Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Is Halloween!

I woke up this morning to the silhouette of barren willow tree branches swaying restlessly in the wind - their stripped arms twisting against the dull orange of a beautiful October sunrise. I feel blessed to be spending this Halloween with my sister and her family - a first for me, as the celebration of All Hallows Eve has been something I have selfishly kept a solitary affair.

The forecast for today calls for cool temperatures and wind - but no rain! This is fortunate as we have had nothing but rain for the past week, and more rain is forecast starting tomorrow. To have this one spot of dry weather sandwiched between days of poring rain feels like the Halloween Gods have smiled down upon me.

I'm looking forward to carving pumpkins, watching old horror movies, eating candy, and prepping for tonight's haunt. I hope everyone out there has a very happy, haunted Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We're Gonna Need More Candy...

So I sent a photograph of myself in my Poe costume to the local newspaper with a little blurb saying we were having a haunted house in our garage on Halloween night. I was hoping for just a little ink highlighting our haunt - never in my wildest dreams did I think they would dedicate almost a HALF PAGE to our display!

I took the paper out of our mailbox yesterday and eagerly thumbed through it - looking for the tiny picture and cut line I had sent them. For one fleeting moment, when I could not find my picture, my heart sank. "Shoot - they didn't put it in." But when I finally got to our page I about fainted.

My next thought was: "Holy sh*t. We're gonna need more candy..."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mantorville Fall Festival

We had the most amazing time on the Saturday before Halloween. We took a short drive down Highway 57 to the little township of Mantorville, MN for their annual Fall Festival. To understand and appreciate the charm of this excursion, you must first know that Mantorville is just a tiny speck of a town, consisting of only 500 people or so, down in the Zumbro Valley of SE Minnesota. What it lacks in population it makes up for in atmosphere and attention to the little details.

The residents of this community recognize they have a beautiful location carved out of the surrounding limestone and they use this to full advantage. Some of the oldest buildings in the state are festooned with cornstalks, carved pumpkins, hay bales, squash and Indian corn. There are horse-drawn carriage rides, tractors pulling smiling children on their first hay-rides (with a narrator in period costume telling of the haunted history of the town - which is considerable), games and candy for the kids, hot cider and candied apples for the adults, haunted houses in the basements of mid 1800 era homes, and residents in costumes getting in on the act.

I was in heaven.

The weather could not have been nicer for a late October's eve. A partly cloudy sky gave way to abundant sunshine, and then a pleasant evening of cool, crisp autumn air mixed with the scents of straw and candles burning inside of grinning jack 'o lanterns. I lingered at the car, having to be practically pulled away by my wife - wanting to take just a few more snapshots with the camera (the picture above is one of the last I took just before we left).

I am so smitten with the place that I plan on volunteering my time and Halloween decorating knowledge for next year's festival. At the very least, I shall have a custom scarecrow built for the scarecrow contest. With our huge Halloween party the weekend before (that we went completely over-the-top on account of my wife's sister and family being in attendance) I just didn't have time to build a proper scarecrow that I thought would be up to snuff.

Next year. Yes, already planning next year...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gods of Power, Gods of Might...

I saw this posted on Pumpkinrot's blog and thought it might come in handy. Thanks for the heads up, Rot - let's hope it works!

The weather forecast is looking grim for Halloween. Cold temperatures I can handle - just a couple of years ago it got down to 22 degrees - but rain would definitely cast a pall over the day's festivities. I'm hoping for morning showers and that by afternoon the precipitation will have cleared off. In years past we have been fortunate to have dry Halloweens - but this year it looks like it will be close. Gods of Power, Gods of Might indeed!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zahn Manor VI

A new section for 2009 has been added to the site with a few pics from our annual Halloween/Birthday bash. Hard to believe this was our 6TH annual party! More to come...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Ghost of Poe

My costume worn at our annual Halloween party...

From the torrent, or the fountain —
From the red cliff of the mountain —
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold —
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by —
From the thunder, and the storm —
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ghost Hunting 101

Last night I went to a Community Education class at the local high school called 'Ghost Hunting 101.' It was a very interesting presentation put on by a local paranormal investigator / intuitive / medium. There wasn't anything particularly groundbreaking in the class - if you watch Ghost Hunters regularly you will be familiar with all the gadgets - but it was fascinating to hear someone speak about their personal experiences encountering the dead, lost souls, and family passed away. I'm thinking I might sign up for the Ghost Hunting 201 class - and hopefully the 301 class if they can get enough people to participate, which would be an actual ghost hunt - something I have not done in years!

Here's a link to the ladies' website that put on the class. She seemed well versed in the subject matter and very spiritually aware.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Big Boy

As a Halloween enthusiast, I naturally felt compelled to show off the giant-sized gourd we picked up at Seakkap's Orchard the other day. A visit to Seakkap's is an annual tradition for our family. In years past we have made a very big deal of it for our kids; usually heading out there on the first Saturday of October for family photos, giant pumpkins, caramel apples, cider, and hay-bale mazes.

This year, however, Mother Nature just did not want to cooperate. While the beautiful summer weather seemed to stretch on forever, when it did end it seemed like we by-passed autumn and went directly to winter! We've had frigid temperatures and pouring rain since the last week of September, with no end in sight. So this year we had to make our trek to the pumpkin patch when the weather allowed. On Wednesday the forecast called for a high of 59. When the temperature actually hit 63 we figured "to heck with tradition!" and grabbed the kids and our camera.

