Tag Archives: Halloween

Two IOUs: Harrah’s Las Vegas and Godfather’s Pizza

Harrah's buffet still owes me cotton candy.

And Godfather's Pizza owes me one Halloween and a Princess Leia (awesome Empire Strikes Back, flammable plastic Target version) costume.

Let me explain. My family was living in Colorado Springs (handily, that's in Colorado. It's very easy to remember and/or locate). The night before Halloween (All Hallow's Eve Eve, if you will), we feasted on Godfather's Pizza. It was probably delicious. I mean, my god, it had cheese on it. How could it be bad?

But it was bad. That pizza did not care one bit that I had my very first store-bought costume (possibly my last; my mother is amazing at costumes and despite the flammable Leia-vest and mask, well, it didn't take long to figure out my mom is way more magical than, well, Target) or that I was going to be Princess Leia and that Halloween was going to be way awesome.

I got sick. Super-sick. Lay on the couch and not allowed to go out sick. Soooooo sick.

Consequently, I received no candy. And, while it was probably only stomach flu, I blame Godfather's for poisoning me.

Why was it that on Halloween in the Springs, there was a pasty and putrid-breathed girl dressed in Strawberry Shortcake pajamas underneath her Leia outfit? Well…Godfather's Pizza, damn the whores.

Although…I was able to be both Strawberry Shortcake and Princess Leia at the same damn time. If I had only thought to add my Wonder Woman kit, well, who needs candy when one can be unstoppable?

I wanted to have tromped around the neighborhood, calling people Scruffy-Looking Nerf-herders. I had the outfit, the mask, the attitude.

But I did not have the intestinal fortitude. Thanks to Godfather's Pizza. So, I'll take my Halloween rain check now, pizza mob. Hand it over. This woman remembers.

You hear that, Harrah's? I remember.

In retrospect, I think I owe Godfather's Pizza for not letting me leave the house dressed like this.


Art-ober: Bad Girls

Witches and Poisoners

I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.

a.) Malle Babbe. Frans Hals (Dutch) 1633-1635. Oil on canvas. Berlin.

From the golden age of the Netherlands, this genre painting of a crone is also known as The Witch of Haarlem and Hille Bobbe. Frans Hals was an expressive Northern Baroque painter whose rapid brush strokes and vivacity bring his portraits to life. The owl is a motif of temperance and it is likely that this is one of the many seventeenth century Dutch paintings which serve as a warning to be moderate and proper (Jan Steen painted many, especially drunken mothers slumbering across tables while toddlers wreak havoc in the home). There is speculation that the model for this painting was either mentally ill or intoxicated. She is, regardless, a perfect image of the prototypical woman selected for persecution under witchcraft laws in both Europe and America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Single, elderly women, drunk or sober, living alone, lacked the protections of family and were easily supected of being non-conformist, unusual, and potentially dangerous. I can’t look at this portrait without thinking of the Goat Woman of Crawfordsville or warnings against my future if I continue to embrace the IPAs of the world (see also: Apple Buzz). A warning to us all. Thanks to the owl.

b.) Portrait of Madame de Montespan Reclining in front of Château de Clagny. Henri Gascard (French) Seventeenth Century. Oil on canvas. Private collection.

Also from the era of the “theatrical Baroque,” here is shown, complete with dramatic red stage drapery, an adulteress and alleged poisoner. This is the Madame de Montespan, the consort of King Louis XIV of France. This was at the height of the French empire: there was a time during Louis’ reign when the sun did not set on his empire. The empire was never again as large (despite nineteenth century African expropriations) as it was under Louis. And here is the king’s baby-mommy, François-Athenais de Montespan, shown in easy availability: Her bare feet and her sheer night clothes reference her sexuality, as does her loose, curling hair. This is the “undone” François, just as Louis XIV (presumably) preferred her. She bore seven children for le roi and was the king’s preferred mistress until the advent of a slightly younger (and equally pale and thick-necked model), the Marquise de Maintenon. The best (and probably untrue) thing about Madame is her reputed involvement in the Affaire des Poisons, in which she was accused by the French court of poisoning her rivals for Louis’ affections. Much like Lucrezia Borgia and Anne Boleyn, Montespan’s beauty and dazzling success with powerful men was translated by others into rumors about poison, and witchcraft, and all the dark arts. But what’s a girl to do when a king transfers his affections and his chateaux to a younger girl? Poison is easy. Love is difficult. And the seventeenth century at the French court is forever orangeries, sheer draperies, indiscretion, cherubs, and red velvet curtains.

c.)Circe Invidiosa. John Waterhouse (English) 1892. Oil on canvas. Adelaide, Australia.

