2014 Asylum House: At the Marion County Scaregrounds

Asylum House 2014

If you’re looking for thrills, chills, and a little bit of gore for this Halloween season, the Asylum House is now open. While last year’s haunting was held at the Hannah House, this year’s fright fest can be found at the Marion County Fairgrounds, located at 7300 Troy Avenue on the southeast side of Indianapolis. Admission is $22 for adults, $10 for children under 10 years old. A portion of the proceeds go to local food banks. Discount coupons can be found on the Asylum House website or Living Social. A group discount is also available.

While the haunted house will be open through November 1, a special event will be held on Saturday, October 25 when the Wild Heart Association will be holding their Thrill the World event at the haunt site. From 3-6 p.m. and for free admission, you can wear your freakiest costume, learn the dance from the Michael Jackson “Thriller” video, and then perform it in the largest synchronized dance party with other thrill seekers around the country. And, by doing so, you’ll be helping Wild Heart Association raise awareness for domestic violence prevention and victim assistance.

What: Asylum House, haunted experience Where: Marion County Fairgrounds, 7300 Troy Avenue, Indianapolis When: 10/22-10/26 and 10/29-11/01; 7-10 p.m. Sunday- Thursday and 7 p.m. – 12 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

One-Day Only: Thrill the World, presented by Wild Heart Where: The Asylum House stage at the Marion County Fairgrounds When: October 25, 2014. 3-6 p.m. (Note: the nationally-coordinated performance time is 6 p.m.)

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Be Witched: All Hallows’ Eve


“The very dust and silence…seemed to tingle with a secret magic.” J.K. Rowling


“There she weaves by night and day, / A magic web with colors gay / She has heard a whisper say, / A curse is on her if she stay // … And moving thro’ a mirror clear / That hangs before her all the year, / Shadows of the world appear. // “I am half sick of shadows”… // She left the web, she left the loom, / She made three paces thro’ the room… // Out flew the web and floated wide; / The mirror crack’d from side to side, / “The curse is come upon me.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott”


“‘Tis now the very witching time of night / When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out / Contagion to this world.” Shakespeare, Hamlet


“Men say that in this midnight hour / The disembodied have power / To wander as it liketh them / By wizard oak and fairy stream… // Welcome, gentle spirits.” William Motherwell, “Midnight and Moonshine”


“There is something haunting in the light of the moon.” Joseph Conrad


“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin— and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you…” Erin Morgenstern


“Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d” / …”Harpier cries ‘Tis time, ’tis time” / “Round about the cauldron go; / In the poison’d entrails throw / Toad, that under cold stone / Days and nights has thirty-one / Swelter’d venom sleeping got, / Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.” / “Double, double toil and trouble; / Fire burn and cauldron bubble” / “Fillet of fenny snake, / In the cauldron boil and bake; / Eye of newt and toe of frog / Wool of bat and tongue of dog, / Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, / Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing, / For a charm of powerful trouble / Like a hell-broth, boil and bubble” // “Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, / Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf / of the ravin’d salt-sea shark, / Root of hemlock digg’d in the dark…” // “And now about the cauldron sing, / Live elves and fairies in a ring, / Enchanting all that you put in. // By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes.” Shakespeare, Macbeth

October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins…Merry October.” Rainbow Rowell


Related: When the Frost is on the Punkin


Art-tober: Sita and Sarita

Cecilia Beaux Sita and Sarita

Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) was an American portrait painter whose works are often compared to her contemporaries John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and Mary Cassatt. Beaux’s work was far more realistic in manner than either Chase or Cassatt, although in many works, she shares similar decorative sensibilities as Chase, who seems to have admired her work. This piece is called Sita and Sarita (Jeune Fille au Chat) and is a portrait of the artist’s cousin, Sarah Allibone Leavitt. The work was painted in 1896 and can now be found at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Its white-gowned refinement, clarity, and editorial prowess demonstrate precisely why it is that it is nearly impossible to speak, read, or write about Beaux without mentioning Sargent, Beaux’s twin in knowing how to cleanly edit and execute an image which in less talented hands could become trite, ornamental, sentimental, or cloying. The best of Beaux, like the best of Sargent, has subtext and depth and presents intelligent-seeming humans as seen by equally intelligent and thoughtful eyes. Sita and Sarita qualifies as one of the “best of Beaux.” Beaux must have thought so, too, as she painted a second version of this work in 1922. The second version is much lighter (no black background) and eliminates the china-patterned chair, two alterations which, to me, inexplicably reduce the pensiveness of the original, which in turn, to me, reduces the appeal. In any case, the second version can be found at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.

The 1896 Sita and Sarita has inevitably prompted some scholars and art historians to write about the figure’s implied sexuality, from the black cat to the way her hand lies in her lap (which some have said mimics Sargent’s controversial Madame X), statements which are often used to reclaim or justify Beaux’s own gender and sexuality and too often used by other women in a facile, brainless brand of feminism. Though, of course, when the painting was first exhibited, it brought some of these comments from male critics, who were, equally brainlessly, titillated by a depiction of a young woman with a black cat.

For my part, I like the image on its own, but never more than in October. For one, I assume Sita is staring into a fire, but I also like to think of the woman (not literally and definitely quite apart from what the image actually is and was intended to be) as a purer form of a New England witch, peering into a scrying glass. And of course, there’s that black cat. It’s like high-brow Halloween décor (a sentence which would undoubtedly horrify Ms. Beaux).

