie has a leg up.  Now add to that that he was a highwayman in his living days.  Nice.  Highwaymen are cool in fiction.  I must stress in fiction.  In reality, for the most part, highwaymen were simply brigands, but there were some that developed a romantic reputation.  When one considers that it is simply good business to rob the fat cats and not the poor mice, it is easy to be seen as a folk hero.  If you take a mysterious mask, a fine flintlock, a flowing cape and a fancy hat and throw them into the picture you have quite a dashing figure indeed.  In fiction highwaymen often get to be nobles who seek to aid the lower classes by fighting corruption in their own class or loyalists to the King when a usurper sits on the throne.  Shite like that.
By being a ghost of a highwayman Matthew (for twas his name) is twice the hero.  The bit about working for Satan is just icing.
After three grand adventures the company and the comic were no more.
However...
A relaunch of Atlas properties is in the works.  You can find this information all over the internet.  Here's a link:
http://www.earthsmightiest.com/comics/news/?a=7647
There are more in a simple Google search, trust me.
I'm happy about this.  I enjoyed the short run of the Grim Ghost and as I said previously I like ghosts as super heroes given their already established supernatural abilities.
Masculinity...reacquired...initiate arsekicking protocol


If you feel like a little nostalgic comic reading go out and pick up the Grim Ghost.  Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.

Haunted Hunt Club Farm

Help, help, I'm being hunted through a corn field by...clowns?

Yes, if you happen to travel to Virginia Beach and attend a Haunted Hunt Club Farm event.
http://www.huntclubfarm.com/newhalloween/

One of the exciting things about Halloween is, of course, the haunted houses, into which group I include haunted hay rides, haunted forests, haunted rest stops...you get the picture.  Sunday, 24 October, Frau Punkinstein, myself and friends went to Hunt Club Farm for the 2010 Halloween Festival.  There are carnival rides and funnel cakes and produce of the gourd variety (it is a farm, after all).  I brought home a candied apple because nothing says Autumn like an apple covered in red candy.  I am not fond of the squishy caramel apple with or without nuts.
Back to the spooky.
Here is my ticket:

Check out that face on the right.  That is creepy as all hell, with its stitched mouth and blank, soulless eyes.  I did not see this guy even once.  I did see 1 creepy human marionette, 2 baby doll-faced bloody brides, 3 scrap iron dinosaurs (I can't even begin to explain), 5 inbred rednecks, 1 Jason Vorhees, 1 Freddy Krueger, gratuitous Alice Cooper, 2 Cenobites and 567.4 scary clowns.  I repeat: Scary Clowns.  At a farm.  The incongruity between the expected denizens of a haunted farm/corn maze and the reality of scary clowns leads to ironic juxtaposition that is more funny than anything else.

I had a good time.