What is it with Waterhouse and painting either women by water or women who spin? In this instance he does both: showing the sorceress Circe, who was found by Odysseus’ men at her loom, in the water and using a basin of water as a scrying mirror. Waterhouse (perhaps it was his name?) was a Pre-Raphaelite painter who painted almost exclusively women, usually mythological or literary, and occasionally biblical (and, has been mentioned, frequently near, in or with water). Waterhouse was fond of re-visiting his favorite “ladies:” he painted multiple versions of the Lady of Shalott, Ophelia, and Circe. And this Circe is wonderfully dire. (Is that a sea-monster by her feet?) The intensity of her stare and the highly-saturated greens and blues define a sorceress who very easily could be, as some poets said, the daughter of Hecate herself. Scrying has a long history, going back to Persia, where it is said gazing into the cup would lead to a view of all seven layers of the universe; Nostradamus was said to have used a scrying mirror. The ancient Greeks consulted oracles and bird entrails and all manner of things, but this portrait of hydromancy and feminine power leads one to think that water, and not entrails, is certainly the vehicle of choice for the inner eye. Especially if you’re Circe. And don’t piss her off. She’ll turn you into a pig (or a sea-monster; she does that, you know). And no one wants that, now, do they?

d.) La Belle Iseult. William Morris (English) 1858. Oil on canvas. London.

Oh, dear, not only is it another Pre-Raphaelite but it’s also another “easy woman.” Like old Montespan and Circe, there is no getting around the sexuality of Iseult here. For starters, she clearly just got out of bed (rumpled sheets, fastening her “un-chastity” belt). There’s a dog, age-old iconographic shorthand for fidelity (Latin: fidelis; hence “Fido.”), in that most unwholesome bed. Iseult was married to Mark of Cornwall, but the bed was rumpled by her and her lover, Sir Tristan of the Arthurian Round Table. (In some versions, she is a famous physician who cures Tristan of a poisoned wound; in other versions, she catches her come-uppance when her daughter and namesake ultimately marries Sir Tristan. In most versions, Iseult’s tale is tragic: forced to marry an unloved Mark only to find her soulmate in a Tristan she can bed but never have. Some interpretations of this painting call this Iseult mourning the exile of Tristran from the court of King Mark — there’s rosemary in her hair and the word “Dolorous” can be found in the mirror. For me, maybe it is that, but Tristan didn’t just leave, or at least not without saying good-bye, if you know what I’m saying. I love this painting because Morris gives to the ill-fated Iseult a conscience: sure the sheets are there, with all their tawdry innuendo, but Iseult’s face is tight and tense and full of contradictions. If her love is clear, her conscience is not. Morris paints not an easily-had accessory (ahem, Gascard!) but a fully-realized, complex modern adult woman. Maybe it helps that Morris was in love with the model, Jane Burden, whom he married the year after he painted this image. Love isn’t easy. Morris idealizes his model and a medieval past but he’s not afraid of contradictions or messy realities.

e.) Victorian Christmas Card. (English.) Late nineteenth century.

It’s the Nightmare Before Christmas before The Nightmare Before Christmas. Victorians, in all their weirdness, often sent Christmas (!) greetings which included witches or demons (variously known as Black Peter, Knecht Rupert, Krampus, Hans Trapp, Klaubauf, Hans Muff, and Butz; Victoria’s German relatives and the Dutch were also quite fond of this “Naughty and Nice” theme); sometimes holiday cards were simply portraits of dead birds (sadly realistic, on their backs, little claws tagged with a message of goodwill). From the sixth-century Council of Troyes onward, Christianity had declared the holiday season as a period when supernatural forces could roam the earth. The Pagans had this down first, of course: the equinoxes and solstices were times the veil between the living and dead were thinnest. And so, back to the Victorians and their weird Christmas cards, well, the dead birds reminded people to care for the freezing children selling matches and violets in the cold. The nasty spirits and the witches were a virtual Post-It or a ribbon ’round the finger: Count your blessings, keep the faith. Magic is real, both bad and good, and may only the good keep you company in the coming year. (Hey, is that ol’ Malle Babbe on one of those brooms?)

f.) Johnny Gruelle. Illustration from Friendly Fairies. (American) Early twentieth-century.

