Halloween History and a Conversation with the Holiday’s Leading Expert, Lesley Bannatyne – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #18

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Lesley Bannatyne, the nation's leading expert on Halloween, The Big Séance Podcast

Halloween is just days away, so what better time to talk about the history of my favorite holiday with the nation’s leading expert on Halloween, Lesley Bannatyne! She’s the author of five books on the topic of Halloween, including Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History, which will celebrate 25 years of being in print in 2015. Click HERE for my review of this book. 

 

 

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Halloween History

Topics discussed in this episode:

Can you guess Lesley’s favorite Halloween candy?

Lesley shares some of her favorite memories from the holiday. 

Where did Halloween come from?

  • Samhain
  • Harvest
  • Darkness and the coming winter
  • Folklore and Superstition
  • “The Other World”
  • All Hallows/All Saints Day
  • All Souls Day
  • Pranks and Mischiefs
  • Guy Fawkes
  • Victorians and Halloween Parties

When did Trick-or-Treating become a part of Halloween? 1940s

  • Kids and mischief around Halloween
  • Adults threw Halloween parties to keep young people from mischief and vandalism. It didn’t work. 
  • Adults learned to offer food and treats (extortion/begging?) in exchange for no mischief or violence on their property. 
  • Trick-or-Treating seen on television for the first time
  • Trick-or-Treat for Unicef (charity)

When did costumes go from being disguises to a way of expression? Costumes then and now. 

Our favorite symbols of Halloween. Where did they come from?

  • The Witch
  • The Black Cat
  • The Bat
  • Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns
  • Are Scarecrows disappearing?

The Victorians and Halloween… how did they celebrate?

  • Parties and Decorations
  • Games
  • “Dumb Supper”
  • Seeing the image of your future love

Lesley shares how she researched and found historic articles and information from Halloweens past from vintage periodicals. 

Urban Myths about Halloween

  • Fear
  • Apples and razor blades
  • Black Cats and Satanic Sacrifice

Church, Religion, and Halloween

How has Halloween changed since Lesley’s book was first released?

What does duct tape have to do with Halloween? (Ha!)

 

For More on Lesley Bannatyne:

www.iskullhalloween.com

Lesley’s Books

For More Halloween History

Why Halloween Matters

The Literature of Old Halloween

Check out Lesley’s appearance on the BBC on Halloween day!

Check out her appearance on the History Channel’s The Real Story of Halloween

 

Thanks, Lesley!

 

Don’t forget!! Are you a regular listener? Please e-mail (or call, or SpeakPipe) with where you’re listening from, and how you’re listening! I’d appreciate it! Patrick@BigSeance.com

 

Sam Haynes, Spine ChillersSpooky Music featured on this episode is from Sam Haynes. You can find more about Sam and his music at http://www.hauntmusic.co.uk/. Thanks, Sam!

 

 

Record your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! Call the show at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show.

 

The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me at Patrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!

 


Halloween Merrymaking: Celebrating the Holiday’s Past, and a Beautiful Interview with Writer, Diane C. Arkins

 

Halloween Merrymaking, and Interview with writer, Diane C. ArkinsAfter reading Diane C. Arkins’ Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past, I absolutely knew I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to hear about her collections, but also wanted to let her know just how inspired I was, as a fellow super fan of Halloween. For years, Diane’s articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, such as USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Country Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Seventeen, and Woman’s Day, to name a few.  Her article, “The Trick or Treat Trails”, just appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Good Old Days magazine. (Diane’s complete bio can be found at the end of the interview.)

From the preface of Halloween Merrymaking, you’ll find that it’s “a book that will acquaint you with how Halloween was celebrated in America from its early popular incarnations in the 1870s to the early 1930s, the latter decades in particular a period that many consider to be the holiday’s ‘Golden Age.'” If you know me, you know that simply mentioning that time period is enough to get me hooked. But the highlight of the book is the number of vintage photos of celebrations, decorations, postcards, and even complete articles from the earliest magazines to print information on the topic! Much of it is like a how-t0 for throwing a historically accurate “Golden Age” Halloween party. And all of this comes from the author’s amazing collection! 

Fortunately for us, Ms. Arkins agreed to an interview for the blog, and I am incredibly honored to be able to share her beautiful and heartfelt responses. Thank you, Diane!

 

My Interview with Diane C. Arkins

 

What were your favorite costumes from childhood? 