There were several factors that made Haunted Hunt Club Farm a winner in my Halloween event book:
1. Carnival atmosphere: I like carnivals.  Carnivals are creepy in their own way, what with the transient nature of them and too many films depicting carnivals of EVIL!    The carnival aspect provided a token set of rides and booths offering gourmet popcorn, funnel cakes, pizza by the slice, hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and cheese steak sandwiches and BUCKET O' FRIES...which just sounds dangerous.
Even in worlds of RPG fantasy, carnivals are creepy places
2. 3 Haunted Attractions:  While this does not meet the total number of scary attractions at Busch Gardens, HCF does a fine job with their haunted attractions.  The Village of the Dead is a walk through with plenty of shocks and gore.  Field of Screams is a corn not-maze, in that there is only one direction to go and no blind turns.  The Haunted Hayride is exactly what it says on the tin.  In all three cases the attraction is out-of-doors, which lends a wonderful atmosphere to the experience and despite being located beside a rather busy highway, once in any of the attractions the patron feels isolated from said highway and this wonderful isolation aids in increasing the creep factor of the whole attraction.  Story lines for the attractions are kept to a minimum with the scares following a loose, nightmare logic.  The Haunted Hayride features moments of narration to move the story along and is easily the most intense, especially as the patron is stuck on the hayride itself, forced to move at the speed of the tractor pulling the wagons, and not at their own too hurried pace.
3. Classic monsters in the Hayride:  It was a nice to see classic monsters like Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger in the Haunted Hayride.  (Okay, 'classic' should be reserved for Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, but darn it, these are icons of 80's horror)  Recent 're-imaginings' of these horror icons have allowed a new generation to enjoy their antics, like crazy cut-ups they are.  Knee-slappers, I assure you.
4. Going the extra mile to make you wet yourself:  A member of our party, Cindy, became a target of one or two very determined haunters when Frau Punkinstein identified her by name during the Hayride.  For the remainder of the ride a persistent Alice Cooper-esque fellow made sure to scare her and use her name in so doing.  That's customer service, that is, and well worth the $20 per person ticket (which covers all three attractions).  There was a very good moment where a victim in an electric chair, who had just been 'fried', leapt out of his chair and onto the wagon screaming, "Oh my God, he can leave the chair!"  That's priceless when the haunter says what he knows you are thinking.  Upped the scare ante big-time.
And one factor that makes me sad:
Clowns.
It's not that they were frightening, because they were not; I was just confused as to what they were doing in a cornfield.
Piss off, Chuckles, I've got cotton candy fields to water
Because, of course, everyone knows that clowns are deathly allergic to maize in its unpopped state.
I imagine that there was an error during the planning phase this year and too many people thought that they were being the clown this time.
"Jim, is that a clown costume?"
"Yeah, Mark.  I thought it would be scary to have a clown in a cornfield; it's madness because it doesn't fit."
"That's what Todd and Karen and Hubert and like, 17 other guys thought."
"Clown's all I brought, Mark."
"Dammit.  Fine, get suited up and head to the corn field."
One, maybe two clowns in a corn field, now that is frightening.  It says, "I've gotten lost in this corn field and there is something wrong in the air...ahh, clown!"
As it stands currently the feeling is, "Dag-nabbit, maw, we got clowns!"
"Oh, Henry, what can we do?"
"Gonna have to spray for 'em, thet's all we can do.  Try and find their clown car after the harvest and spray thet too."

If you are in the Virginia Beach area or can make the trip, I recommend Haunted Hunt Club Farm for the season.  Have a Happy Halloween and, as always, keep your pumpkins lit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

More Howl-O-Scream!


Who doesn't like pumpkin-headed demonic entities?
Not me; I love that stuff.

I mentioned Howl-O-Scream a few days ago and I am doing a return post now.  Not that I went back.  I mean, I would love to, but it's really pricey and I have other haunts to attend.  Howl-O-Scream has a mascot named Jack.  Makes sense, right?

In previous years Jack has appeared as a menacing figure with a human face on a pumpkin head.  I don't mean a human face carved into a pumpkin, I mean a fecking human faced pumpkin.  Which, when one thinks about it, isn't really very scary.  Human faced vegetables are really sort of humorous.  Be that as it may, the nature of Jack  of the Lantern (as he is identified on the BG website) was always a bit malevolent.  This year Jack's 2010 makeover is not quite so mean.
Observe:

Sure and I'm pished, me boyo!
Yep, he looks like he is about to hit you up for a fiver and piss off down the pub.  Or possibly like Albert Sharpe in Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
Shamelessly boosted from Amazon.com
Which amounts to the same thing, yeah.

Jack's particular haunt is the Ireland section of Busch Gardens in Killarney.  There is a stage for his show "Jack Is Back" in the town square, just outside of Grogan's Pub and across from Abbey Stone Theatre (where Monster Stomp Revamped plays).  A few times a day, starting at 6:00 PM, "Jack Is Back" plays live for about 15 minutes.  You will notice, if you observe the picture above, that Jack has popped out of a giant pumpkin (jack o'lantern really).  This is like you popping out of a giant papier-mache of your own head.

At this point you might be asking yourself, "Self, shouldn't Jack O' Lantern really have a turnip for a head?  What with Ireland being so rustic and the original jack o' lanterns being made of turnips and pumpkins being a new world vegetable?"
Just stop it.  Don't nuke this.  Jack moves with the times.  I mean, look at him:

Looks like the sort of Muppet that put us kids into therapy way back when.  He has teeth like a redneck shark and a hat that says "Give me a Guinness or feel the rough edge of me tongue, laddie!" (I might have just slipped into Scot there at the end, but hey, two stereotypes for the price of one!)
Anyway, that isn't near as disturbing as previous years when he could be seen carrying around a jack o' lantern that strongly resembled his head.  That would be like you carrying around your own head, but still having your head on your body.  Like you murdered your twin, scooped out the head and stuck a candle in there...
And that's okay, because this is a Halloween party and Jack is the spirit of Halloween.  Or 'a' spirit of Halloween.  I mean, we still have Sam.
And this guy:
The incredibly misleadingly named Samhain!  Dig the upside down Celtic cross, nothing says pretend Satanic like upside down crosses, well that or BOC fan.
Yes, from the Ghostbusters RPG (he's just not as cool in the Real Ghostbusters cartoon).  Dig the colonial attire.  Okay, that's also the inspiration for my Halloween costume this year.

