NEW WORLD RECORD!
A one-ton pumpkin squashes the competition at the Topsfield Fair! History was made when Ron Wallace’s massive pumpkin, “The Freak II,” became the first pumpkin to break the one-ton mark!
Readers, we have to ask ourselves, “what is going on in the family of Cucurbitaceae?” The alarm bells are ringing.
It was only in 2000 that the 1,000 pound pumpkin barrier was broken. So let’s get this straight, pumpkins have doubled in size in just 12 short years! We here at Halloween for All, recognize that this is bigger and more dynamic than any previous c-change in the orbit of Halloween.
Is this the dire warning of the Mayan calendar manifesting itself in Massachusetts? Why are the two presidential candidates so mum on the matter? Could the fabled 13th planet Nibiru actually be a pumpkin? We don’t know about you, but we’re not waiting around to take marching orders from some kind of monstrous orange overlord!
This a call for action! Please, while there still may be time, each and every one of us needs to devour anything made of pumpkin. We need to tip the scales back in humanity’s favor. So have another piece of pumpkin bread and drink another pumpkin spiced latte.
After all wasn’t it Aragorn who said:
“Hold your gourd, hold your gourd! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men and women fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of Halloween fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered pumpkin fields, when the age of pumpkin carving comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we eat and fight, but mainly we eat! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you feast on all that is pumpkin Men and Women of the West!”
by John Morgan
The Cauldron List
But not just any travel, mysterious forces have cast a strong spell on us that requires us to solely focus on those destinations that celebrate the rich tradition and spirit of Halloween. These are the enchanting locations that we would like to experience – at least once – before we do any haunting of our own.
Here is The Cauldron List’s top Halloween Travel Destinations:
The Real Dracula’s Castle
And you thought Ravens and Crows got a bad rap when literature refers to them as a “murder of crows” or an “unkindness of ravens.” How would you like to go on Ancestry.com and discover that you are related to Vlad the Impaler and his father Vlad II Dracul from order of the House of the Dragons?
Many attribute Vlad the Impaler as the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s immortal Dracula.
OK, things are never as easy as they seem. There are actually three castles in modern-day Romania that claim to be “Dracula’s Castle”: Bran Castle, Poenari Castle, and Hunyad Castle. Although it worth pointing out the Stoker’s own notes state that he invented the castle and placed it on an empty mountain top.
We figure it is not every day we get sojourn through the rugged Transylvanian and Wallachian terrain so why not visit all three. Just make sure to drop by the local Romanian Leu Store to pickup plenty of garlic, crucifixes, and wooden stakes – along with greeting cards, batteries and helium balloons (what else does one go to the Dollar Store for?).
Festival of the Dead
Talk about Halloween sensory overload: witches, necromancy, séances, Celtic ceremonies and dramatic fall foliage all in one – better make that two – locations!
Just like in Dracula’s Castle, time seems to cloud the record, as various parties claim to be the real fright deal in order to entice you to spend your boo bucks in their locations. In Massachusetts, both Salem and Danvers claim to be the sight of the original witch trials of 1692 and 1693.
It appears that Mrs. Hickok, my eighth grade history teacher, must have had a broom in the game for promoting Salem, because she never once called it the Danvers Witch Trails. Where do the lies end Mrs. Hickok? Was the Boston Tea Party really a Gloucester Espresso Soiree?
Just like the curtain between the physical and spirit world grows thinnest around Halloween, perhaps you will become clairvoyant enough to decide which witch community has rightful claim to the historic witch trials. Either way, a trip here will leave you enchanted.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Finally, a Halloween location that exists without much controversy. After all Halloween is not worth losing your head over – just don’t tell the Hessian I said that!
There is plenty to see and do in this small community to celebrate Halloween. Although there are parades, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and various festivals and events held throughout the community approaching Halloween, the one can’t miss event is the annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor (tickets are required and they do sell out quickly).
