Tag Archives: autumn

Jack-O-Lanterns and a Beautiful Fall Evening in the Cemetery: An Update in 8 Photos

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern for 2014, Big Seance

 

Yesterday I carved my jack-o-lantern for 2014. As usual, I decided to go with a classic look that is very close to last year’s grin. And yes, that’s the Halloween Altar in the background, with the addition of the Beistle reprints that I ordered this year. As usual, I always have difficulty choosing which photos to share with you, so you’re getting several.

 

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern for 2014, Big Seance

 

 

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern for 2014, Big Seance

 

It has been so warm for October lately, and our 80 degree days will kill a jack-o-lantern in no time. I’ve decided that for the next few days we’re bringing them in late at night when we blow them out. That way they’ll be much more comfortable inside and away from the sun and heat during the day.

 

Halloween Polka Dot Disco Jack-O-Lantern 2014, Big Seance

 

As you may know, Joe always has to break the mold with his jack-o-lanterns. Here is this year’s polka-dotted disco ball jack-o-lantern! We like the reflections on the post.

 

Halloween Altar 2014, Big Seance

 

Another look at the Halloween Altar.

 

Fall Leaves in the Cemetery, Big Seance

 

This evening I took a trip to the cemetery to pay my adopted souls a visit for my 2014 grave adoption project. I discovered so many beautiful trees that weren’t in this condition on my last visit. It cooled down quite a bit by the time I got there, and so it was beautiful weather. It’s still weird to be wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt in a cemetery on the week of Halloween.

 

Fall Leaves in a Cemetery, Big Seance

 

 

Fall Leaves in a Cemetery, Big Seance

 

 

Grave Adoptions 2014, Rühenpohl, Big Seance

 

One of my grave adoptions for the year. The small pumpkin is still going strong from 3 weeks ago. All of my small pumpkins that I kept in the comfort of my home rotted long ago, so I’m pretty impressed.

 


Pumpkins and the Annual Trip to Rombachs Farm (2014)

White Pumpkins from Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

 

I hope you enjoy some photos from our annual visit to Rombachs Farm for our 2014 family of pumpkins, soon to be jack-o-lanterns (aka “punkinheads”).

 

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, pumpkin patch, big seance

Rombachs Farm, Punkin Blvd, pumpkin patch, big seance

Family of Pumpkins 2014, Big Seance

And these are the three we adopted. Stay tuned for the jack-o-lantern post coming up, about a week before Halloween! Can’t wait! 

 

 

 


Introducing my Cemetery Grave Adoptions for 2014

cemetery black and white angel

If you listened to episode 11 of The Big Séance Podcast on Cemetery Grave Adoptions, I promised to keep listeners updated on this year’s adoptions. Well today I took advantage of an absolutely splendid autumn-like day (finally!), and headed on out to a local cemetery that I’ve heard a lot about, but until today had never been. I had flowers ready to go, and I intended on finding two graves to adopt. I spent a little over an hour just taking photos and checking the place out.

Shortly after arriving, I met a Abby, who was very happy to see me. Once Sabrina, her owner, caught up with her, we had a very nice conversation about cemeteries and how much we enjoyed them. After Sabrina gave me some tips on where to find some of the older headstones, and after Abby (a dog, if I wasn’t clear enough) gave me a few last slobbery kisses, she got bored and ran off to find another friend, forcing Sabrina to follow. There were several four-legged friends and their owners enjoying the cemetery today. Just before leaving two hours later, a cute little doggie ran up to me as I was getting into my car. This little doggie looked almost exactly like my dog Meril, only smaller. 

I was really having a hard time making this decision. After such a great experience last year, I really felt pressured to just be drawn to two graves. As I’ve said before, lately I tend to float through the cemetery with more of a photographer’s eye. Other than the ones I kept photographing, I wasn’t really feeling like I was being drawn or pulled toward any specific grave for adoption purposes. Then, like happens so often in my school gig with things like auditions and solos and choosing who gets spotlighted, I kept feeling guilt for passing up all of the other hundreds of graves and monuments. Don’t they all deserve to be adopted? 