Enjoy a small excerpt of the show "Jack Is Back" from Busch Gardens Howl O Scream that Frau Punkenstein cleverly bootlegged on our digital camera.  This year featured Patch and Pie, two little pumpkin girls with HUGE HEADS!  Oh, and some dudes in colorful garb trying to look like a very tough Irish street gang that fully intends to 'serve' any punk who steps up.  Of course the whole thing is MCed by Jack, who seems concerned with making you dance, probably to get you to drop change he can scoop up later to take to the nearby pub.

video

video

Scary as hell.

As always, keep your pumpkins lit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond

People keep misspelling my name at work.  Herr Punkinstein is, as you might suspect, a nom de plume, a nom de guerre, a pseudonym.
This has nothing to do with today's post.  Well, sort of.
I dig graves; know what I mean?
Hollywood Cemetery

In Richmond, Virginia there is a very nice cemetery called Hollywood Cemetery that was designed in 1847.  Built among hills, the many tombs and gravestones are tiered.  It is quite nice with a lovely view of the James River because the dead get nostalgic for the water as much as the living.  Among the residents of Hollywood Cemetery are former US Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler.  My wife and I took a short drive through it last year and took some pictures.  We plan to take a longer tour when time permits.

This marker is designed to resemble a dead tree.  This is either appropriate or depressing, I'm not sure which.
I am not advocating breaking local or state laws and suggesting you spend your evenings among the halls of the dead on Halloween.  I don't see much point as the dead will probably be dropping by your house anyway, so do leave a light on, won't you?  I am suggesting that cemeteries are creepy fun and interesting places to get your spirit up for Halloween.  Also there are cemeteries that do ghost walk tours, if you can find them, and those are quite nice as well.



There are locked gates on these.  What are they trying to keep in?

As always, be respectful when you visit the cemetery, lest something take offense and follow you home.

And remember to keep your pumpkins lit.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens

This past Saturday I went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA for Howl-O-Scream, the annual Halloween event at the park.
It was my first time.

Scarecrows abound at Howl-O-Scream

I have wanted to attend a Howl-O-Scream for so many years but every year something would happen to prevent it.  Not this year.  This year I made it.

When I was very young, say early teens, I attended a Halloween celebration at Six Flags Over Georgia and nostalgia notwithstanding the Busch Gardens Halloween is much better.

As with so many things in life it is the little details that matter so much.  During daylight hours the park is safe for all ages and the decorations are clearly visible for all to see.  A plethora of Jack O'Lanterns, ghosts, spiders in webs and festive vampires can be seen.



Killarney, the main square in the Ireland section, already a fay wonderland was even more mythically Irish, save for the plethora of North American squash that bedeck the streets.  The Rhineland and Oktoberfest have been redecorated in Vampire Chic, which I find odd given that Curse of Darkastle is a ride featuring a ghost who is a werewolf.  However a trip to New France reveals where all the werewolves are hiding.  It makes a sort of Twilight sense.  Werewolves like Canada.






A Canadian Werewolf in Virginia





















Italy seems to be overrun with a case of witches, some of witch may be undead.  Pompeii was surrounded by mummies of a sort, eager to scare guests after dark.
Strega, I believe, is the term...which is related to the term for vampire


Frau Punkinstein was shocked by a particularly vicious shrub at one point.

The joy of Howl-O-Scream for me is that it is the closest one can get, short of winning a huge lottery and being allowed to become rich and therefore eccentric, to living in Halloweentown (either Tim Burton's or the one from those Disney Movies with Debbie Reynolds).  After 6:00 PM the park is getting dark and the roving cast members come out to scare the patrons and the haunted houses open.  This gives the patron a choice of how to spend their time, either in pleasant strolls through the park by day or ducking and weaving bellicose bushes by night.  Either way I'm for it.  See, I love amusement parks.  They are unreal in a real way.  Much like a tourist town, they exist to create for me, the patron, an illusion and cater to my whims.  This illusion is far preferable to the annoyances of the real world and is good escapism, not unlike what we see in movies, television and video games.  If you can make the trip I highly recommend Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

A reasonable picture of ghostly activity in Busch Gardens...I have it on good authority (okay, it was a sheepdog that told me) that this sort of thing is going on all the time, but they wear the sheets during October as a courtesy to the management.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween Music

Maggie Thatcher is in hospital.  I miss you, Mrs. Thatcher.
What does that have to do with Halloween music?
Well nothing, but it's my blog and I can say what I want.