    I grew up in the late 1950s/early 1960s, an era when observances of Halloween were merrily gear toward childrens’ amusements.  When I was young I was always intrigued by the imagery and forms around me, and the place that captured my interest the most was the Ben Franklin 5-and-10-cent store.  The place was always chock-a-block with anything that anyone would want but until I was around 8 or 9 years old, Ben Franklin at Halloween time was THE place I  wanted to be:  there was Brach’s mellowcreme candies shaped like jack-o’lanterns (hereafter referred to as JOLs), cats, grinning moons, tiny owls, maple-flavored little cider jugs and the like that were as fun to play with as they were to eventually eat.  I was captivated by the little wax JOLs and Halloween cat figures made by Gurley Novelty Company – each wax novelty contained a yummy piece of striped orange-and-black hard candy.

    There were irresistible tiny cardboard sets of grease paint that could turn trick-or-treaters to clowns, princesses or pirates and an abundance of eye-catching decorations – like the rolls of black cat and witch face rolls of crepe paper and die-cut wall decorations of owls, cats, witches, haunted houses that I purchased,all by myself with funds from the Brownie troop to decorate the group’s Halloween bash… and, of course, the boxed costumes branded as Collegetown and Ben Cooper.  The store-bought outfits had a cheesy and flimsy feel to them but they were “must-have” attire regardless.  Some years back my EBAY collecting led me to a mint-in-box glitter-adorned Ben Cooper brand BLUE FAIRY identical to the one I wore in the photo in the TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAILS story photo.  Back in 1960 I was devastated when I lost the magic wand on the way back home from Kindergarten show-and-wear but I now enjoy it when the complete boxed set is displayed in one area of my year-round Halloween collection.

    Some of the Halloween “outfits” – so referred-to as they weren’t always costumes per se – that I recall best were the ones devised by my non-sewing mother and memorialized in the brilliant hues of Kodak 35mm slide film.  I thoroughly cherish those pictures!  One early year Mom dressed us up in crisp white blouses and orange crepe skirts adorned with (so classic!) die-cut cardboard Halloween motif decorations – interestingly this style of Halloween attire is in the style of similar vintage early 20th century home-made party attire where abundant home seamstresses crafted simple frocks in orange, black and/or orange-&-black patterned fabric and adorned them with Halloween icons in either fabric or cardboard form.

    Aside from the visual thrills to be found at the dime store I just adored being out amongst the virtual pumpkin patch filled with lit JOLs set up throughout the neighborhood at night for trick-or-treating (for some reason unknown to me we went out on October 30th which they called “Beggar’s Night”… maybe I should GOOGLE the term?).  A thick blanket of crackling dry leaves covering my Mary Janes (shoes) and an intoxicating aroma of burning leaves permeating the air added to the mysterious ambiance.  It is no exaggeration to describe the scene as utterly magical… some special fairyland real-life moments that could overtrump saccharine visions of Disneyland in a snap.  Even as a young child I was especially attracted to the feel and mood of Halloween. 

    Interestingly my research into early 20th century merrymaking has shown me how the boomer-era kids’ birthday parties I attended as a child seem to have been almost exactly mimic the patterns set out by those early magazine mavens such as The Modern Priscilla, The Woman’s Home Companion and the like: a festive overall setting with plenty of decorations; a crepe (or later tissue) paper tablecloth with tiny crepe paper nut cups (de rigueur in 1910 I personally never liked that omnipresent offering of salted peanuts and pillow mints – yuk!) and paper or cardboard hats; a meal with cake; party games with prizes! and parting souvenirs.  Naturally the one Halloween-themed kiddy party I attended back in 1962 – complete with its quintessential feather-tipped blow-out noisemakers –  was my favorite.

 

Your book includes such a wealth of photos and vintage items.  I could  spend all day just looking at every detail of the photos.  Are these from your own collection?  How did you find them?

    I do enjoy my collection of vintage Halloween treasures by handling them and losing myself in their charms when I appreciate them.

    Luckily for those lovers of Halloween memorabilia like myself, writing a book serves as a great excuse to add to and/or splurge on vintage treasures for one’s personal collection.  With the rare exception of a photo or two I shot at the home of a fellow collector, all of the vintage treasures – from paper ephemera to 19th-century magazines – depicted in Hal Merrymaking come from my personal collection. 

