Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Halloween Musings

puppy-pumpkinHalloween is over. Decorations are still up though. Pumpkins are still out along with other scary and spooky things. Costumes have been put away but candy is not all gone yet. The leasing office where I live still has candy out and kids were dropping by today to get some. Not many trick or treaters came around this year. Many parents take their kids to Halloween parties, Haunted Houses, or other family friendly places (like malls). Pumpkins can be used for a few more days (if they are fresh, carved ones only last a few days unless you follow some complicated steps that seals it up). It was quiet where I was.

As my spooky movie for Halloween, I watched The Haunting. This 1963 classic based upon the Shirley Jackson book The Haunting of Hill House is noted for its clever camera work, mood setting, and how one character breaks down and becomes literally possessed by the house. Something that Stephen King would use as a them for his novel The Shining. While the book is more supernatural in tone, the movie makes it more of a psychological issue. There is no doubt a supernatural force. It is never seen but felt and heard in the movie. The movie has genuine scary moments and perhaps one of the most unsettling as well. A remake in 1999 starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen Wilson was panned and changed the story considerably. Stephen King attempted a remake in the 1990’s pitching the title Red Rose to Steven Speilberg. It never came about although eventually a miniseries called Red Rose was made in 2002, but it had very little relation to The Haunting though it used some elements from the book.

Though it is now considered one of the scarier movies of all time, it has its problems. We are never let in as to why the people are selected (except for the relative Luke Sanderson played by Russ Tambyln). This is particularly true of Eleanor Lance. Dr. Markaway apparently wrote her to come to stay at the house as part of his team. Yet we never learn the reason why he wrote her. Theodora is a psychic, so she makes sense. But Eleanor, who was fragile and had nursed an ailing mother till she died, is a mystery. Nor what whatever spectral entity that haunts the place wanted her. And she dies in the end at the very spot the first Mrs. Crain was killed. Character motivations are not explored and its plot seems to be inconsistent. Still despite this it has genuine scares and the camera angles employed (and an excellent selection for exterior using Ettington Hall). In some ways one can argue Stephen King took the cinematic depiction of Shirley Jackson’s book and improved on it for his work The Shining. In the book and the miniseries that were made, the characters are fully developed and the reason for what happens to Jack Torrance is clear (to get to Danny).

After watching a scary movie, I like to follow up with something light. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is a great way to do so. It has never lost its appeal to me. First you have Linus who believes the great pumpkin will arise out of a pumpkin patch and deliver presents to kids. He gets Charlie Brown’s sister to wait up in the pumpkin patch with him. Second you have Charlie Brown and the gang out for trick and treating followed up with a party (which Charlie Brown was not supposed to get invited to). And then there is Snoopy, who dons his aviator goggles and goes off to fight the Red Baron. He gets shot down and makes his way (in his imagination) across the French frontier until he comes to a party (the Halloween party that Charlie Brown and everyone else is attending). And then onward until he reaches the pumpkin patch. Needless to say, the great pumpkin never appears and Linus gets yelled at for missing tricks and treats. Ah but there is another year yet where the great pumpkin may yet appear.

Another family favorite is The Good Witch starring Catherine Bell who comes to Middleton to reclaim Grey House and ends up helping out a lot of people in the process. She is a mystery and whether she really is a witch or not is left open to interpretation. She ends up falling in love with the town’s police chief (played by Chris Potter) and helps out his kids. Of course not everyone is enamored of her and her shop (Bell, Book & Candle) so they are trying to get her out of town. Unfortunately things take an unpleasant turn when two boys, the sons of the woman seeking her ouster, end up vandalizing her store and are caught. However it all ends up well in the end. A good movie anytime of the year but Halloween is a great time to watch it.