I couldn’t narrow it down to one named grave and one nameless (as I suggest in that same recent podcast episode), so what did I do? I decided to go with four of them. I may regret his decision in the busy month of October.  

So here they are. I’ve done no research or genealogy at this point.

 

Schwester (Sister) Maria Georgia (1862) & Schwester (Sister) Maria Germana (1872), Requiescat in Pace

cemetery grave adoption crosses1

 

Sister Maria Germana’s monument is broken off of the base, which is right next to Sister Maria Georgia. One leaning on the other, it makes a beautiful photo, and I can’t help but wonder about the friendship these ladies must have had in life. I took so many photos of their crosses that I just knew I was adopting them this fall. 

 

cemetery grave adoption crosses 2

cemetery grave adoption crosses flowers 3

 

H.W. Rühenpohl (1812-1850)

cemetery grave adoption Ruhenpohl 1

 

I’m not entirely sure of the name on this soul, but the base behind the rest of the monument says “W.H. Rühenpohl”. To the best of my ability, the monument in front says “Hier Ruht” with a smaller inscription that I’m not able to make out (probably in German), and then “Rühenpohl”. Someone has tied the base and the top together with wire.

 

Cemetery Grave Adoption Ruhenpohl 2

 

Unmarked

cemetery grave adoption unknown

 

I’m really hoping this stone marks a grave. I can’t imagine it being anything else. It must just be incredibly old and weathered, or perhaps it is the base of a monument that no longer exists. This stone rests right in front of the crosses of Sisters Maria Georgia and Germana. I decided this was a good thing, because otherwise I’d have a hard time finding it.

 

The Tradition Continues

Today I introduced myself and explained my intentions with this grave adoption tradition. I’ll now return every two weeks (at least), leaving flowers or gifts, visiting with them (should they choose to be present), and praying that their souls are at peace. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some genealogy sometime soon. I’ll be sure to keep you updated. 

 

Want to learn more about this cemetery grave adoption tradition? Again, check out episode 11 of The Big Séance Podcast to hear me discuss last year’s project, my inspiration for starting it, and my 8 tips for starting your own grave adoption tradition!

 

Stay tuned!

 


Cemeteries at Night and My Pumpkin Mission

A photo of Johnnie’s grave during one of my recent visits.

 

Tonight I simply wanted to log on and tell you about my return trip to Johnnie’s grave to retrieve the pumpkin I left for him. 

I left a pumpkin at Clara’s grave, too. I knew they would be fine for a month or so, but also knew I had the responsibility of going back to pick them up before they rotted. I mean, I didn’t want to see Linus and Lucy waiting for the Great Pumpkin next fall if I return for a visit. That would be embarrassing, and I’d feel really bad. So yes, I was stressing out just a bit about getting back to dispose of the pumpkins. The only problem? After Halloween, when we get busy with our lives again and “fall back”, I’ve discovered it is nearly impossible to get to a cemetery (unless you live right next to it) before dark! Even on days where I get to leave work at a decent time after school, it’s getting dark on the way there! I had every intention for over a week to get back to both of these cemeteries, but lack of sunlight was really making it difficult. 

When it comes to cemeteries (and most situations in life, actually), I’ve always followed the accepted rules. For most cemeteries, unless otherwise posted, you are prohibited from entering between dusk and dawn. Well a few nights ago, I rushed out of school as early as I could, but darkness beat me once again. I was already en route to Johnny’s cemetery when I decided that this mission to dispose of a pumpkin was important enough of a reason to go to that cemetery in the dark. I was frustrated and tired of the daily race and wanted to check this off my to do list.

I’ve spent hours and hours in cemeteries, both as a child and as an adult. They’re like peaceful parks to me. Though I don’t recall a cemetery visit after sundown, I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t have any fear issues. I thought back to the day I returned to do some follow-up investigation at an abandoned farmhouse… in the dark… without my team… and how good it felt to prove to myself that I could do it. I had no worries. My confidence wavered a bit, however, as I tried to locate Johnny’s grave. In the daylight, I knew that path like the back of my hand. At this point I’d been there probably ten times. But I assure you, it’s a whole different story in the dark.