    I began collecting illustrated Halloween postcards dating from that items’ “Golden Age” (approx. 1907-1918) during the mid-1980s after I happened upon a few buying leads in magazines for collectors.   (Artistically drawn postcards for any occasion imaginable flooded the mails over the first two decades of the 1900s.  Many of the cards were exquisitely printed in Germany and boasted deeply-embossed details that added to their charms.  The cards remain highly collectible with today’s collectors and I’ve used holdings to illustrate the other books I published with Pelican: Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear and The Glorious Fourth of July: Old-Fashioned Treats and Treasures From America’s Patriotic Past.

    Before the advent of internet buying and selling I added to my collection of vintage holiday postcards via mail auctions (run through postcard collecting magazines) and browsing for hours at postcard shows (these are still held around the country throughout the year).  In later years I acquired a few vintage Halloween treasures from (again) mail-order purchases (often run in publications like The Antique Trader) and a few well-publicized auctions of collections being disbanding.

   Regrettably the area I live in wasn’t awash with antique stores and I missed out on the likely relative bargains that vintage Halloween fans could happen upon when antiquing in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Once the internet entered the scene, both sellers and potential increasingly flocked to online sites – most popularly EBAY – and soon it became a snap to acquire heart’s desires limited only by one’s pocketbook.  I confess that I DO NOT have a Donald Trump-like bank account by any stretch of the imagination but I have, over many years, been able to build a collection of Halloween and other vintage treasures that I thoroughly enjoy.

 

Knowing what you know about the history of decorating and entertaining for Halloween, what is the holiday like in your own home?

    Like other collectors of vintage Halloween treasures I actually display many items in my home on a year-round basis.  My husband is quite the self-taught wood worker and he has built several wall cabinets and a handsome glass-topped display coffee table for me to display paper items.  I have a good-sized floor cabinet to house larger, more dimensional items and one bedroom wall is filled with framed tear-outs of pages of eye-catching Halloween paper dolls (delightful!) and magazine covers.  To me, vintage Halloween artwork doesn’t get any better than the dust-cover illustration (from the Oct 1931 issue of Holland’s magazine) on Merrymaking.

    Seasonally I usually like to have pumpkins, pumpkins and pumpkins of all sizes, shapes and colors around the house.  The more unusual pumpkins I’ve been traveling to buy since 2001 come in the most intriguing colors:  the deep red-orange of the rouge d’etampes, or “Cinderella” pumpkin; the pale orange Long Island Cheese; the “blue” (pastel gray if you ask me) Jarrahdale; the deep orange-vein patterned on cream of “One Too Much” and so much more.  I usuallyattempt to grow my own “batwing” mini pumpkins (ones with “dripping” deep green accents that mimic bat wings) in my garden but this year’s crop was a flop!

    I also like to use mini pumpkins and/or colorful gourds to craft “pumpkin people,” “gourd gremlins” or  “veggie people” (as they are most popularly known).  My inspiration when I first started making these little charmers was the “pumpkin people” who starred in many of my favorite vintage Halloween postcards (see page 52 of Hal Merrymaking for an example).  So fun!

    Inside I would display more of my cardboard die-cut decorations in windows, on walls, clipped to draperies or perhaps attached to some wire-and-twine faux spider webs I got at KMart.  Although I belong to the group of collectors who consider damage to be acceptable when acquiring vintage pieces (to me they show “character” or the “battle scars” incurred in decorating duty over the decades) you wouldn’t want to do any more damage yourself!  The very old German pieces are really beautifully-crafted of VERY heavy pressed die-cut cardboard that gives them amazing texture and depth… they are truly works of art. The little photo of a German die-cut that appears on page 25 of Merrymaking was an especially large one that measured probably approx. 14″x14″.  Most pieces are far smaller, i.e. a jack-o-‘lantern (or JOL) face that measures around 6″ across.

    Each season I usually send copies or reproductions of vintage Halloween postcards (a companion tear-off postcard book to my first Halloween book is just one source for such cards) or standard Halloween greeting cards… and I often like to make very special little treat bags, or “veggie people,” to give to people who’ve been especially kind to me during the year.  My oversized frosted JOL face cookies are truly scrumptious but the problem is that they are SO GOOD that they all disappear before the mixing dishes make it out of the dishwasher!