Sleepy Hollow is a fantastic destination to celebrate Halloween. You will experience the same spooky locations that inspired Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. You might even be unfortunate enough to sight the Headless Horseman himself. If you do, just make sure you can outrun the person next to you. That should be enough to ensure that you come out head and shoulders above the rest of the Halloween revelers.
Stonehenge, Hill of Tara, and an Irish Pub
The foundation of today’s Halloween celebrations can directly trace its origins back to the Ancient Druid, Roman and Catholic traditions and beliefs that blended in the melting cauldron that is Great Britain. As such, Great Britain is a dream location to celebrate Halloween!
Visit to Hill of Tara and other Druid locations where Samhain festivals were originally held. Warm yourself by a bonfire, the likes of which brought some of Halloween’s most recognizable symbols of the bat and owl to become indelibly linked with the holiday.
Then find a warm pub, enjoy a pint or two and recount the legend of “Stingy Jack.” Who tricked the devil in an Irish pub and in the process became the inspiration for the modern-day jack-o-lantern.
So those are our recommendations for perfect Halloween destinations that celebrate the spirit of Halloween’s rich history and traditions. As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.
by John Morgan
As a lifetime Halloween enthusiast, I have to come clean: I have never understood what the heck a goblin is. Oh sure, I have faked the funk enough: “Goblins, I know all there is about goblins! They love hanging out with ghosts and you don’t even want to get me started on their subspecies, the Hobgoblin!”
It is time to stop faking it until I make it. Today, I have decided to finally ferret out the little (they are little, aren’t they?) rascals. Let me do a quick Google search. Ah yes, here we go…”the term goblin is a collective noun for evil spirits like redcaps and bugbears.” Well, mystery solved then – this will be my shortest post to date.
(Note to self: If anyone asks me to explain redcaps or bugbears, I will just shake my head in pity, boldly state that they are goblins, put on a facial expression that conveys “what else could they possibly be?”, then turn and walk away in mild disgust).
As someone who currently is not much of a gamer, unless you count the occasional Spider Solitaire game while I am waiting for something to upload, I am guessing that I might be in the minority in my goblin quandary. Especially since we are now living in a post “Dungeons and Dragons” and “World of Warcraft” age.
Maybe I am suffering from a mild form of amnesia. I have always admired the Lord of the Rings, it’s quite possible that goblins were thoroughly described and chronicled throughout Tolkien’s classic series. After all, just by reading the series and watching the trilogy, I have through osmosis acquired an understanding of trolls, elves, and ring-wraiths and the like. If pressed, I would hazard that the LOTR character Gollum is probably the most goblin-like. Yet, I would not be in the least surprised if someone admonished me by definitively declaring that Gollum was a redcap, bugbear, or hobgoblin – whatever the heck they are?
OK, so let me see if I can at least get a handle on Hobgoblins. Let’s just go to Wikipedia, here it is: “Hobgoblins –seem to be small, hairy little men who—like their close relative, brownies”…STOP! STOP right there! Is someone messing with me? How come every definition of a goblin or goblin relative is defined as something resembling an even a more obscure mythical creature?
Great, it goes on to state that Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream character Puck is a hobgoblin. Now I am even more confused, wasn’t Puck a half goat, half devil looking thing like Phil from Disney’s Hercules?
At this point, I no longer give a @#%& jack-o-lantern what they are! It is time for me to break this infinite vague definition chain and just proclaim that all I know about goblins and their evil spirited kin is that they are now my least favorite Halloween characters!
(Reader’s Alert: I would give this post a PG-13)
“Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May Become a wolf
When the wolfbane blooms
And the Autumn moon is bright”
You have got to be kidding me – the werewolf is the victim! OK, I have got to calm down. Let me take a few deep cleansing breathes before I go any further into exploring the only canine that got Cesar Millan to talk above a whisper!
Let me spend a good “Night on Bald Mountain” and enjoy a Chernobog view of the situation. If I understand the facts correctly: Larry Talbot (aka The Wolf Man) is estranged from his family; and he only returns home after his brother dies in a hunting accident (hey boys in Scotland Yard, you might want to check Larry’s whereabouts during the time of the alleged accident – ask yourselves who stands to gain if something should happen to the first-born son?).