To continue on that theme, I also like to connect Sita and Sarita with lines Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote about Whistler’s Symphony in White, No. 2 (The Little White Girl) (1864) in a poem called “Before the Mirror” and dedicated to Whistler. As Beaux was also compared to Whistler (those white dresses!), it’s not totally out of line:

She knows not love that kissed her / She knows not where: / Art thou the ghost, my sister, / White sister there, / Am I the ghost, who knows? // …Deep in the gleaming glass / She sees all past things pass, / There glowing ghosts of flowers / Draw down, draw nigh; / And wings of swift spent hours / Take flight and fly.

Happy October. Happy Halloween.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Cecilia Beaux, Sita and Sarita (Jeune Fille au Chat; portrait of Sarah Allibone Leavitt). Oil on canvas, 1896. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

More: Wikipedia’s article on Cecilia Beaux is thorough and well-researched. This article from the Washington Post is also worth a read.

Related: Art-tober: Ghost Clock

Haunted Halloween at the Historic Hannah House

Hannah House Halloween

Tucked into the southeastern corner of Indianapolis sits the Hannah House, built in 1858 by Alexander Hannah. The home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is said to be haunted by the shade of Alexander Hannah, by an unnamed spectral old lady, but most of all by the refugee slaves who were buried in the cellar by Alexander Hannah after they tragically perished in a fire caused by an oil lantern as they slept.

The house is currently being haunted, in a way, by the Asylum House company: for $20, you can wend your way through this historic house, screaming in terror at all the fake ghosts, demons, and other sundry spirits. If you dare.

Hannah House bird bath
Hannah House cold porch
Asylum at Hannah House
Asylum House Reaper

Three Halloween Kittens

American Greetings 1984 Halloween

Image credit: American Greetings, 1984.

Monster, Monster, on the Wall.

Subsurface 2013 Indianapolis

Don’t look so sad, little monster, Halloween is coming soon.

This guy appeared on a wall just slightly east of Fountain Square in Indianapolis as part of Subsurface 2013 (a graffiti art expo). I believe he was painted by a member of The Cool Five as a practice piece for their main walls on the same building just off Prospect Street. He’s not the main exhibition. He’s hidden just behind a dumpster. But he is, by far, my favorite. My pet monster. My steampunk jack o’lantern in seafoam green. My teary-eyed, oozy-mouthed acquaintance born of spray paint and fetish and confusing emotional cues.

I keep trying to name him, this mess of a scary-sweet-tender monster-thing on the southeast side of Indianapolis. He must have a name by Halloween. Franken-Ruxpin (green squarish monster head with button teddy bear eyes)? Some nod to Frosty the Snowman (just look at his precious little carrot nose)? Something rakish and calculating to accomodate that slanting, knowing eyebrow? Rafe? Monty? Robert (with the French pronunciation, thank you very much)? Hugh? (No, no, no.)

And so we come back to “my steampunk jack o’lantern in seafoam green.” So his name shall be known as Sea-Green Jack, the Dumpster King. My monster, monster on the wall; the very gloppiest of them all.

See, before today, you didn’t know Jack. But now you do. (You’re welcome.)

Art-tober: Ghost Clock

Ghost Clock

“The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” William Faulkner

This is not a clock. This is not a grandfather clock, covered with a dust cloth. This is a sculpture, made of wood, towering over 7 feet tall. This is Wendell Castle’s scupture, Ghost Clock. In person, it is breathtaking. It is literally stunning. It has mass. It arrests. When you walk into the room of the Renwick Gallery where it is housed, you think it’s a mistake or a renovation or you think it’s experimental and postmodern: you think it’s a clock, covered with a sheet.

And it just really isn’t that.

It’s magnificent and stately and it is a wooden sculpture that’s so real, so cognitively confusing, you cannot walk away from it. Because it’s a masterpiece. How does wood look like fabric, textural, soft, draped fabric? How can you know there is no clock underneath but not know there is a clock beneath?

And then, while you’re pondering the mystery of hands who pull cotton from mahogany, the actual from the implied, you gasp with the way that time dogs your steps and operates outside of itself, sometimes slow and sometimes stopped and for all its predictable ticking past, it is never all that predictable. Time, like this sculpture, is never what it seems. And even when you think you’ve got a grip on it, there it is, challenging your perceptions and evoking questions you’re not sure you’re fully equipped to ask or answer. Time is a mystery, a ghost. Blink and it’s gone, only to reappear in a place you hadn’t left it, possibly covered with a dust cloth.

And double that for time’s cousins, its cohorts, its accompanying twin terrors: memory and regret. They’re there too, underneath the cloth-which-is-not-cloth, inseparable from the passage of time, inseparable from self. Memories haunt, the past is never past. And there is no way that you, as a human being, subject to all three apparitions of Time, Memory, and Regret, can walk into the Renwick Gallery, look at Ghost Clock, and not say “well, I’ll be damned” and then proceed straight from tickled (it’s all wood!) to existential interrogation and, well, cognitive confusion.

It’s really a brilliant piece and photography just doesn’t do it any favors. I’m cold enough to admit that for almost any given artwork, I am generally more moved by the history of it than the art. But in the case of Wendell Castle’s most provocative and evocative sculpture, it’s exactly the opposite. This piece moves me. If you’re ever in D.C., you should go and check it out. I’m willing to place a fairly hefty bet that it will move you, too.

Image Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery. Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, bleached Honduras mahogany, 1985. (If you’re a big art history geek, click on the link to the “Joan of Art” entry for this piece. In the comments section, some commenter noted the similarity of Ghost Clock’s faux muslin drapings to a Greek kore sculpture. Which is a freaking brilliant comment. Because, oh my god, it totally looks like that.)


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