 

What kinds of things would we be surprised to find haven’t changed since the Golden Age of Halloween?

    I would venture that is was during the first decade of the 1900s that women’s magazines became to more regularly devoted counseling their readers with regard to home entertaining.  This was a time when a page or two began to be devoted to true soups-to-nuts party planning: invitations, decor (both home-made or more increasingly store-bought), menus and recipes, costuming (applicable back then to more than Halloween attire), party games, favors and party gifts.  I can name some names of women who were the “Martha Stewarts” of their times… indeed they probably invented the genre of party maven!?   

    Nothing has changed in essence that people still want to entertain their family and friends, they want to do it well and they are always looking for some inspiration – whether its cutting-edge new or dependably old stand-by – to guide them.  As always, the differences are in the details.

    One “detail” that remains as true in 2014 as it was back in 1914, for example, is that people like cupcakes.  The problem in putting up the 1906 illustration of cupcakes on Pinterest today might lie with the fact that a lot of folks online now tend to make uninformed, thoughtless snap judgments on things and they would fail to understand or appreciate the history or importance of the old illustration… instead of thinking “wow… that was how thinks used to be” and consequently “that was how WE got from THERE to the-more-improved-NOW,” they would simply dismiss the picture by saying “LOL – it isn’t that picture (stupid)(lame)(name your own insult).”

    Reminder that the merrymaking we enjoy TODAY came from the often rudimentary ideas developed in the past.

 

Your book made me want to pick a year, and plan  a historically accurate Halloween party, using your book as a template!  Have you done this?  Have you heard of people trying this?

    I can’t say that I hosted any Halloween events based upon my books (sadly I am woefully short of people who might attend and/or actually appreciate such efforts) nor have I been aware of anyone who’ve hosted their own vintage-style bashes.  I have, however, imagined how wonderfully such an event must have been for partygoers “back in the day” and have also imagined how an all-stops-pulled-out party could be set up at the handsome old Victorian mansion-turned-special-events-restaurant where we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners.  The place is spectacular and I usually request a table located in the front turret so things seem both elegant and “just like being at Grandma’s house.”  We’ve been going there for many years now and I CAN imagine PRECISELY how everything could be made up to be absolutely breathtaking! 

 

How would you compare the Halloween entertaining articles from around the turn of the century to the articles I see in line at the grocery store today?

    Well to my mind the vintage periodicals win any comparison on just about every point (and mind you: I hate to bash modern print media in just about any way, shape and form.  I truly mourn the loss of just about anything from The Ladies’ Home Journal and McCalls to the not-quite-daily mail-delivered Christian Science Monitor) but today’s magazines seem to have an edge over vintage ones only when it comes to color illustrations. 

    The early 20th century magazines gave us those fabulous original guidelines for celebrating our holidays with panache.  They educated us, often for the first time, on many of the old customs that led us to understand why we celebrated at all!  And they did it so elegantly.  Compare this 1910 quote from The Housekeeper magazine that appeared in Merrymaking -

            “October, the golden month, when Nature having reaped a wonder harvest of beauty, wastes it like a spendthrift for our joy!  What hostess can fail of success in entertaining this month when there are autumn leaves, flowers, ‘golden glorious,’ and vines flushing with crimson, to bedeck the table?”

- to, well, again anything?

    Today’s magazines are comparatively much smaller than most vintage periodicals.  During Halloween’s “Golden Era,” the many, many more magazines for the lady of the home measured in at a jumbo 14″x17″.  This oversized format allows for far space to be devoted to editorial content… resulting in longer, more detailed information being presented in more beautifully-worded prose.  The paucity of real photographs also allowed to more words to be presented instead.

    For its part Martha Stewart Living, for example, does have an edge over most monthly magazines in the holiday decorating score but it seems that her Halloween focus of late has honed in on dark silhouettes of ravens, decorative (empty) bottles of POISON or WITCH’s POTION, haggly old witches (NOTE: at least 50% of early 20th century “witches” were depicted as beauties on postcards) and the like.  So she does a great job when it comes to inventiveness… she simply represents a different style to what I prefer.         

    For me suggestions for making “mummy hot dogs” out of crescent rolls and red hots pale against vintage inspiration for using hollowed-out squashes to serve condiments.  And this year one highly-regarded magazine presented decorative pumpkins wrapped in rubber bands (huh?) or duct tape images that look to be designed by a 2-year-old.  Clever, eh?  Can’t wait to adorn my pumpkins with rubber bands.  What were they thinking?