When Larry arrives back home, the first thing he does – the very first thing – is not show compassion or sympathy for his Dad or his brother’s surviving friends, no, he is no sooner home than the dashes upstairs grabs one of his father’s telescopes and gets his soon-to-be four-legged voyeurism freak on spying on the village hottie.
He is obviously so grief-stricken, Larry hauls his destined to be shaggy tail down to the village where he spotted the vixen just moments before entering her family’s store. He buys the largest and cheapest (kids, don’t read this nor ask your parents what it means) phallic symbol in the store.
Then he pours on the sappy: “My brother just died and I can’t stand the thought of being alone right now” (the oldest trick in the G.I. and Soon-to-be-Monster Icon playbook). The sly dog actually convinces the lovely Gwen Conliffe into not only going on a pity date with him, he’s so brazen he gets her to bring a “friend” along to act as “chaperone.”
When the date doesn’t live up to Larry’s expectations (what did he expect would happen after taking the ladies out to free Gypsy festival? His generations version of a “mac & cheese and Redbox movie” date), Gwen’s friend Jenny decides to leave.
Larry’s such a fine gentleman that he’s content with letting Jenny walk home through the misty dark forest all alone. As fate would have it, Jenny is attacked by the thought to be extinct British wolf. Obviously frustrated over how the evening was going, Larry whacks the wolf to death with his silver tipped cane.
By this point, Jenny no longer accepting calls at 867-5309, the wolf manages to bite Larry before dying, and it turns out that the wolf is actually a Gypsy man named Bela, who was transformed into a wolf because of a legendary curse…and who are we supposed to feel sorry for? Of course, it’s obvious – Larry!
Someone has to tell the Welsh townsfolk of Llanwelly to stop being a bunch of enablers! It’s past time to go all Bob Barker and “fix” the problem permanently.
But oh no, everyone is still fine with good old Larry. He even attends Bela’s funeral. In fact, Bela’s mother even gives Larry a charm. Being the progressive player that Larry is, when things with Gwen and Jenny failed to work out, he has no problems going on a second date with Gwen – just as long as she brings her fiancé Frank along so the boys can get into a shooting contest.
When the full moon comes, it’s Larry’s turn to stalk the woods and terrorize the townsfolk. Why Jenny is not even fully in the ground when Larry decides to maul her gravedigger.
After making messy all over the rug, Larry explains to his Dad that he might be a shapeshifting monster; however, his Dad being the enabler he is, insists that Larry is simply showing the psychological elements of Lycanthropy (someone who believes they’re a wolf – instead of the dawg we know Larry to be).
Larry goes on to morph, yet again, into his fury counterpart and stalks through the local forest. This time he gets his leg caught in a bear trap. Finally, we are going to witness justice being served! Alas, who comes to his aid? Why the mother whose son Larry bludgeoned to death. Here, she gives the most enabling diatribe of the entire story: “The way you walked was thorny; through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil; the river enters the sea; so tears run to a predestined end”…yadda yadda yadda.
Please, let’s be honest here, “The way he walked was horny; it was through every fault of his own; and he wanted to soil more than just the rivers and seas!” I must apologize, I normally don’t get so tawdry on this blog – it’s just that the Wolf Man has left me howling mad!
Larry shifts into a werewolf for one final time and decides he is going to have a howling good time with Gwen. Anyway, thankfully “parentus-wolfus-interruptus“ occurs when John Talbot, Larry’s dad, catches up with them in the woods. Sir Talbot goes all Al Capone in The Untouchables over Larry’s canine rear end, which resulted in Larry going to “live on a farm in the country” if you get my meaning.
The seasoned gypsy woman repeats her prayer but adds, “Your suffering is over, and now you will find peace for eternity.” Finally, your suffering is over, as you have come to the end of this ranting blog post.
By John Morgan
Picture a dark, windy night, you hear the crack of distant thunder, leaves crunch as you approach the cemetery, as you open the creaky cast iron gate to the cemetery, a cat lets out a banshee-like shriek and bolts past you…You get the picture, besides, we were running out of clichés.