By the time I made it to Johnnie’s grave, I was more worried about cops or someone in one of the few houses nearby thinking I was a trouble maker. This is also why I didn’t use a flashlight. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. But surely anyone would be understanding of my pumpkin mission, right? I felt a bit rude dropping by for such a brief visit, but I quickly greeted Johnnie and explained that I was taking his pumpkin back. I hoped he understood. I sent a quick prayer for him to be at peace and then crouched down to search for the pumpkin. In the shadows, my eyes finally settled on it. It was still there. It was either upside down or no longer had its stem, but it was hard to tell. I grabbed with both hands, but my fingers went right through the pumpkin. I had to hold back from blowing chunks right there. I waited too long. Fortunately, I was prepared with a trash bag and managed to scoop it all (or what I hoped was all) in the bag. I think I said something goofy to Johnnie about this awkward moment before heading back to the car that was parked nearby on one of the paths in the middle of the cemetery.

In the car, the next priority was finding my hand sanitizer. Once my hands were taken care of, I had a fascinating moment just sitting there in a silent car. I was enjoying the surroundings and realizing this wasn’t something you see every day. I wasn’t too frightened. In fact, I could have stayed there a while longer, admiring all of the silhouettes off in the distance. Once again, the fear of police lights driving up the hill to the cemetery got me moving quickly. I made my way to the main road and headed for home, while planning the next day’s rushed visit to retrieve Clara’s pumpkin. Would it be in the same condition? In my head, I made a few quick notes on the lessons learned during this trip to grab a squishy pumpkin in the shadows. 

 

You may be interested in my other posts in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit:

 

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition
Adopting Graves: Second Visit with Clara and Johnnie

Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family
Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family
Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)

 

 


Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition

This is the fifth post in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit:
Adopting Graves: Second Visit with Clara and Johnnie
Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)
Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family
Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family

 

On a Saturday in the middle of August, I decided to begin a new autumn tradition of adopting graves. I chose the graves of two souls, each in a different cemetery. At this point I feel strangely close to Johnnie Michel and Clara I. Gegenbauer. From that day on, I visited these graves every two weeks up to October 30th. I need to go back at least one more time to pick up the pumpkins and things, that way if I decide to visit in the distant future, there won’t be a pumpkin patch to walk through. For more on the inspiration and how I chose these two graves, visit my very first post in this series.

 

Johnnie Michel, son of Henry and Matilda Michel, July 5, 1879 – January 21, 1884

 Johnnie, who died at four and half years old (reason unknown), lived with his family on the upper floor of a general store on Main Street in Wentzville, Missouri. His father was a prominent Wentzville citizen and built and owned the general store. His mother raised the family (Johnnie had an older and a younger sister), and presumably helped tend to several of the clerks and extended family members that lived with them above the store.

Below are some of the shots from different visits to Johnnie’s grave (I tried to bring different flowers/gifts each time.)

 

Since posting my genealogy for Johnnie’s family, I discovered that the family’s general store was located where the “Wentzville Millwork” building is in the picture below. I’m not sure how old the remaining buildings to the left are, but I wanted to make sure and include them in the picture to help your imagination. The structure that housed the general store was demolished in the 1970s. To my knowledge there are no existing photos of the general store, which was operated by the family until at least 1910.  The second picture below is a view of the surrounding downtown area across the street from that lot.

 

 

Clara I. Gegenbauer, March 29, 1884 – March 17, 1889

As you may have noticed, Clara died just short of her fifth birthday as well. She was the fourth out of eight children by parents Eugene Gegenbauer (1847 – 1916) and Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer (1853 – 1930). Like Johnnie, there is no record of how or why Clara died at such a young age. Her father Eugene (whose parents immigrated from Germany) and mother Isabelle (whose parents immigrated from Ireland) were married in 1876. After immigrating, Clara’s paternal grandfather was a physician and teacher in the Ballwin, Missouri area. He died in 1880.