    In my book, vintage wins just about every time.

 

Can you talk a little about Dennison’s Bogie Book and what that is?

    Dennison's Bogie Book, Big SeanceThe highly-collectable and much coveted Bogie Books were a series of party-giving guidebooks that were produced by The Dennison Manufacturing Company of Framingham, Mass. to promote their Halloween paper goods.  Named “Bogie Book” after the mythical mischievous little goblins that were said to roam on Halloween, the typical approx. 5″x8″ booklet might give directions on how to conduct a party; craft a simple party favor; decorate a witch’s den suitable for fortune-telling; play party games; create a crepe paper costume; or even decorate larger venues for group celebrations. The booklets also featured pictures of Dennison’s delightful party merchandise (paper napkins, beautifully-illustrated panels of printed colored crepe paper, placecards, boxed decorative seals and more).  Illustrations, either real photography or artist’s renditions, appeared in ordinary black-&-white printing but the images were captivating nonetheless. Party planners could purchase the guides either by mail-order or at one of the company’s stand-alone stores in major cities like Chicago.  They were modestly priced at 5 to 10 cents.

    An initial impossible-to-find booklet produced in 1909 was followed by a series of Bogie Books beginning in 1912 and continuing for most years through 1926.  Dennison also produced similar typically 30-to-36-page holiday guidebooks such as The Christmas Book, The Gala (or Party Book) for Feb-July celebrations and a single 1918 Patriotic Book.  A variety of other larger-format Halloween booklets began in 1927 and continued until 1935.  In addition, Dennison produced a wide assortment of other self-promotional how-to booklets primarily centered on making things out of the firm’s luxe line of colorful crepe paper.

    Though reigning as undisputed king of how-to booklets during Halloween’s “Golden Age” the Bogie Books were not the only well-executed pamphlets around.  Other notable illustrated little guides were issued by food firms (like JELL-O and Staley) and competing crepe paper maker American Tissue Mills.  Respected Halloween decoration maker The Beistle Company of Shippensburg, PA issued The Children’s Hallowe’en Party Book (by Miss Polka Dot).  This last item is a slim 12″x7″ volume consisting of an 8-page story (printed in either tissue-weight orange or ordinary white paper) and several pages of tear-out party accouterments like placecards, candle shades, invitations.  This dandy early 20th century booklet can command a pretty penny IF its party pieces pages remain uncut within.

   Intact copies of rarer Bogie Books (those in the 1910s) can bring hundreds of dollars depending condition, condition, condition. 

 

I wish I could go back in time and interview my Great Grandmother and talk to her about her Halloween memories and experiences growing up in that “Golden Age” of Halloween.  She was such a fun woman.  Has any of your research come from interviewing folks who were around in this time period?

    During the time that I began to collect vintage Halloween memorabilia and write about old-fashioned Halloween customs I’ve never been acquainted with any folks who themselves experienced the holiday’s “Golden Era.” I do, however, love to completely immerse myself in old magazine and newspaper accounts of Halloween entertaining.  Entertaining back then must have been so much more exciting than anything in the 21st century.  After all folks today sit at tables filled with people and still ignore those gathered to devote their (overly ample free time) to tiny electronic devices. 

    Back “then” folks reveled in the opportunity to spend their seriously limited free time to interact with people who you might not see again for some time to come.

 

Is there one single vintage item or article that you’ve discovered that stands out as your favorite?

    In many ways it “doesn’t take much to get me enthused.”  I was delighted to acquire for my collection some of the little wax pumpkins (the ones filled a few pieces of orange-&-black candies) that so fascinated me at the five-and-dime store when I was little – for some reason they still so strongly resonate for me with personal happy Halloween memories.

    The other notable item is a small (8″ long) string of decorative ca 1920s/30s embossed German-made Halloween children party-goer scrap pictures (they appear on page 105 of Hal Merrymaking).  Each of the little children stand only 2″ high but their detailing is so superlative that completely embody the spirit of old-fashioned Halloween.  I was delighted beyond compare when a former co-worker (who passed away many years now) gifted me this tiny bit of paper.  I do cherish the pictures so.  Thanks, Jeanie, for your thoughtfulness… you are missed. 