Few things are spookier than cemeteries, gravestones, and our bad creative writing.
And you thought math was hard
Death is a tough subject. It is like looking at your bills to pay pile, eventually you will have to deal with it –but there are so many others things you would prefer to be doing first. One epithet put it this way:
Great, so even in death, we are still haunted by debts! Hopefully you have the mettle to stay with us as we step through the cemetery gates and enter the world of gravestones, headstones, and crypts.
This is one Halloween symbol that will make our traditional ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic friends look like the “New Kids on the Halloween Block.”
Stones in the Stone-Age
Neanderthals and early man left indicators of memorializing those who passed away by performing various burial rituals. It appears, they frequently took great pains to ensure that their fellows were buried in deep caves and pits.
There were some very practical, as well as spiritual, reasons for memorializing the dead. Clearly people need to show respect and remembrance for the departed, but proper inurnment (is also theorized) reduced the spread of disease and kept scavengers from, well, scavenging.
What good are you?
The first headstones and markers were not much more than heavy stones placed over the burial site. The conjecture here has been twofold:
1. Reduces scavengers success rate
2. The dead stay put!
Which will it be…the Carrot or the Stick?
It is fascinating to see the evolution of headstones. Designs moved from a simple rock, to frightening winged death head figures and skulls. This symbolism was not lost on the people of the day: “Better start living a virtuous life or there will – literally – be hell to pay!”
The Victorian era designs incorporated sweet pudgy cherubs, elaborate majestic crosses, billowy white lambs, and large sorrowful angels.
Of course, people did try to “dress to impress,” individuals and families with power would – and still do – build elaborate “I love me” shrines (think Facebook but with a lot more marble) as tributes to their greatness and success.
OK, OK, we hear you…we will try to stay focused on how this all relates to Halloween!
People are dying to see your Halloween decorations
Today, as we rapidly approach Halloween, people are in their garages and workshops preparing to build their own Halloween graveyards. Check out this video on how realistic you can get!
And what would a tombstone be like if it failed to have personalized witty inscriptions. Such as, “Here Lies The Pillsbury Dough Boy. He will rise again.”
What will future Halloween decorations look like? We recently spoke with a Director with the Northern California Neptune Society and he indicated that in California approximately 50% of people are opting for cremation over a traditional burial. So perhaps in the coming years, people will be “urning” for a different type of lawn decoration.
The ceremonies and rituals associated with memorializing are thought to strengthened the bounds of family and community. Grieving is a very natural part of how humans (and some animal species) cope with death. Look at this amazing article: Chimpanzee’s grieving.
Till the bitter end
Even though designs and materials have changed through the years and are still evolving, one thing hasn’t changed – our desire to memorialize, grieve and reflect on those who “assume room temperature.” As someone put it, “Death must be great, because no one has come back from it yet!”…well at least that is until we run out of rocks!
Jack & Charmian London’s Grave
Glen Ellen, CA
Ghosts – A misty orb, a cool presence, or a frightening phantom from beyond. Ghosts fascinate our imaginations, haunt our dreams and fuel our fears. This is one Halloween symbol that does hit the historical trifecta when it comes to having its roots firmly grounded (at least as firmly as a ghost can be grounded to anything) in Roman, Celtic and Catholic traditions:
- Roman – Celebrations of the dead (Lemuria and Feralia)
- Celtic – Samhain Festival of the Dead
- Catholic – All Saints Day
Losing a loved one is never easy. All cultures have developed their own beliefs, rituals and customs to help cope and understand death. It is inescapable that our bodies come with a limited warranty for parts and services. Although the scientific RD Team is working feverishly to extend the boundaries of our existing models limitations.
Yet, what happens to our uniqueness, our spirit, our soul when our bodies finally succumb to ravages of time, wear, or unfortunate circumstances has been one of the greatest mysteries and hotly debated topics of all time.