Witches, like fairies and enchanted dolls, inhabit the world of Johnny Gruelle’s illustrations and juvenile fiction. There’s the Wonderful Witch, Mrs. Witch, Winnie-the-Witch; and there’s this little witch, complete with whiskers on her chin and a cat riding on her skirt, traipsing across a girl’s bedroom. Good thing the little girl has a gnome-elf-thing to watch over her, not that this witch looks like she would do any harm, ever. Gruelle’s witches are not so bad; they do not eat children (Hansel and Gretel), they do not poison people (Montespan, badly done!); they do not cheat on kings they do not love (Iseult!), and they probably don’t drink as much as old Malle Babbe. If Gruelle’s witches are memento mori like the Victorian Christmas gothics, well, they’re not so very good at it. Mostly, they are simply charming magical alternatives to an early twentieth century world which must have been a little disarming, what with the discoveries of evolution and radiation, atoms, and modern-ish psychology. What terrors came with mustard gas and sudden instant communication must have been softened somewhat by the magical tales being told by Gruelle, Conan Doyle, L. Frank Baum, and Tolkien. If Adam and Eve had become fish and monkeys, well, the fairies and little people and witches of old were safe and secure. What was science and religion but a mash-up of myth and memory, new and old? Well, and a friendly witch can do no harm. Neither, perhaps, can Planck or Darwin or technology. The spirit will live.

Happy Halloween.


John Grossman, Christmas Curiosities: Odd, Dark, and Forgotten Christmas. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2008 (especially pp. 18-19, 214-215). And incidentally, this is a fantastic little coffee table book for the holidays. The images are amazing.

Wikipedia: Circe (read this; very cool), Scrying, Waterhouse and Morris.

I own Friendly Fairies. See bibliography for Fairies By Number.

Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches. Vintage, 1987. (Can’t recommend this book enough.)

A miscellany of art history textbooks (to link to at a later date, but seriously, go to the library and find the art section. Most of these artists are hardly obscure).

A miscellany of folklore and myth books: check out Bulfinch’s Mythology, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and the stunning variety of late-nineteenth century Celtic and English Myth and Lore books available for free at both Kindle and Gutenberg, especially Evans-Wentz The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries.

I don’t have a supernatural bone in my body but I love lore and myth and old wives’ tales. There’s some essential kernel of humanity residing there. The sum of the thoughts of all who have preceded us is a gift that has, hidden deep in it, answers and truth and goodness. And an awful lot of strangeness. Just perfect for either a legacy or a Halloween.

Update (like 10 minutes later), more sources: read the stupid Durants, Age of Reason, check out Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence; and google Affair des Poisons and Montespan. Or Iseult (or you can just read Tennyson’s remarkable Idylls of the King).

The Lights of October

Halloween Montage

Clockwise, left to right: (1.) A Noma Light ad from the 1920s. Halloween decorating with store-bought electric lights. If Americans have made Halloween the second-biggest holiday in money spent, well, some of the credit belongs with Noma, the company who started marketing electric lights for the October holiday. The artwork here, I think, is beautiful. (2.) Easily one of the most beautiful things I have ever, ever seen. From last Saturday on Southport Road. Noma would be pleased: a beautiful string of fairy lights strung through a tree at the peak of its magical Autumn goldness. This is also a big fat lesson in Missed Opportunities: Next time, I will get out of the car. As it turns out, the leaves fall and driving past it the next day or two will be too late. (3.) Another Noma Light ad from either the 1920s or 1930s. “Make your holiday sparkle with real Mazda lamps.” I wonder how lame the fake Mazda lamps are. I also wonder why advertising is not this beautiful anymore. (4.) The witch altar. I'd like to think Noma would again be pleased. Next year I'm buying a Ouija board, aging it with dark varnish, and smothering it with marbled paper scraps and Swarovskis. I can't wait.