I'd like to feature two discs today that I own, one of which I obtained from my local library (NOTE: this is not piracy; as a taxpaying citizen and card holding member of my local library my taxes pay for the media held in that library, thus as an owner of the product in question I simply made a legitimate backup copy of MY CD).

These Ghoulish Things:


Available from Amazon.com (or the 'ahem' library) this is a compilation of old (50s and 60s) novelty songs with a ghoulish theme.  The track listing includes radio spots done by Bobby "Boris" Pickett, who is famous for the Monster Mash, of course.  The sound quality is good and the disc is put together well.  As you listen you feel a flow to the product that makes it an easy Halloween party CD choice.
The disc contains 27 tracks and a great booklet full of pictures and notes about each song and artist.  If you are an avid collector of Halloween music CDs or just happen to have a few of the more common Halloween music collections, you will find a few of the tracks are already in your collection (Addam's Family Theme, Munster's Theme, Monster Mash) but this is unavoidable as these are staples of Halloween music collections as well as period appropriate tunes for the collection.
There are a few weak spots, in my opinion, but quite enough for all to enjoy.

Horror Hop:


Clocking in at 31 tracks and not a Monster Mash among them, Horror Hop is an enjoyable collection in the same vein as These Ghoulish Things.  First let me say that there are a few tracks that I simply do not enjoy and can not endorse.  It is not that they are bad, it is that they have SFA to do with Halloween.  "Amazon", "Bo Diddle In the Jungle" and, especially "The Zoo" are just not horror, spooky, or Halloween music.  The unfortunate conflation of 'gross' with 'spooky' in Halloween annoys me to no end.  I cannot fathom, then, how jungles and zoos apply to Halloween (unless one is in either of these locations to celebrate the event).
The editing of this disc is not smooth by any means; it lacks the thematic flow of These Ghoulish Things, but this is no reason to avoid it.  With 31 tracks to choose from there is plenty to recommend this disc and it neither suffers nor benefits from being put into the stereo on 'shuffle'.
High points for me are "Igor's Party", "Mad Witch", "The Mummy's Bracelet" and "Big Chief Buffalo Nickel" the last of which is also categorically NOT a Halloween song, but is just too good to not dig.
Horror Hop is also available via Amazon.com, which is how I obtained it.

Stay tuned to the Pumpkin for more Hi-Fi Stereophonic Sounds of Horror and Humor for Halloween Hijinks.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Carols

Halloween is not just a wonderful event on its own, for certainly it is that, but instead marks the beginning, the kick-off if you will, of a roughly 3 month "holiday season" of related events.  Consider October 31st as the closing of one door, being the light and warmth of Spring-Summer, and the opening of another, the Autumnal-Winter season of the Earth's death.  Now in the winter itself we have the evergreen festooned Christmas season to remind us of eternal life in the cold death of the world's cycle, but before this we have Halloween and everyone's favorite Harvest Gorging Time (Thanksgiving).
What we don't have are Halloween carols.  Now I know we don't have Thanksgiving carols either, but hear me out (or read me out as the case may and definitely is).  Some holidays have a specific song or 50 that identify them and are identified with them.  Easter has "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" which tells us who the iconic figure is and what he is doing (hopping down a bunny trail, apparently).  Christmas has multiple iconic figures, including of course, Santa (Ol' St. Nick, Saint Nicholas, Sinter Klaus, etc.).  Christmas has so many 'unofficial official' songs, including "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "The Christmas Song", both of which describe the iconic features of the event.  Christmas also has carols, which are religious songs mostly, but still identify for us the seasonal event.
We rally to them and with them.
Halloween has nothing of the sort.  There are plenty of Halloween "party" albums, many with the name of the very suspicious Drew attached to them.  I am not suggesting that Drew's famous line of anything is bad.  It is not bad.  It is...off.  Everything on a Drew's disk is by "The Hit Crew" which means STUDIO COVERS!  Bollocks to that.  Anyway, a Halloween party CD with Super Freak and YMCA, as cool as that might be, is not really a "Halloween Carol" now is it?
If you do enough digging you can find all sorts of Halloween music that is appropriate.  I'll present some in later posts.  You will not find "Halloween Carols" however because there are not any.  Any attempts to make them are usually the result of taking Christmas Carols and changing the words.  Yes, yes, very witty in a 4th grade sort of manner.
There is, however, one thing that I routinely refer to as "The Halloween Carol", the sound of which says to me, "This is Halloween, me boyo!"  When I was a lad we had a plastic ghost that hung about a foot down from wherever it was attached.  It looked like a white plastic gum drop upon which a handkerchief had been glued.  There was a spooky face on it and it lit up and shook when a noise was made near it.  As it shook and the light flashed it made a sound that, as near as I can tell, consisted of 3 notes that shifted in pitch.  That sound was, to me, Halloween.  All the spooky decorations made that sound.
That ghost is long gone now; it has passed into the beyond to dwell with the lost Halloween decorations of the generations.  The sound, however, lives on.  I have a key-chain that makes the sound of the joyous "Halloween Carol" in all its spooky glory.  Play the clip below to hear and enjoy the thing that I call the Halloween Carol, long may it be the spooky sound of Halloween.