Depending on what historical Halloween resource or expert is doing the telling (and if you have read any of our other posts, you already know that we are hardly what you can call a reliable resource and the only thing we are experts at is wandering off topic and butchering the English language) the Roman celebrations for the dead had some influence in eventually shaping the customs and rituals that led to Halloween. Exactly how much is uncertain, so we will move on to some of the stronger evidence in the ghost’s vapor trail through the history of Halloween.
Let’s look back to those early Samhain festivals; for the sake of argument, we will say the year is 50 AD. Just imagine harvest time is finally over, you are now entering the darkest and coldest time of the year (at least it is in the Northern Hemisphere – you know the top half of the world – where the toilets actually flush in the proper direction). Eccentric King Ludwig will not host the first Oktoberfest for another 1750 years or so. The Fall Classic, Johnny Depp and Katy Perry are still another two millennium away – even the Jersey shores are nothing more than another unremarkable tidal marsh (That reminds us, if someone shows up at the Halloween for All front doorstep, trick or treating in that awful Snookie outfit we saw at Spirit Halloween last night, so help us, we will sell our pumpkin farm, close this blog down, buy a rodent ranch and open up shop at “Ground Hogs Day for All”).
Where were we? Ah yes, we are in the heart of Celtic territory, year 50. We can almost hear it now, “Mathair, I am bored… there’s nothing to do?” “Angus, why don’t you muck out your room, take your annual bath, and then round-up a Druid priest. Tell him to build up an immense bonfire and start the animal sacrifices without me. I can’t do a thing until I can put together some goodies to place outside the doors and windows – because as you know lad, ain’t no one happy until our restless, wandering, endoplasmic dead relatives are happy.”
And so it was from the very beginning of the Samhain festivals that we see a strong connection between what would eventually grow into Halloween and the ghostly spirit world. Remember, this is a special time for the Druid priests and the Celtic people. It is a unique ethereal time; a time for divination and a time for spirits to walk the earth among the living. The supernatural and natural worlds merge as one.
Now let us examine how the Catholic creation of All Saints Day effects Halloween in respects to our ghostly friends. All Saints Day had its foundation poured in 609 AD, but the blueprints to overlay the Catholic rituals on top of the Samhain traditions were drafted back in 601. Now with labor negations, permit delays, zoning regulations and manufacturing shortages, the actual construction for All Saints Day was not completed until 998 AD. That is when a French monastic order – Cluny – began a special mass for all the departed Christian souls. The primary function of holding the mass was to pray for intercession on the part of all the souls in Purgatory.
Ghost really begin to materialize around Halloween in the 1800s as Americans enjoyed telling ghost stories. Spirituality was spreading all across the young nation. Why even before the Great Emancipator became legend for allegedly impaling stakes through the undead’s hearts, he gave his to Mary Todd. Both he and Mary were utterly devastated at the lost of their son Willie. Many people claim that President Lincoln actually held séances in the White House. To this you rightly say, “what does that have to do with ghosts and Halloween?” To that we reply, probably not much, other than it was a reflection of how wide-spread spiritually was accepted in those years and that Halloween certainly is a perfect vehicle for examining all things ghostly.
You only need to turn on your television to know that something remarkable is happening in Western Culture regarding people’s beliefs in ghosts. Clearly, spirits are on the rise. According to 1978 Gallup poll only 11% of Americans believed in ghosts, less than the number of people who believed in Sasquatch or Nessie at that time. Today, poll after poll indicates that almost 50% of American’s believe in ghosts. (To learn more about all things ghostly, check out Ghostly World ).
Ghost and paranormal shows dominate or at least have more than an ethereal presence on satellite programming. Practically every network offers at least one ghost or haunting themed show. Why there is even a show on Animal Planet, “The Haunted,” which chronicles animal’s interactions with the spirits from the beyond.