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” — L.M. Montgomery

Haunted Hoosiers

Hannah House

Haunted? Indianapolis' Hannah House



In Kokomo, there is said to be a house with 12 rooms, all of which have 12-foot ceilings. There have been heard from this house strange noises like the sounds of dragging chains. A cedar tree in the yard has been observed falling in the night but standing in the morning. The house was said to be vacant (it’s haunted!) but observers report that lights can still be seen in the house and “the most beautiful music” can be heard emanating from the (anonymous) dwelling.

Also in Kokomo, there were legends that Gateway Gardens apartments were haunted. The internet reports that “it used to be a jail and you can hear” the rattling of handcuffs and loud footsteps. The internet says some people never come back out of the buildings after they enter. The internet also reports that ghost stories set in Gateway Gardens, much like those of Kokomo’s Seiberling Mansion, are “true!!!” and that spectral tear drops and running blood have been seen.

It would be fun if Kokomo’s Old Ben kicked up his heels, spectrally speaking, every blue moon. But, alas, that does not seem to be a Hoosier legend; it’s only taxidermy at its finest.

If one travels way south from Kokomo to the campus of St. Mary of the Woods near Terre Haute, one might see “the faceless nun” (who is, of course, no longer living). And one might feel the floor shift while standing in the art gallery. The campus recently decided to permit male students to enroll. How does the Faceless Nun feel about tthis? Only time will tell.

While in Terre Haute, one could visit the Preston House, where the ghost of Matilda DeWees roams, not at ease since she was purportedly killed by her husband,, Sergeant George, and buried in the wall by the living room fireplace. Of course, she’s not alone there: slaves from the Underground Railroad are said to be present there as well. And if one wanders over to the Highland Lawn Cemetery, one should visit “Stiffy Green.” Stiffy is a dog head that, so much was it loved, it was placed in the mausoleum with its earthly owner. Stiffy Green howls when an intruder attempts to break into the mausoleum.

Hoosiers who have been hard at work in the past sometimes keep going (much like Harry Potter’s Professor Binns). In Clay City, there is a ghost of a miner at the Old Glory #33 mine. Avon, Danville, and Mooresville all have rumors of ghostly workers who were left behind in the concrete of the bridges they helped to build. At the Free Springs Bridge in Sullivan, a headless train worker may, it is said, be seen carrying a lantern (at other times, he’s just a random floating head).

But maybe it’s the bridges of Indiana: at the Avon Bridge, besides the worker, there are three other ghosts. There’s a mother calling for her child, a boyfriend who jumped off the tracks but still can be heard screaming, and the ghost of a woman who was murdered there. At Azalia Bridge, there is a weeping woman, draped in black. The Red Eye Bridge near Edwardsport features a spectral eye from a wreck victim whose eye was (you guessed it) never found. A bridge near Frankfort has not eyes but flashing lights, the remains of an old woman who killed her husband and threw his pieces off the bridge (as one does). And in Sullivan, at the Free Springs Bridge, it is said resides the ghost of a boy killed in a wreck (like the Red Eye of Edwardsport, the body was never found) and also a headless tramp.

In central Indiana, there’s always Hannah House in Indianapolis, 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.

Just east of Indianapolis, in Shelbyville, by the Blue River, there is a barn in which sits the organ of Paul Tindell. His wife would never let him play it in the house. It is said his spirit plays it in the nights now— but still in the barn. Even Hoosier ghosts know who wears the pants.

…unless they’re stolen. At the Hill House in Rockville, a ghost stole the clothes of a family who was there for a funeral. Is it better to be a thief or a ghost or both? All Hoosier, either way.


Baker, Ronald L. Hoosier Folk Legends. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

Internet search: “Gateway Gardens Kokomo Haunted” (and thanks to my friend Skip, who texted me out of the blue one day with ‘did you know they said Gateway Gardens is haunted?’ Why no, I didn’t.)


If one is bored/interested in Hoosier legends/Indiana supernatural: googling “Haunted Indiana” is entertaining. More than Miss Cleo, less than Here Come the Mummies. Of course, neither Miss Cleo nor the Mummies have anything at all to do with the Hoosier State.

Happy Halloween.


The Night My iPad Died. And Was Miraculously Resurrected.