video


Below is a still photo of the ghost key-chain in question:

Ghostly Key Chain Being Held By the Hand of the Lovely Frau Punkenstein

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rituals

Habits, we all have them.  Routines and habits make us human.    If you have to have a cup of coffee to 'get going' in the morning you have a routine.  I know I shower first upon waking, which is my morning routine.
On the other hand, if you fidget with a piece of tape (preferably Scotch brand, thank you) while watching television, you have a habit.
The difference between a habit and ritual is a sense of mythic significance.  A ritual is a ceremonial action, consciously performed and intended to bring about a specific end.  Rituals are important parts of anthropology and often related to religious or cultural practices, but this is not required.

When I was younger the cinema where I grew up had a reel that showed before the feature film but after the previews.  It was the standard "thanks for coming, get some snacks, don't annoy your fellow patrons" bit.  During one part of the reel a box of popcorn tipped over spilling the kernels out and as they flew by they were revealed to be hats.  Pith helmets, actually, but headgear all the same.  The first time I saw this I stated to my date and everyone within three rows, "They're hats!"  Easily amused, I know.
From that day forth I did this every time I saw the reel.  I even got to the point where I prefaced my declaration by saying, "Now is the time for the ritual...They're Hats!"

Technically that might be a habit, but it had taken on a compulsive quality.  I also eat the pickle off the bun of a my Chic Fil A sandwich first and take a bit of the crown before reassembling the sandwich to eat it.  It has taken on a ritual significance.  Should I not do this the food will not taste right.

Holidays have their rituals as well, both cultural and personal.
Trick or Treating is a Halloween ritual that has cultural significance.  You can include in this carving Jack O Lanterns and bobbing for apples.

Personal rituals of my own for the Halloween season include:

1. Every year, starting around October 1, I read the novelization of the film Halloween.
2. Watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at least once.
3. Watching Hocus Pocus (the Disney film with Bette Midler).
4. Bonfire.  Very important to my Irish grandfather's people, once upon a time.  Let's face it, if I don't do this the Sun might not come back.
5. Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights.  At least one box, sometimes more.
6. No longer do I dance around the front yard wearing nothing but furry boots and a flannel shirt tied around my waist consecrating the yard to the "Lord of the Harvest" since I lost my "Lord of the Harvest" icon (ceramic Jack O Lantern with a witch hat and a black cat sitting on corn stalks...the less said about all of this the better).

These are my rituals and without them I just don't feel like I've had a proper Halloween season.  Rituals are important; they are part of what make us a culture instead of just lifeforms existing on the planet for no good purpose.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ghosts

I've been reading Golden Age comics quite a bit lately.  There is something I enjoy about the pre-code insanity of those old Golden Agers.  Perhaps it is the sheer mind-blowing lack of explanation that would simply not fly in a modern comic.

Standard scenario:  I have just gotten my law degree and become a junior public defender.  Too much crime; too many criminals walk the streets.  I put on a 3 color costume and use the skills I picked up in college when I got my P.E. credit for curling.  I am the Sweeper, keeping the streets of Nova Scotia safe from the criminal element.

And that's actually a bit more detailed than the average.