 

What is your favorite iconic Halloween symbol

    A merrily-carved jack-o’-lantern of course!  He’s always up for a good old-fashioned Halloween time.

 

Diane C. Arkins began her career as a freelance writer at the age of nineteen by publishing feature articles in Seventeen, Co-Ed, and Woman’s Day magazines. In 1984, her work began to appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. After earning a BS in journalism from Northern Illinois University, she continued her writing endeavors by publishing magazine and newspaper stories while employed full time at the offices of the Australian Consulate-General in Chicago.

Arkins’ “Home Truths” humor column appeared in the Homelife real estate section of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1988 through 2000. Her work has appeared on the Op-Ed pages of numerous major daily newspapers, including a stint as a regular contributor to USA Today. Arkins has written for Country Living, Victoria, Family Circle, Brides, Country Collectibles, Country Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman’s World, Antiques & Collecting Magazine, and a wide variety of other publications.

Arkins has a passion for animals, gardening, and collecting vintage images, early illustrated postcards, and holiday memorabilia.

 


What Social Media Sandboxes Are You Playing In?

Recently I was inspired by Lorelle on WordPress, who in her post Bye-Bye Facebook: Changes in the World of Social Media, says that “you need to play in the sandbox where your audience plays.” Since creating Big Séance, I’ve been hesitant to play in too many social media sandboxes, but it is becoming clear that social media is once again beginning to change. Right now, your social media community options for finding me are limited to Facebook and Twitter (@BigSeance). Most of the community interaction and traffic to Big Séance tends to come from Facebook and search engines, and very rarely from Twitter.

 

Where are my readers and listeners playing the most? 

Please tell me where I need to build the next Big Séance community! 

 


Mysteries Over Martinis: A Special Guest Post!

mysteries over martinis, big seance guest blog postMystery Martini

Ingredients:

1 Part Absolut Wild Tea

½ Part Lime Juice

¼ Part Simple Syrup

4 Whole Blackberries

 

Directions:

Muddle blackberries in a shaker. Add Absolut Wild tea, simple syrup and lime juice. Fill with ice cubes. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a blackberry and let the spirits flow.

 

Both the guest blog post below and the delicious Mystery Martini above are by my new friend, Lisa Lloyd. She has a fascinating story and a very interesting blog. You should check it out! Thanks, Lisa!

 

Mysteries over Martinis: Spellbinding Spirits Served with a Twist

Lisa_Lloyd_mysteries_over_martinis_big_seanceMy name is Lisa Lloyd. I write a blog called Mysteries over Martinis in which I combine my passion for storytelling with my allure for unexplained phenomena and serve it up with a mystery-themed cocktail. It’s a recipe for intrigue!

 

I was born and raised in Iowa City, IA. My fascination with mysteries began at an early age. My favorite past times were telling stories, playing Clue, searching corn fields for crop circles and helping Scooby Doo and the gang solve mysteries. The introduction of the television show Unsolved Mysteries opened my eyes to a variety of unusual phenomena. The bizarre cases intrigued me and fueled my curiosity to make sense of it all.  I often tried to seek out books, programs and anyone who could offer insight into possible explanations.

 

The passing of several family members peaked my interest in life after death. This prompted me to experiment with the Ouija board as a young adult. One particular occasion seemed to indicate that I was communicating with several of my deceased family members. My mother is the youngest of 14 kids so my extended family is enormous but also very close. My mother, aunt, two cousins and I took a girls trip to Lake Okoboji where my cousin had a cabin. After a day on the lake, we returned to the cabin for a few cocktails. My cousin brought out her Ouija board and we thought it would be something fun to do. We went into it thinking it would be entertaining and probably not much more.

 