Tonight my iPad died. Black screen. 45 minutes of charging and blankness and half-baked plans of maxing out credit cards to replace it because…

I cannot live* without my tech. This is my voice. This is my tool. This is my person.

Wyrd Smyth: paragraphs be damned. I may ramble here. (For those uninitiated in the ways of the blog, Wyrd Smyth is a fellow blogger. He blogs at Logos con Carne. He feels I need to remember my syntax. Or whatever. I say “it's been a hard night.”)

But my iPad lives! Unfortunately (or fortunately for you, Dear Reader) the photograph syncing portion of the iPad-battery-iPhone trifecta is, well, sluggish. This means: no Vegas rehash tonight. No art-tober post (it was going to be that: a sculptor). No Victorian witches (though, that's coming, if my universe will permit this month.)

So, in honor of October and all things supernatural, let's discuss That Time I Went to a Psychic.

Marie Laveau was allegedly a witch in New Orleans. Back in the day. People still stop by her crypt to draw an “X” on the stone; a chalk-mark “X” will deter any witch, no matter how old or how powerful. Crayola and the living cannot be denied.

But, in honor of Marie Laveau and all things vodou in New Orleans, there in the French Quarter is contained Marie Laveau's House of Blues. No, it's actually Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo. It has the absolute coolest (not sure that's a kosher* word to use here) altar in the world. You're not allowed to take pictures of it, it being a working altar and all, but it's fab. Cards and votives and a mish-mash of Catholicism and the eighteenth century and chicken feathers and wax. And, well, you should visit it sometime. You feel something, even if you're agnostic, you swear you feel the floor move or the wind stir or maybe you just want to.

Well, the air of New Orleans is different than the air in other places. There's nothing quite like it. There's no culture on the planet quite like the gumbo-ajiaco mix of the Creole French Quarter. And maybe the hucksters have had their way and it's all a sham. But I don't think so. The French Quarter is the closest thing this country has to Old World and to mystique. I have been in the French Quarter looking at ferns and I have seen (or wanted to) lace curtains move in a breeze that was never there, in humid and stagnant air. I have heard drums that were not playing. Not in this century.

But I'm a sentimental old soul, especially when confronted with very old bricks.

So New Orleans, in its shimmering heat and its painted verandas and its shabbiness and its grandeur: it speaks to me anyway and my agnostic person finds a kinship in the red twine and feathers and playing cards, lit by endless votives at Marie Laveau's.

A shiksa in the south: I vacationed in New Orleans and, seeking experiences, said “why not” to a psychic reading at Marie Laveau's.

If you're thinking this would have been like Cher's Dark Lady or like Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost,” this was not that. There was nothing Cher about it. There was nothing cinematic about it.

There was a card table in an ill-lit room. Maybe one candle, not enough for atmosphere. It was, and I mean no disrespect here, very High Trailer Park: bug lights, indoor-outdoor carpeting, the faintest whiff of mildew and a shaky, mostly-standing wreck of a naugahyde-covered card table.

I looked at it, regretted the loss of the altar, and thought this surely would be a sham. But still, New Orleans and Marie Laveau and something I have never done. And so I sat.

A scarecrow of a human greeted me. He wore a Mr. Rodgers-style and moth-eaten cardigan. He was dangerously thin. He coughed frequently. I thought he might be ill. I longed to give him sandwiches and flowers and warmer rooms. But I was a visitor. And he shuffled the cards (Bicycle. Not exotic. Not marked.)

In lieu of hello, he asked me when I had lost all the weight. (I bet you say that to all the girls.)

“I haven't lost any.”

“Well, it's coming, then.”

Shuffle. Table shakes. He's shaking, too. He's so thin and so obviously cold. Where is his coat, his blanket, his center? Marie doesn't have it. God knows I don't. But I'm here for a reading and I'm told to pick a card.

He pulls cards, which I touch first, lays them out in a cross shape. He shivers. And I feel like an ass who has given thirty dollars to the First Charity/Scam of New Orleans, House of Voodoo, Dammit Marie Laveau. After all, thirty dollars would have bought me three drinks and a great tip at the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone. It would have purchased one piece of mediocre “art” from an “artist” hanging around Jackson Park. Thirty dollars would have gotten me a great many frozen beverages from the endless string of Fat Tuesdays on the street (which equals one really good day, if you know what I'm saying here). Or I could have bought twenty cakes of African black soap at the French Market or enough beignets to save my soul at Cafe du Monde. Thirty dollars in most of the U.S. is only thirty dollars. Thirty dollars in New Orleans is eternity, if you spend it right.