Now back in 1940 Jerry Siegel (nobody important, you might remember him as one of the guys who created some 3rd string guy called Superman) created The Spectre.  It was brilliant.  A ghost already has superpowers so using one as a hero just seems natural.  It's far more convenient than having to manufacture some pseudo-scientific blarney like, "Drank a serum and jumped into a vat of creosote, giving you all the waterproofing powers of a railroad tie" as the source of the hero's powers and concept.

Ghosts are pretty super anyway, yeah?

The Spectre..."borrowed" from Wikipedia


The Spectre is cool, but he's gone through so many changes.  While messing about with Spectre research I came across this guy:

Mr. Justice!  Seriously, what is going on in this picture?  Those are, what, Alien Spider Monkeys?  And that one is holding a tommy gun maybe?  None of this happened in the issue, I assure you.
Mr. Justice!  Everything about him is just wonderfully wrong.  He's the ghost of a dead English prince but he lives in America due to the castle in which he was bound being moved from Scotland.  I know, you are thinking Gargoyles...as well you should.  The Royal Wraith took the name Mr. Justice due to his inability to understand the function of the comma and went about fighting crime, Nazis, vampires, other ghosts and THE DEVIL who was conveniently disguised as THE DICTATOR but we all know it was Hitler.  Mr. Justice is the superpower lottery winner of the LUNCHBOX OF POWERS!  Much like Silver Age Superman, who seemed to have a new power whenever he needed it, only to forget about it as the plot demanded, Mr. Justice seems able to punch a crook as a spirit, then in the next issue have to assume his mortal form (also known as Mr. Justice) to do the same.  Then a few issues later he remembers he can pull a person's soul from his body and administers a spiritual arse-kicking extraordinaire.  I love this guy.

He was in the bulk of Blue Ribbon Comics from MLJ comics and was in every issue of MLJ's Jackpot comics.  If you can find these issues I highly recommend them both as great examples of Golden Age comics that are not DC or Charlton and for Mr. Justice.

All hail the ghost as superhero.








Thank You Countdown Ghouls!

A happy Thursday to all.

I would like to post a big Thank You to the ghouls over at Countdown to Halloween for including the CP in the list of blogs to watch for the season.  I am humbled by such august company as the great participants, all of which I have checked out quite a few times this month.

If you haven't been to the Countdown, please do go:

http://www.countdowntohalloween.com/

Happy Halloween

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scarecrows and Halloween...

It's like chocolate and peanut butter.

I've done research on this and still I cannot find why it is that scarecrows are symbols associated with Halloween.  I do, however, have some conclusions of my own.

First, let us note that scarecrows are not very good at scaring crows.  Clearly they are some atavistic throwback to a time when an agricultural deity or sacrifice was employed to make the land fruitful.

Second, let us note that we see artistic depictions of scarecrows very often associated with harvest festivals.  Why should this be?  If the purpose is to make the land fruitful and/or scare away pests, then once the harvest is in they are of no use.

Hypotheses:

1. Scarecrows are not easily seen when the corn is full and tall, but once harvested there he stands, alone in the field, looking creepy by himself with nothing to do.
2. He gets to come in and join the party.  Sort of a 'well done, old boy, thanks for the help' at harvest time.
3. Scarecrows are bloody creepy.

That third one is the most important to me.  I give credence to the other two of my hypotheses (I did make them up, after all) because the human mind associates things easily.  We see one thing and associate it to another and presto, we have a tradition.  Wherefore would we ever put a carved pumpkin on the top of our scarecrow as a head?  Yet we have seen this as a part of Halloween seasonal art for a century.  Let's face it: scarecrows are creepy.

Guardian of the fields or demonic entity waiting to stalk out of the back 40 and into your home in search of human flesh when the corn has been reaped?  You decide.

This is Chauncey....

He is the Messianic guardian of my front lawn...

Or is he?

I swear, his hat is moving.  He's been on his post for a mere 3 days now and that hat is moving.  Probably at night.  When he stalks the yard...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Shrunken gods and eternal mysteries abound

Just the other day Theo asked me, "What is it that you love about horror movies, Punkinstein?  Is it the adrenaline rush?  The thrills?  The fear?"
And faithful friends, I was stumped.
I, who is in possession of perhaps the most superfluous word-horde of anyone I know, had no answer.

I felt like a very confused little league coach who has just been asked some very complex questions.  "The kids hit the ball.  Yeah."

I knew not how to answer Theo.  I don't find them scary, horror movies.  I just like them.  Whatever does that say about my mental condition?