Out of the family’s eight children, Eugene and Isabelle had 7 grandchildren, including my new friend Gayla’s father. Clara’s last remaining sibling, Jane Sophia “Jennie” Gegenbauer, was Gayla’s grandmother. She died in 1976.

For more on Clara, or for photos of her parents and the family’s farmhouse, click HERE

 

On my second visit with Johnny and Clara, I was not prepared for the feelings I would have when seeing the blunt symbolism of the dead flowers in the exact same arrangement that I had placed them in only two weeks earlier. Though this is a completely normal thing to see in a cemetery, it was a beautiful and sad at the same time.

  

 

  

 

 

Other favorite photos from my visits to see Johnny and Clara 

Clara’s grave can be seen on the left (with the bright flowers) near the top of the hill. The graves surrounding her are her parents and siblings.

  .

Once again, Clara’s grave can be seen off in the distance at the top of the hill. 

.

 

As I mentioned before, I have to make at least one more visit to pick up pumpkins, but I highly doubt that it will be my last. I’ve become so familiar with the path to find them, and I’m sure I’ll never forget. I’m already excited to start the journey over next year with two “new” graves.

 

 


Béla Bartók, Wet Goblins, and the Post Halloween Blues

Me doing to nerdy Halloween thing with my kids at school. That's me in front of the crackling and almost warming digital fire for spooky stories.

Me doing the nerdy Halloween thing with my kids at school. That’s me in front of the crackling and almost warming digital fire for spooky stories.

I doubt I’m the only one, but I get so worked up and excited about Autumn and the Halloween season that it’s already on my mind in August (no doubt you’ve noticed). By the time Halloween actually arrives, it is similar to the feeling that many people get every Sunday. You try to relax and enjoy the only day left of your weekend, but you end up wasting the day dreading the miserable Monday blues. Sound familiar? But on Halloween Eve, I found myself shoving those annoying “it’s almost over” feelings aside, as I did my best to plan this year’s schtick for my kids at school. A teacher nerdy teacher never knows how middle school students will react to something we think is cool. Some things have backfired on me. I often get the eye roll. (Gosh I HATE the eye roll.) But I took a risk and decided to try something very different this year. I think it worked. Why in the world would I allow my kids to have fun at school on Halloween when there are lessons to learn and endless assessments to take? Because it’s FUN, it’s already on their minds all day, and it only happens once a year! Traditional learning can peace out for a day. But here’s my little secret. On Halloween, it’s probably more about me than it is them. But hopefully it’ll be one of the memorable days they remember before forgetting about me forever…. until two or three years from now when I pull up to the drive thru for my morning egg and cheese biscuit while they try to figure out why I look so familiar. Sigh.

Our school’s amazing and friendly librarian allowed me to peruse a few spooky books for a great story to read aloud. I chose the familiar-to-most (but not the students, apparently) urban legend “Knock…Knock…Knock” from More Short & Shivery by Robert D. San Souci.  You know this one, I promise. Two teens stranded in a broken down car (under a tree) on a night when a convicted murderer, “the Hangman”, escapes the local asylum. One teen decides to leave to go get help while the remaining frightened teen hides in the back seat waiting to hear a sign (three knocks) on the roof of the car, signaling that help has arrived. I don’t need to go on, do I?

I lit a crackling digital fire on the screen behind me (it really seemed to warm the room), and with a flashlight, did my best to pull out my third-place-in-Storytelling-at-the-state-speech-and-debate-tournament-circa.-1995-skills. First period was just practice. By second period, I had it down! The kids loved it, and I think they were surprised that they were hearing a story so scary from a teacher at school. Then they thought it was cool that it was from their library.  I was lucky… and it was fun (but very tiring by the end of the day).

Then I had them get out a piece of paper and a writing utensil. A few groans. I put a spooky haunted mansion picture on the screen for inspiration, and I played Béla Bartók’s third movement of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, written in 1936. Years later, this piece was used in the now classic Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining. They were to listen and creatively write a short spooky story over the eight-minute duration of the piece, with a couple of minutes at the end to wrap it up. I suggested a few paragraphs, but was surprised to see so many students writing an entire page or more. And they were excited about it! We turned the fire back on and read as many of the stories as we could. There just HAS to be some future authors from my school. So many of them left their stories for me to read that I now have a rather large stack to make my way through at some point. Many of them were excited to take them home to either finish or share with others. I was very tempted to seek permission to share a few of them here. 