I spent it on the eighty-pound psychic at Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo.

He told my friend, who also spent a sound thirty, that he was a carpenter. He is and was and has never been such a thing.

And I'm still waiting on the weight loss that is coming. Perhaps it was the thrift store sweater I wore, which added both a cat and thirty pounds?

No. He says that to all the girls without wedding rings. He is skinny but canny.

He flips the cards but seems kerfuffled by them. He reads my hands instead. And me, having been curious in the past, already know at which lines he is looking. Google is funny and so is the girl in the cat sweater. And this shivering psychic is funnier still.

It's Marie Laveau's and the altar is convincing. And maybe “magic” is real. It's New Orleans. Anything is possible.

“You have had two loves. You are not done with the last one and you will not be yet.” (Yeah, well, those are just two lines. And it's a convenient coincidence: the ex-husband and the love who shall not be named…your sweater is fraying. Please eat something. And a shred of relief as I'm very fond of the last one. Though: many women have appeared at psychics. A good proportion of them have also loved only two. What of it?)

“Three children. You have no children yet. You will have three.” He got that wrong, my skinny psychic. But, for what it's worth, Marie and him, the three phantom children I see on every swing set are called “Henry,” “Lily,” and “Ian.”

There are always three. Never one. Never two. I blame the skinny psychic for that. I wish he (and Marie) had been right. I would very much have enjoyed purchasing Christmas presents for three lovely children.

Sometimes psychics are wrong.

But I have two cats, perhaps he meant them?

The last thing he said to me was that I am a writer.

I am not.

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

And the reading was over. The ex-husband was mentioned. That was as it should be. It was years ago. My focus was split.

The second love is still my love and the psychic was, in that respect, correct: we are not done. And god willing, we'll never be. I don't thank or blame or credit Marie Laveau or the shivering boy in the strange cardigan. Somehow things turned out okay. I don't know what to think of the fates. I like my boy and I think he likes me. That's luck, if ever there was.

No three children. I am not a writer. I blog now but I didn't then. How can I help that he said the career I would choose above all others?

That was a strange coincidence.

But then, I was the one with ink-stained hands in a hand-loomed cat sweater. Looking at me, I could be a pretty good psychic too (“and when was it that you lost all that weight?”)

I am, as has been said, and I should probably not say so publicly, an agnostic. I did not expect much from the New Orleans psychic. It's for “entertainment purposes only.” Still, New Orleans makes one think magic is possible and maybe belief is not misplaced.

My friend is not a carpenter. I have no children. I am not a writer. I still carry pounds which seem, to me, extra.

I hope the shivering boy in the cardigan has found a sandwich by now and good health.

I hope Marie Laveau's altar burns forever in its strange waxy, feathery, cheap and extravagant strangeness.

I had my fortune told. Was he right? No. Was there magic or fortune or future present? No, of course not, not really.

Do I still think of my friend as a carpenter? Of course I do.

Do I still look at every swing set in every park and every slide and every ice cream cone and voicelessly celebrate the non-existent if predicted Lily, Henry and Ian? Of course I do.

And I am glad the shaky cardigan at Marie Laveau's was right, in his way, about the boy with whom I am not done.

I wanted more from my psychic experience. But…well, even in New Orleans, the vibes can't always be right.

There's always next time, my friends. There's always next time.

*”live” That's funny. Technically, of course. There are far worse problems to be had. But I'm a blogger. I NEED MY TECH. Yo.

*ha-ha. “kosher.” I know, right?


I’ll Get You, My Pretties

Pretty Halloween Ideas


How to Make the Prettiest Halloween, as told by the Internet.