Last year "Trick r Treat" finally saw the glowing light of plasma screens everywhere when it came to DVD and Blu Ray.  After so long of anticipation, word of mouth, and outright guessing, we the viewing audience were treated to the joy that is "Trick r Treat".  I am not going to review the film.  Plenty of websites, blogs and wits have done this already.  I want to talk about the best bit of the film for me personally, my own little sack-headed hero in footie pajamas...Sam.

Oh, SPOILER ALERT, I suppose.

Anyway, not owned by me but taken from Amazon.com here is Sam:

I love Sam.  Sam is my bloody hero.

Here is why:

First I want to make clear that there is not now, nor has there ever been a Celtic 'god' named Samhain.  Confusion concerning this can be traced back several centuries and blamed squarely on poor scholarship.  Perpetuation of this misunderstanding can be blamed on a combination of poor scholarship, popular 'wisdom' and Chick Tracts.

The elves, faeries, brownies, huldu folk, gnomes and dwarves of the world have not always been so marketable, nor have they had stats such that they could be fought in tabletop and video gaming.  Oh no.
Fans of Celtic history (and fantasy as well) know that the Sidhe (from which we derive the word 'banshee' but  that is another post) were a race of, shall we say, gods in Irish cultural legend.  
To encapsulate a two hour lecture by my mentor, the late (and great) Dr. Steve Glosecki: over time gods shrink as belief in them fades and need for them alters.  You start with tall, beautiful otherworldly fae, you end up with leprechauns.   
So there is no 'god' of Halloween.  There is no 'Lord of the Dead' poncing about answering to Samhain.  We can, however, look to the character of Sam and looking at what we know of the years of devaluing outdated traditions and linguistic morphology and say that there is  'spirit' of Halloween, just as we speak of Christmas Spirit.
Sam is that spirit.
Sam is what Halloween is all about, or should be.  Who better to represent such a holiday that combines innocence with horror than a tiny demon/child?
Throughout the entire film the apparently immortal Sam exists to observe and enforce the commandments of Halloween, the rules of the event, the spirit of the thing.  Watch the film and see how only those who violate the 'rules' of Halloween are punished by Sam, but how he is always observant nonetheless.

Thus, while there is no "Samhain, Lord of the Dead", Mr. Dougherty has created an anthropomorphic personification of Halloween (Hallowe'en, All Hallows Even, All Hallows Eve, Samhain) and made him not some towering monster, or some goat-legged demon bedecked with horns, but a diminutive demon that is so-darned cute as to be a child.  The gods of old, and the significance of their celebrations may have shrunk and been devalued in our modern age where we just don't seem to believe in much anymore, but as long as there is Sam to provide the yearly reminder I think we will be okay.

See, despite what all the Halloween haters say about it being a Satanic holiday, it is not.
And despite what the neo-pagan says, it's not all unicorns and rainbows either.
It is something special.  It is not about fertility but about harvest.  It is not about life or death, but life beyond death.  I mean to say that Sam, as cute as he is, is my hero because Halloween, my favorite holiday, needs to be just a little bit scary and a little bit dark as well as fun and Sam is there to remind us of that.

So have a happy Hallowe'en and keep your pumpkins lit, friends.  Those are the rules.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Costumes in Progress

The wife and I went Halloween shopping last week to get costume supplies.  My lovely wife is going to be a sort of Voodoo Priestess thing which, given her choice of makeup (heavily skull influenced) should be quite nice.  Two years ago we did a charity haunted house and she went as a classic Wizard of Oz style, green faced, long nosed, pointy-shoe witch.  Coupled with her uncanny ability to do the laugh from said Wicked Witch of Oz, it was awesome in the correct sense of the word.
Scary as hell when I was trying to drive to the event location as well.
My werewolf attire was not so frightening.

Last year there was little money available so we went with the 'creativity' route, which essentially means go through your closet and supplies to find a costume.  We did purchase some makeup, but I had an allergic reaction to it, which is the least cool thing that can happen to you on Halloween.  It's worse than going trick or treating and only getting religious tracts and floss in your bag.

Here are the supplies for this year, so far:


Voodoo Priestess Supplies for the wife

Punkin Head mask for me


Face front, Jack, my boy!

Somewhere there is a Phantom Jack O Lantern photo but I don't know where.
She says I will be a summoned minion, but I think the spirit of the Celtic Pumpkin is more than Voodoo Lady can handle.  We shall see.