Here’s a great recording of the Bartók piece. Why not try the same writing activity? Let me know how it goes!

 

 

So, you see? We were nerdy. AND we had fun! AND we were educational… and all because I wouldn’t have had the focus for much of anything else on All Hallows Eve.

 

The rest of the evening started out a little strangely. It rained off and on all day. By 6:00 I still hadn’t set up in the front yard for the trick-or-treat schtick. I was about to make alternative plans in front of the television when I heard goblins walking the sidewalks outside. I should have known that sprinkles wouldn’t keep kids away from candy. So I missed a few, and the “schtick” was modified and I rushed around moving it to the front porch. My awesome neighbors were already participating as I was almost caught bah humbugging on Halloween. There weren’t nearly as many kids out as usual, but we saw some cool costumes and had lots of fun, as always. It was sure cold and windy though. 

I hope everyone enjoyed the run up to Halloween! The good news is there’s still plenty of Autumn left, and my eye is already on that big Turkey Dinner in a few weeks! 

.

By the way! Before I sign off, I’m not sure who has written the absolutely lovely reviews of my blog on TopParanormalSites.com, but I really appreciate it! Thank you for reading!

 

Peace Out!

Patrick

 

You might also like: 

An Evening With The Uninvited (Big Séance) 

Skin and Bones (Big Séance) 

Angel Moments: Music as Mediation… Or is it? (Big Séance)

 

 


From Pumpkins to Jack-O-Lanterns 2013

My pumpkin before carving. I carved while listening to as many classic Halloween songs as I could find on YouTube. Then I had to clean finger prints off of my phone. It’s funny how I always forget about the smell of a pumpkin. You smell it as soon as you make the first cut. It was instantly nostalgic to me and took me back to a very early memory of probably one of my first jack-o-lanterns at our first house when I was very young. We had an enclosed front porch with an old door with a window , that led to the kitchen. For some reason our jack-o-lantern was inside that front porch, rather than outside. I remember sitting and watching through the window as the jack-o-lantern flickered and glowed.

 

 

 

 

 

This year we broke tradition and I carved Joe’s pumpkin as well. I tried to go for something different… something with a sinister look in the eyes and not quite so chipper. (Ahem… this punkin’ head is not meant to be a representation of Joe.)

 

 

I like how my punkin’ head on the right seems to be eyeballing Joe’s pumpkin. Don’t look too close. The one on the left is being illuminated by a sparkly Christmas candle.

 

Once again, the sparkly Christmas candle seems to be highlighted in the photo.

 

This is usually Meril’s signature jack-o-lantern look. Joe helped him. I think it gets bigger every year.

 

We have a plethora of various pumpkin carving tools from mostly cheap sets by "Pumpkin Masters". We purchased a rather expensive set online last year. I found that this $10 set from Target is just as good or better than any of them. I recommend it!

We have a plethora of various pumpkin carving tools from mostly cheap sets by “Pumpkin Masters”. We purchased a rather expensive set online last year. I found that this $10 set from Target is just as good or better than any of them. I recommend it!

 

You might also like:

Pumpkins and the Annual Trip to Rombach’s Farm (2013) (Big Séance) 

From Pumpkins to Jack-O-Lanterns 2012 (Big Séance) 

2012 Family of Pumpkins (Big Séance)

 

 

 

 


Some Halloween Poetry On This Chilly Autumn Evening

On this chilly autumn evening, I’ve been bundled and working my way through A Halloween Reader: Poems, Stories, and Plays from Halloweens Past, edited by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne. You’ll find tons of great things in this book and I love Ms. Bannatyne. I can’t write poetry, and I have to work very hard at reading it. However, I do like these two, also included in Lesley’s book, and both in the public domain. I like that they were written in a time period that has really been resonating with me lately. And with 10 days till Halloween, they’re totally appropriate for putting you in the mood. 

