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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! 

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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)

 

 


A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations

 

Have you ever decorated a Halloween Altar? Do you know what a Halloween Altar is? There are different types of these altars. Some are downright spooky and clearly meant to be, but others are very reverent and sometimes referred to as “Ancestor Altars”. These altars are used in the Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, but they were used by other cultures as well, like the ancient Celts and in the Gaelic festival of Samhain. In the Ancestor Altar, one would place photos or artifacts belonging to their ancestors on an elaborately decorated table, which even sometimes displayed fruits and vegetables from the harvest. According to psychic medium MarVeena Meek, in the beginning, these altars were designed out of fear that one’s recently passed family members would come back to haunt them if they didn’t show that they were honoring and remembering them. She also says that often altars were used as a plea to passed on spirits to help them (from the Other Side) make it through the winter after the harvest. The skull is almost always a part of one of these altars, and apparently they’re symbols of the wisdom that we gain with each and every life we live. Other “dark” items like this are sometimes meant to ward off evil spirits. 

By no means am I an expert on this topic, but in my research I’m finding that there are many versions of these altars, and their meanings and their personal elements depend on the tradition or culture. It seems that some modern Halloween Altars are more fun and about decorating with all sorts of trinkets, candles, and anything else that says “Halloween”. Please see my related links below for more information on Halloween or Ancestor Altars.

Now for my spin on this tradition. I wanted to try something a bit different for my first altar, but also decided to tame it down a bit while I continue to research them . Mine falls into more of a fun Halloween Altar category. I’m not even convinced I’m done with it, but let me know what you think. 

 

As you can see, I used the buffet in my dining room for the main altar. I extended the idea onto the dining room table. 

 

I love this little guy. I used him for no other reason than he looks awesome and he’s even holding his own skull. He just had to be center stage. 

 

Behind Mr. Skeleton is a still from a movie that most of you probably recognize. This photo was used in the final shots of The Shining from 1980. I’ve always loved that moment from the movie, and I thought it would add just the right amount of subtle creepiness. 

 

I want to point out that all of the photos used in my altar decorating were found online. I searched for spooky retro photos and printed them in 4X6 and 5X7 sizes, with the exception of the still from The Shining, which is an 8X10. Some of the frames I had, but many of the frames were purchased from Target and Walmart for anywhere from $1 to $3. I was going for a classic or antique look.  

I’d seen the photo above before, and though I don’t know much about it, be sure to look closely in the back off to the left. See it? Yeah. Good luck sleeping tonight.

 

Many of the other photos that I printed were simply fun (and super creepy) shots of children in costume from the old days, like the one above.

 

The other end of my altar displays two more retro photos of adults and children in costume. Candles are on my list of favorite things, so along with the other candles, I just HAD to have skulls that have the ability to bleed through the eyeballs when lit. The two center candles on the altar are bleeding candles as well, which is why they are a pinkish white color. 

 

Along with some seasonal artificial floral and beautiful leaves, the dining room table is decorated with copies of various vintage Halloween cards and ads from the turn of the century, some from old magazines. This idea was inspired by my previous Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) post. 

 

With most of these photos and printouts, my goal was to find things that would spark a conversation, like this one. You can find an easier to read page with this poem HERE

 

Finally, I took some of the remaining photos and spread them throughout the house. The one above is on a book shelf next to the front entry.

 

I just love the two pictures above. These are on my piano in the living room.

 

Anyone planning on trying a Halloween or Ancestor Altar? Let me know! Send me pictures! And if you have experience with or knowledge on these altars, please feel free to enlighten us in the comments.

 

Related Articles:

Day of the Dead, Decoded: A Joyful Celebration Of Life And Food (NPR’s The Salt)

Ancestor Altars (Psychic Medium MarVeena Meek)

Sybilees Samhain (Halloween) Altar (Sybilees Witchcraft School)

Samhain (Halloween) Altar (Jen Minkman)

 


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