Sadly it is now time to put away some fun decorations. I love my handlabra, a monster hand with twinkling lights on the fingers. I got a canvas of the Headless Horseman that lights up and is pretty cool. But what everyone thought was cool was the orange and black lava lamp. Lava lamps are strangely hypnotic. You watch the goo float up and then back down. It is a trade secret as to what it is though Mythbusters figured it out in dealing with various stories and myths about these lamps. The downside to these particular lamps is that they take a while to heat up and then you get the goo going up and down. You cannot run them more than 8 hours (otherwise they will get too hot). I have some glitter lava lamps that are pretty cool. One is a blue one in the bedroom and a silver one which is pretty cool around Christmas.

Till next Halloween….

Halloween Musings: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod CraneThe dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk, hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind.(Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

Washington Irving wrote many short stories (some of which deal with ghosts and other supernatural occurrences)but it is this one he is most remembered for. We have the character of Ichabod Crane, an itinerant school teacher who comes to Sleepy Hollow. He is a man with interesting contradictions. Tough when teaching with a strict moral code but outside has few morals. He tries to ingratiate himself to the locals, in particular the women and eventually settles on trying to woo Katrina Van Tassel. He is also a superstitious man, believing in ghosts, demons, and witches. A very nervous fellow because of those beliefs.

His wooing of Katrina earns him the dislike of Abraham Van Brunt, locally known for his many daring feats of strength and known by his nickname Bram Bones. Since Ichabod will not fight him, he resorts to a myriad of pranks but they seem to have no effect. But at the end of the harvest festival party, he approaches Katrina to propose but obviously he was rejected by her. So he leaves the party quite dismayed and in the night gloom all of those ghost stories he has heard make him fearful. And then he encounters the Headless Horseman.

Crane flees but eventually knocked off his horse by the pumpkin thrown by the horseman. Later nothing is found of him except his hat and the pumpkin. His horse is found but nothing else. Was he spirited away by the Headless Horseman or did quickly exit Sleepy Hollow for a better place to live? His belongings were found and destroyed by Hans Van Ripper. So all he had with him was his recent pay, clothes, and nothing else. Stories of him being seen elsewhere are mentioned, that he taught school and studied law enough to become a judge. Bram Bones always seemed to know something about what happened that night.

The story ends with the following:

The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason why the road has been altered if later years, so as to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The school-house,being deserted,soon fell into decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue;and the plough-boy,loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm-tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.

So Irving leaves it open as to his final fate. Either might be true but there is no proof. If he was spirited away, it would explain why everything he had in the world was left behind. On the other hand, after being rejected by Katrina and knocked off his horse later by the Horseman, he may have decided to just leave and totally start over elsewhere not caring what others thought. He knew he would be the subject of ridicule over Katrina’s refusal to marry him and likely would find it harder to find another women to marry in that area.

There have been several movie adaptations, some faithful and some not to the story. A recent one on the SyFy had the horseman as part of a devil worshiping cult. The Tim Burton adaptation (Sleepy Hollow, 1999) starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci turned Crane into a detective trying to solve a series of murders in Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman (played by Christopher Walken) has been brought back by the wife of Baltus Van Tassel (his second wife and Katrina’s step mother) to exact revenge on those that forced them out of her home when kids and get the Van Tassel properties and wealth. It is actually a good movie. The Disney animated version (1949) with Bing Crosby singing the songs and telling the tale is pretty good as well. Kolchak:The Night Stalker did a homage to the story with its own version about a dead motorcycle gang leader wanting his head back. Fox now has a series based on the characters but a wholly different retelling involving Headless Horseman being one of the Apocalypse Horseman.

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Autumn begins today at 4:44 P.M. EDT/1:44 P.M. PDT

Today is Labor Day

Labor DayLabor Day is a national holiday in the United States and became a federal holiday in 1894. The holiday was created to celebrate the “the strength and spirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” Usually a parade occurs followed by a get together where people celebrate workers and their families. Aside from that, it is also marks the end of summer with schools now open and summer vacations at an end. Of course retail businesses like to use the day as an important sale day. For many though it is a nice long weekend.