 

All Souls (1909)

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

I

A THIN moon faints in the sky o’erhead,
And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead.
Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways,
Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays,
But forth of the gate and down the road,
Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode.
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.

II
Fear not that sound like wind in the trees:
It is only their call that comes on the breeze;
Fear not the shudder that seems to pass:
It is only the tread of their feet on the grass;
Fear not the drip of the bough as you stoop:
It is only the touch of their hands that grope–
For the year’s on the turn and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the dead can yearn and the dead can smite.

III
And where should a man bring his sweet to woo
But here, where such hundreds were lovers too?
Where lie the dead lips that thirst to kiss,
The empty hands that their fellows miss,
Where the maid and her lover, from sere to green,
Sleep bed by bed, with the worm between?
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.

IV
And now they rise and walk in the cold,
Let us warm their blood and give youth to the old.
Let them see us and hear us, and say: “Ah, thus
In the prime of the year it went with us!”
Till their lips drawn close, and so long unkist,
Forget they are mist that mingles with mist!
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the dead can burn and the dead can smite.

V
Till they say, as they hear us–poor dead, poor dead!–
“Just an hour of this, and our age-long bed–
Just a thrill of the old remembered pains
To kindle a flame in our frozen veins,
A touch, and a sight, and a floating apart,
As the chill of dawn strikes each phantom heart–
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.”

VI
And where should the living feel alive
But here in this wan white humming hive,
As the moon wastes down, and the dawn turns cold,
And one by one they creep back to the fold?
And where should a man hold his mate and say:
“One more, one more, ere we go their way”?
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the living can learn by the churchyard light.

VII
And how should we break faith who have seen
Those dead lips plight with the mist between,
And how forget, who have seen how soon
They lie thus chambered and cold to the moon?
How scorn, how hate, how strive, wee too,
Who must do so soon as those others do?
For it’s All Souls’ night, and break of the day,
And behold, with the light the dead are away. . .

 

Hallowe’en (1910)

John Kendrick Bangs

John Kendrick Bangs

John Kendrick Bangs

The ghosts of all things past parade, 
Emerging from the mist and shade 
That hid them from our gaze, 
And, full of song and ringing mirth, 
In one glad moment of rebirth, 
And again they walk the ways of earth 
As in the ancient days.

The beacon light shines on the hill, 
The will-o’-wisps the forests fill 
With flashes filched from noon;
And witches on their broomsticks spry 
Speed here and yonder in the sky, 
And lift their strident voices high
Unto the Hunter’s Moon.

The air resounds with tuneful notes 
From myriads of straining throats, 
All hailing Folly Queen; 
So join the swelling choral throng, 
Forget your sorrow and your wrong, 
In one glad hour of joyous song 
To honor Hallowe’en!

 

You might also like: 

The Wraith (Paranormalogistically)

“Can you help me?” I’ll never forget. (Big Séance)

Halloween Memories and Nostalgia from This Generation X-er (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

 

 

 


Halloween Memories and Nostalgia from This Generation X-er

From the moment there was a hint of fall in the air, I have been reminiscing and thinking about Halloweens growing up. Today I decided to type aloud just some of the memories and thoughts that come to mind. I bet those of you who grew up in the 70s and 80s have similar memories. Go ahead. Climb on into my Delorean and let’s travel back… back into time…

 

…to a time where Halloween meant witches with brooms, black cats, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns with basic triangle eyes and jagged teeth. There was nothing more exciting than seeing your classroom teacher get out a big stash of black, white, and orange construction paper for craft time!

Remember scarecrows? You don’t see those guys much anymore. Maybe it was just a country thing. They were fun to make, but it was lots of itchy and scratchy work. I remember making a few with my parents and raiding my dad’s closet and drawers for just the right look.

This was the first set of Halloween cutout decorations that I remember. You can see the witch and the scarecrow centerpiece. Those were my favorites!

This was the first set of Halloween cutout decorations that we had that I remember. You can see the witch and the scarecrow centerpiece. Those were my favorites!