On a sleepless night earlier this week, I was trawling the web, seeking holiday cheer. I found it, by the hundreds, my dry and insomniac eyes watering into the tiny screen of my mobile device; my feverish, sleep-deprived brain devising ways to build a porch to the house by Friday, October 31st so I could decorate appropriately (I will also be needing an old wooden dining room set and a 1930s truck, preferably both painted in shimmery old-fashioned pastels. I will need these by tomorrow so, universe, not to be demanding but, you know, chop-chop). At any rate, while I'm waiting on the universe to deliver my table, truck — oh, and illuminated dresses! — I compiled some of my favorite photos because they're just too pretty not to share. No tricks, only charming and very pretty treats. Happy Halloween.

Images: I created my image using two apps, Moldiv and Aviary. The sources for the individual photos, by matching letter: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.


Children and Snakes, Monsters and Omens: Old Hoosier Legends

Indiana Autumn Cornfield

Milk Snakes and Hoop Snakes: There used to be several variations on the theme of Children and Snakes. At the heart of these stories, these were tales of friendship between a toddler and a snake. Generally, the child would leave the house with a bowl of porridge or a tin cup of milk and go off to eat/drink by the Wabash or an idyllic Indiana stream or a glade just off the pasture. The child would later be found by his or her parents sharing the porridge/milk with his/her friend, the snake. At which point the parents would frighten away the snake (who may or may not fashion itself into a wheel shape and roll away like a hoop). Within a matter of days – generally three – of the abrupt end to the friendship, the child would die, an event attributed to the snake. So if you catch your child sharing a spoon with a snake, just bring extra porridge.

And while we're talking about death, these are the death omens your great-great-Hoosier-grandmother always warned you about: A bird in the house, hearing three sharp raps on a headboard or house-front (the closer to you, the worse for you), seeing a ball of fire or a flaming torch (a spectral flaming torch, by the way, an actual torch or the state flag are presumably safe), a vision of an angel or a wraith, or a fallen portrait (it is a sad day for the subject of any painting/photograph when their image suddenly dives off the wall or the shelf). While not an omen, here's as good a place as any to mention that Hoosiers used to tell of death crowns left behind in feather pillows on deathbeds (open the pillow case and there will be a ring or halo made of feathers where the dearly departed had lain his or her head).

And while we're talking about things your great-great-Hoosier-grandmother told you, other old wives' tales include: The seventh daughter of a seventh daughter will always have the gift of second sight. The seventh son of a seventh son will have the ability to “blow off” warts. If a seventh son of a seventh son isn't handy (and we all know how disappointing that can be), warts can also be removed by tying knots in a string or piece of cloth (one knot per wart to be removed) and then burying it: as the knots decay, the warts will vanish. If you're afflicted with thrush, you need to find someone who has never seen their father because that person can heal you. Divining rods work for not only water but also precious metals: but like will find like. If you wish to find gold, a piece of gold must be added to the tip of the divining rod; silver for silver.

There Be Monsters Here: The French-Americans in Vincennes believed there was a loup garou (werewolf) among them. Residents of Churubusco are wary (and proud) of the Beast of Busco, a 500-pound snapping turtle believed to live there. A Bigfoot-like creature known as the Princeton Monster is reputed to live in the woods near the southern Indiana town of the same name. And, most entertainingly named of them all, along the Wabash and Erie Canal roams the Wampus cat, a terrifying, oversized cat who can still be heard yowling on sultry summer nights. Allegedly.

There Be Witches Here: Attesting to the importance of cattle, agriculture, and dairy in this early pioneer state, there were legends of assorted milk-witches, whose evil was worked both on and through cattle: Near Oakland City there lived a Dairy Witch of some repute and there was also the Butter Witch of Giro (a name I think we can all agree totally kicks ass). A witch in Anderson was believed to grow poisoned apples in the yard. But Shelby County has one of the most enchanting tales of witches of all (with a very many similarities to Greek myths and the Brothers Grimm): Three young and beautiful sisters lived separately from the nearest community. They were reputed to be witches who transformed themselves into fawns but there was no proof of this strange magic until one day a hunter went into the woods and chased three agile fawns. He had only one silver bullet with him and with this single bullet, he injured one of the fawns. The hunter followed the trail of blood to its end— which he found at the cabin of the Three Sisters. Two human sisters were ministering to the third, who was in bed with an injured leg. And, although the legends don't say anything more on the tale, I like to think that hunter married that girl.

Source: Baker, Ronald L. Hoosier Folk Legends. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.