We began with a prayer to protect ourselves from any negative entities. My cousin and I had our hands on the planchette and asked if a spirit wished to communicate.  At first the planchette moved slowly and didn’t make much sense but then it began to move more fluidly. A spirit claiming to be our grandmother began communicating with us. She had died in 1968, long before my cousins and I were born. She said she was, “proud of her babies” which would have been directed at my mom and aunt. She went on to give us her birth date and date of death. This was interesting because my cousin and I didn’t have that information other than perhaps the years in which those events occurred. She then told us our aunt wanted to step forward. After our grandmother said goodbye, the energy of the planchette changed which surprised us. It became sharper and the spelling wasn’t as good as it had been with our grandmother. Our aunt was sarcastic much like she was in life. To try and validate that we were speaking with spirit, my mother asked her where their aunt’s quilt was located. My mom knew the answer but the rest of us did not. The board revealed that it was in a special box under her bed. My mom confirmed this to be true. She then revealed that my cousin, who was pregnant at the time and living in Wisconsin, would move back to Iowa because her husband would have a “water opportunity.” She then said her baby would be a boy and the next baby would be born in Iowa. All of this came to fruition. She even chimed in saying, “Lisa knows more than most, strong ties to the paranormal.” It seems this was some foreshadowing of where my path would take me. We ended up speaking with 4 departed loved ones during that session, each one demonstrating a different kind of movement with the planchette. The information was incredible and the experience left me with more questions than answers.

 

In 2006, a sudden illness landed me in the intensive care unit. My fight for life resulted in what I can only explain as a near-death experience. At the time, my condition baffled the medical staff.  My organs had begun to shut down and I was in excruciating pain. I was struggling to breathe because my lungs were filling with fluid. Suddenly, everything went dark. I thought the doctor’s had sedated me but I discovered later, this was not the case. The darkness quickly transitioned into a beautiful golden light. Being engulfed by the radiance was the most euphoric moment of my life. Within a matter of seconds, I was physically pulled away. I was back in the hospital bed enduring horrific pain and watching the medical team frantically work on my body. Soon after I was stabilized, everyone left the room. I was lying in bed and as I scanned the room, I noticed a familiar shadow being cast on the wall. It was the profile of my aunt who had passed away years before. This was the same aunt who said I had strong ties to the paranormal. When I did a double take, the shadow was gone. I felt this was her way of letting me know she was watching over me. This event thrust me into a world of strange phenomena and made me a magnet for those who are a part of it.  I never advertised my beliefs in the paranormal but I also never denied them. I think of myself as pretty easy to get along with. I believe that my open mind and friendly disposition have made me somewhat of a paranormal therapist. I attract people who want to tell me about their encounters or who want to learn more about specific topics. I found myself almost counseling friends and family by trying to help them make sense of their experiences. Even those who don’t believe in the supernatural would ask me to recount stories just because they found them interesting. Many of which would say that the way I presented the information at least made them think. I found these instances incredibly gratifying.

 

Having my own near death experience, encounters with spirit communication along with a wealth of other strange occurrences has escalated what was a simple interest in the unexplained into a personal quest for purpose. I moved away from my hometown in December of 2013. I created Mysteries over Martinis as a way to stay connected with those who utilize me as a resource. Not only do I want to help but I want to educate and provide a platform in which people can share their own brushes with the bizarre. My blog can be found at www.mysteriesovermartinis.com. If you’ve had a mysterious encounter you’d like to share, please e-mail me at mysteriesovermartinis@gmail.com. I can also be contacted via the Mysteries over Martinis Facebook page. Be sure to ‘like’ it when you stop by. Weirdness is always welcome. Cheers!

 


The Legends, Lore, and Symbols of Halloween, with Special Co-Host Karen A. Dahlman – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #17

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Karen A. Dahlman, The Legends, Lore, and Symbols of Halloween, The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #17

In this episode, I chat with special guest co-host, Karen A. Dahlman! My favorite holiday is just around the corner, and so we reminisce about Halloween memories, the month of October, and some of the legends, lore, and symbols of Halloween! You may remember her from Episode 5, talking about The Spirits of Ouija.

 

 

Get this episode on iTunes!
Direct Download Link

 

The Legends, Lore, and Symbols of Halloween!

 

Topics discussed in this episode:

What’s the Halloween season like in California vs. the Midwest?

We talk about our memories of trick-or-treating, and Karen will surprise you with the tale of her last time partaking in this fun tradition.

With perfect timing, Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, two of my favorite paranormal television shows, finally return. We review the most recent episodes and talk quite a bit about the ghost of the little girl on the Queen Mary.

My visit to A Death in the Family: Death and Mourning in the 19th Century at the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis.

What’s the lore about death and mirrors?

Are we disconnected with death in 2014? Death, the Spiritualist Movement and the 19th Century. Mary Todd Lincoln and séances at the White House.

Karen, a leading expert on the Ouija, tells us about some of the superstitions regarding the talking board.

Will Karen or I hold séances on Halloween?