I remember getting so excited to go down to the basement for the box of decorations. Some 1970s cardboard cutouts for the windows were all it took. My favorite was the witch. She was so creepy. I also very much remember the honeycomb scarecrow centerpiece that we’d keep in the middle of the dinner table. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. Then there was the giant skeleton with movable parts. My sister remembers the black cat that had similar movable appendages. Lately I’ve made several Google searches for vintage Halloween nostalgia, and when you search for decorations, I recognize almost every generation of the more popular cutouts and can tell you where I remember them from. Some of them hung in teacher classrooms.  When I see a lot of popular Halloween decorations now, like the orange and purple strings of lights (that just scream Christmas to me) and the noisy and obnoxious blow up contraptions, I just don’t understand them. But this is probably just another one of those signs of getting older and less hip. I wish they would reproduce some of the more classic decorations like they used to. Many of the popular cutouts from the 1980s were apparently reprints from the 1960s. I will say that there is one trend in the last few years that I’ve been seeing in the stores that I definitely like. Everything is glittery and sparkly now! Yes, please! I would have LOVED a glittery orange pumpkin as a kid! Oh my gosh… memories of Elmer’s glue and glitter… don’t get me started…

Remember these?

Remember these?

Did you have classroom parties thrown by the room mothers? There was always punch, games (including the one where you have to sit on the balloon to pop it… I HATED that one), and treats tied up in those paper treat bags. By the time my younger sister went through school, they were afraid to call them “Halloween parties” and for a time they referred to them as “pumpkin parties”. Silly.

I can also remember the Christian versions of these treat bags that we were given at church. I’m not sure what Bible verse would be appropriate, but they always included one. People were encouraged to use those on Halloween, just in case anyone thought you were a devil worshiper because you were celebrating such a fun holiday. Even as a child and as a good boy, I can remember thinking “yeah, right!” and passing up the opportunity to take the Bible thumper bags. Of course, the Christian treat bags weren’t a big deal, considering a grandmother of mine, who was a strict Jehova’s Witness, lived a few houses down. She would preach about how horrible Halloween (or most holidays, for that matter) was, and I remember feeling pressured by her to not celebrate it. I loved her, but Halloween was one of those awkward times for that part of the family. 

Speaking of treats, I can almost guarantee that at some point in time, all of us were given a Tootsie Roll Pop with a white tissue wrapped over the top and tied with yarn, am I right? Mmmm… candy corn. When you went trick-or-treating, did you love or hate the popcorn ball? I didn’t get too excited about anything that was homemade, and sweet tarts and anything with marshmallow were always what I had left from my loot in February or March before I would decide to offer the rest to someone else.

A Halloween clown. I was a clown for a few years since the costume was so big. My Grandma, a master seamstress, did a great job at keeping me in costumes!

A Halloween clown. I was a clown for a few years since the costume was so big. My Grandma, a master seamstress, did a great job at keeping me in costumes!

Actually, trick-or-treating wasn’t something that I took part in for very long, and my sister actually hated it. For a few years, my parents would take me and my little sister (once she was in the picture) to the homes of family members and close friends. We’d show off our costumes, hop back in the car, and head off to the next destination before going back home to catch remaining trick-or-treaters at our own house. And actually, handing out the treats to the few visitors we did have was way more fun, in my opinion. When I was six we moved away from town and out into the country, so for me the traditional neighborhood trick-or-treating wasn’t a big thing. I remember always hearing my friends at school talk about it though, and we’d see ghosts and goblins lurking all over town when we were in the car driving from one place to the next. I’m not sure I would have ever walked up to a stranger’s house for candy. I’m sure this is due in part to the warnings of things like razors in apples and poison in candy. Those things never happened, of course, but I remember the warnings that were popular in those days.

I can't believe I found a photo of the same pattern I used to obsess over at my grandma's fabric shop!

I can’t believe I found a photo of the same pattern kit I used to obsess over at my grandma’s fabric shop!