Regardless of your feelings on the ghost and spirit realm, their connection to Halloween started as a tribute to love one’s who had passed. And while not everyone welcomes an unplanned for vapory family reunion, it is sobering to reflect that we are just one link in an enormous chain of lives, choices, and events that ultimately allowed you to be here reading this blog and for us to create it. Regardless of what day it is, it is always worth wild to pause to remember the true miracle of our existence. So from everyone here at Halloween for All we would like to thank your ancestors – where ever they are – for allowing you to spend a few of your precious moments with us as we spin laps around the sun together.
Spiders – Visit a haunted or abandoned house, open a graveyard crypt (we know, as if you haven’t visited enough of them already), or approach any suburban home on October 31st and you are sure to brush aside scores of spider webs. No mad scientist lab would be complete without showing a blatant disregard for dusting. Arachnids are now joining the ranks alongside Santa and Frosty as a favorite seasonal inflatable yard decoration. Some inflatable spider animatronics are even complete with flailing fangs! Together, let us see if we can begin untangling the spider’s web of clues to discover how spiders became associated with Halloween in the first place.
For most of the major Halloween symbols, it has been a fairly easy task to locate just where and when they entered Halloween’s orbit. We usually start by looking for associations with ancient Roman, Celtic, and Catholic customs, beliefs, and traditions. However, tracking the historical links associating spiders to Halloween proved by far the most illusive thread in understanding Halloween’s dream team of characters.
Most sources vaguely link spiders to Halloween because they live in dark, scary places. Some reference that spiders, along with cats and owls, are witch’s “familiars” – lesser demons who do the witch’s dirty work.
We have even reached out to E.B. White’s best friend, Charlotte, seeking her thoughts on the matter. All we keep getting back is a cryptic note in her web: “Halloween, some holiday.” Thanks Charlotte, you are big help! While we are all enjoying delicious BLTs (that reminds us, has anyone seen Wilbur?), we will have our top cryptologist here at Halloween for All working around the clock to break Charlotte’s encrypted message.
Until then, we can share that Spiders have long been associated with mysticism. Their web weaving is often interpreted as a simile for the progression of time, fate, and the cyclical rhythms of nature. It has also been used as a metaphor for shady financial dealings. One of the world’s most secretive and exclusive societies, “The Bohemian Club,” uses the symbol of the owl as they sacrifice “dull care” and they warn: “Weaving spiders come not here” (Shakespeare quote) – in other words, “let’s party and forget business for a while!”
Numerologists link the number 8 to life path energies. With eight legs and eight eyes, spiders must have life path energies coming out of their spinnerets. It is also a number associated with acquiring great wealth. Our research team has even listened to a numerologist on Coast to Coast AM, who advised keeping the number 8 in your wallet or purse, in an effort to encourage Benjamin and all his dead president friends to join him there – Hamilton is also welcome there for showing his strength of character and his toughness (as well as his poor life management skills) by dueling Aaron Burr.
As pest abatement specialist spider’s rank up there with bats in helping to eradicate bugs that threaten crops. Most organic farmers welcome and encourage these bug eating vacuums to take up residency in their fields. We have even put up a wooden hexagon device in our Halloween for All garden to encourage their web building, but the spiders seem more than content to ignore it in favor of their daily attempts to ensnare one of us!
You may harbor an instinctive fear of spiders. All those appendages and eyeballs are enough to put anyone’s senses on edge. Perhaps there is a built-in DNA alarm that fires off warning flares to our personal command and control centers, every time we encounter either a snake or spider. Vigilantly cautioning us to approach with extreme care – these things are dangerous! Many naturalists theorize that dogs, wolves and coyotes still spin around in an effort to scatter any spiders, tics or other potential threats before they finally commit to lying down (quick someone needs to tell Atticus Finch that before he accidentally shoots that dog who is just getting ready for a siesta…too late).
Hold everything, our cryptologist just came rushing in and handed us her findings. Oh we see, folks it appears that “Halloween, some holiday” equates to “Halloween, it is what it is.” So no matter what Halloween is to you, we want to thank you for managing to adhere to our weak web of facts and observations as we did our best untangling the spider’s web. In the end, the spider’s connection with Halloween seems as mysterious and varied as the creatures themselves.