Is it really true that during this time of year the veil is lifted between the living and the dead? Karen says yes, and she teaches us about The Law of Critical Mass in physics.

Remember the myth of tampered candy and razor blades in apples?

Divination games played on Halloween in the Victorian time period, including waiting for your future love by staring in a mirror (not creepy at all, right?), and the “dumb supper”.

Spirit Communication with candles and flame. 

The number 13 and the story of the 13th floor. Myth?

Some facts and jokes about Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns!

Halloween (The Jack O’Lantern Rag) by Arthur Manlowe (1911)

Karen tells us why she loves Owls, which are viewed as symbols of Halloween.

Bet you didn’t know what the witch’s broom symbolizes.

Avoid having bad luck on Halloween. Be careful! (Actually, these are myths…. supposedly.)

Are there ways to have GOOD luck on Halloween?

Both Karen and I share our favorite Halloween candy!

Have you ever bobbed for Apples?

The top haunted attractions for 2014 in the US!

Karen teaches us how to have fun with panty hose on Halloween! 

 

For More on Karen A. Dahlman:

karenadahlman.com

Karen’s Books on Amazon

Karen’s Facebook Page

Twitter: @KarenADahlman

And check out my review of The Spirits of Ouija.

 

Thanks again, Karen!

 

Sam Haynes, Spine ChillersSpooky Music featured on this episode is from Sam Haynes. You can find more about Sam and his music at http://www.hauntmusic.co.uk/. Thanks, Sam!

 

 

Record your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! Call the show at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show.

 

The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me at Patrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!

 


Retro Halloween Safety

I have quite a treat for you. Below are three Halloween Safety videos dating from 1977 to the early 1980s. I had a great time watching these several times just a few nights ago. For me, there is so much nostalgia packed in these videos, but also some rules and scenarios that seem so funny in 2014. Remember the overblown fear of razor blades and tampered candy, even though no cases even exist? It’s mentioned below. 

I wonder if I actually watched any of these as a child. I can just picture myself in one of my elementary school classrooms, watching the film strip with the familiar crackle in the background. I wonder how children these days would take to watching these? I’m considering showing them to my students at school in a few weeks, just to see what they think.

 



 


Death and Mourning in the 19th Century and the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion

This past weekend, friend and past guest of the Big Séance Podcast, Victoria Cosner Love, invited me (ahem… strongly encouraged me to leave my crypt) to a fascinating event, which appropriately fit the season, in my opinion anyway. It was my first visit to the absolutely beautiful Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis. “A Death in the Family: Death and Mourning in the 19th Century” is an annual mourning event there. 

An interesting fact is that the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is right next door to the famous Lemp Mansion and the Lemp Brewery Complex, and so the neighborhood is always an interesting place to find yourself this time of year. (Incidentally, the boys from Ghost Adventures just featured the Lemp Mansion and Brewery in their most recent episode, and the Ghost Hunters spent some time there a few years ago as well.) 

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is reported to be haunted as well, and I did talk to a few people in the know, but this event didn’t focus on the paranormal aspects of the place.

 

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As you may know, I’m obsessed with staircases, especially grand ones in a historical location like this mansion. So I had to lead with the photo above, with one of the volunteers appropriately mourning in character at the front entrance. 

I was very surprised to also run into several friends, some of whom I’ve never met in person, like my new friend Ginger of Missouri History and Hauntings. I got to meet a few other fascinating and knowledgable people, as well. I’m so very glad I went!

So back to the event itself. Here’s a description of the event, taken directly from their site:

This is an open house style event, during which guests are free to visit exhibits throughout the Mansion and learn not only about mourning customs of the 19th century but illness, medical treatments, wakes, funerary practices and more from costumed volunteers and museum staff.

As well as visiting with our informative volunteers, guests get a chance to see a amazing collection of original objects related to death, mourning and medical practices, from private collections, that are on display just this one day every year.

 

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I loved the event, but I look forward to going back again soon, perhaps to get a general tour of the place, plus they have plenty of activities. I encourage anyone in the area to visit if you haven’t been. 

I would have loved to have been able to get more shots of the home, but this event was well-attended, which is a good thing, but it made it difficult to get really good photos. But I hope you enjoy the shots that I did capture.

 

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I loved the feel and the color of this beautiful, yet oddly shaped corner. I need to find more information about this room. 

 

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