And costumes were different in those days. Another grandmother of mine owned a fabric shop when I was young and I would “help” her clean and organize. I loved it! I remember being very interested in the McCall’s costume patterns, specifically the one pictured on the right! (I can’t believe I found a photo!) Do you remember how cool it was to pick out a make-up kit with just three basic colors? Just put some plastic vampire teeth in your mouth and it will make up for how cheap the make-up looked. No vampire teeth? That’s okay. Just stick some black wax on a few of your teeth and go as a “hobo”. Remember when dressing up as a hobo for Halloween was popular? Why did we do that? Weird. Speaking of weird, there are certain smells–like duct tape, for example–that instantly transport me back to the smell of a Halloween mask. I’ve heard others agree with me on this one, so I can’t be THAT weird.   

I’m not sure when it started or even if it was meant to be a tradition, but we usually had either chili or potato soup for dinner on Halloween. There was a year where my father somehow ended up with orange potato soup because of something weird that happened with the carrots that he added to the mix. I remember convincing my parents to let me add food coloring to the soup years later to truly make it orange. We’d listen to Monster Mash or even my favorite spooky sound effects “tape” (still have it) while setting the table for dinner. Now as an adult, I usually try to carry out the Halloween chili tradition. 

Now we live in a large suburban neighborhood, and I can’t even get home from work before they’re knocking on the door in daylight, so I make my chili the night before. We sit out front with a few decorations, candles, tiki torches, a big bowl of treats, and plenty of hot apple cider for anyone who wants it. 

I love this photo. My sister was Casper and this was her first (and probably last) Halloween trick-or-treat experience. As my mom explained on the back of this photo, "Patrick is a Mexican." Don't ask...

I love this photo. My sister was Casper and this was her first (and probably last) Halloween trick-or-treat experience. As my mom explained on the back of this photo, “Patrick is a Mexican.” Don’t ask…

 

I’m sure as soon as I publish this I’m going to think of about 50 things I forgot to include, but then again only four of you probably made it this far into my reminiscing… and thank you for that! 

Please feel free to comment and share your nostalgia or Halloween memories and traditions!

 

You might also like:

HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American Tradition (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

 


Pumpkins and the Annual Trip to Rombach’s Farm (2013)

Yesterday Joe and I went with my parents on our annual trip to Rombach’s Farm to choose our family of pumpkins (soon to be jack-o-lanterns, aka “punkin’ heads”) for our front porch. Except for the off and on light rain, it was a perfectly overcast and cool autumn day. It was nice to be able to take my parents. They were here on a rare visit.

Joe took this really awesome picture. I love it because it looks like he would have had to be lying on his belly to get this shot. I don’t think he was, but it would have been a great photo opportunity for me if that was the case.

 

Rombach’s is huge. Though they give you the option of hunting through the actual patch for your pumpkins, we’ve always enjoyed shopping around in the huge rows of pumpkins that have already been picked and separated by size and price. The above photo shows just one of the many seasonal or spooky displays that they set up every year. They also have animals, a maze, a mini haunted house (that you have to be brave enough to walk through to pay for your goodies), and a play area. At the checkout, I usually grab some apple or pumpkin butter, but this year I grabbed five assorted flavored honey sticks and had them consumed by the time we got to dinner.  

 

These are some of the enormous pumpkins from the patch. I’m not sure how one would lug one of these to the checkout counter. We struggle with our normal sized pumpkins as it is. 

 

In choosing our pumpkins, we like to be drawn to the ones that resemble each of us… our pumpkin family, if you will. Joe’s pumpkin is usually skinnier, my pumpkin is usually short and fat, and Meril’s pumpkin (not yet in the wagon in the photo above) is usually smaller and round, just perfect for his paw to be carved into it in a couple of weeks. 

 

So here is our 2013 family of pumpkins on the front porch. Joe and Meril are on the left and I, because of being so enormous, am on the right by myself. We’ll carve them one week before Halloween. I’ll take plenty of photos.

 

Want to see some of our past family of pumpkins photos? (I know you’re excited. Don’t act like you’re not.)

2012

2012

2011

2011

2010

 

You might also like: 

An Update in Four Photos (Big Séance)

2012 Family of Pumpkins (Big Séance)

From Pumpkins to Jack-O-Lanters 2012 (Big Séance)

 

 

 


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