By the time we left the temperature had soared to 67 degrees and we were running about the hay-bale maze in our short sleeves. We got some nice photos of the kids, our requisite caramel apples, and I hefted one giant sized pumpkin into the back of our van. My daughter actually picked out the mammoth gourd, and the old-timer at the checkout told me the previous best for weight was 55 pounds. Ours weighed in at 57 pounds.

I left the orchard with a pretty big grin on my face.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Farewell, Israfel

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Edgar Allan Poe. Loved by some, loathed by others, admired by many - he continues to inspire me on a daily basis. My deepest respect to you, Mr. Poe. May you rest in peace, fully deserving of the lavish send-off you should have had the first time.

"Deep in earth my love is lying; and I must weep alone."

By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer Ben Nuckols, Associated Press Writer – Tue Oct 6, 1:08 pm ET

BALTIMORE – For Edgar Allan Poe, 2009 has been a better year than 1849. After dozens of events in several cities to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth, he's about to get the grand funeral that a writer of his stature should have received when he died.

One hundred sixty years ago, the beleaguered, impoverished Poe was found, delirious and in distress outside a Baltimore tavern. He was never coherent enough to explain what had befallen him since leaving Richmond, Va., a week earlier. He spent four days in a hospital before he died at age 40.

Poe's cousin, Neilson Poe, never announced his death publicly. Fewer than 10 people attended the hasty funeral for one of the 19th century's greatest writers. And the injustices piled on. Poe's tombstone was destroyed before it could be installed, when a train derailed and crashed into a stonecutter's yard. Rufus Griswold, a Poe enemy, published a libelous obituary that damaged Poe's reputation for decades.

But on Sunday, Poe's funeral will get an elaborate do-over, with two services expected to draw about 350 people each — the most a former church next to his grave can hold. Actors portraying Poe's contemporaries and other long-dead writers and artists will pay their respects, reading eulogies adapted from their writings about Poe.

"We are following the proper etiquette for funerals. We want to make it as realistic as possible," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum. Advance tickets are sold out, although Jerome will make some seats available at the door to ensure packed houses. Fans are traveling from as far away as Vietnam.

The funeral is arguably the splashiest of a year's worth of events honoring the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth. Along with Baltimore — where he spent some of his leanest years in the mid-1830s — Poe lived in or has strong connections to Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Richmond. With the funeral angle covered, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond staged a re-enactment last weekend of his death. Those with a more academic interest in Poe can attend the Poe Studies Association's annual conference from Thursday through Sunday in Philadelphia.

Visitors in Baltimore for the funeral can enjoy a new exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art, "Edgar Allan Poe: A Baltimore Icon," which includes chilling illustrations to "The Raven" by Edouard Manet. Baltimore has a decided advantage over the other cities that lay claim to Poe, notes BMA director Doreen Bolger. "We have the body," she said. This week, that's true in more ways than one. Jerome said he's gotten calls from people who thought he was going to exhume Poe's remains and rebury them.

"When they dug up Poe's body in 1875 to move it, it was mostly skeletal remains," Jerome said. "I've seen remains of people who've been in the ground since that time period, and there's hardly anything left." Instead, Jerome commissioned local special-effects artist Eric Supensky to create an eerily lifelike — or deathlike — mock-up of Poe's corpse. "I got chills," Jerome said Monday upon seeing the body for the first time. "This is going to freak people out."

The body will lie in state for 12 hours Wednesday at the Poe House, a tiny rowhome in a gritty section of west Baltimore. Visitors are invited to pay their respects. Following the viewing will be an all-night vigil at Poe's grave at Westminster Burying Ground. Anyone who attends will have the opportunity to deliver a tribute. On Sunday morning, a horse-drawn carriage will transport the replica of Poe's body from his former home to the graveyard for the funeral.

Actor John Astin, best known as Gomez Addams on TV's "The Addams Family," will serve as master of ceremonies. "It's sort of a way of saying, 'Well, Eddie, your first funeral wasn't a very good one, but we're going to try to make it up to you, because we have so much respect for you,'" said Astin, who toured as Poe for years in a one-man show.

The service won't be a total lovefest, however. The first eulogy will come from none other than Griswold. "People are asking me, 'Jeff, why are you inviting him? He hated Poe!'" Jerome said. "The reason is, most of these people defended Poe in response to what he said about Poe's life, so we can't have this service without having old Rufus sitting in the front row, spewing forth his hatred."

Eulogies will follow from actors portraying, among others, Sarah Helen Whitman, a minor poet whom Poe courted after his wife's death, and Walt Whitman, who attended the dedication of Poe's new gravestone in 1875 but didn't feel well enough to speak. Writers and artists influenced by Poe, including Arthur Conan Doyle and Alfred Hitchcock, will also be represented. Jerome expects to cry — one reason he won't be speaking. Even his rivals are impressed with the scale of the tribute.

"Annoyed as I am with Baltimore sometimes, I have to give them credit," said Philadelphia-based Poe scholar Edward Pettit, who argues his city was of greater importance to Poe's life and literary career. "Baltimore has done an awful lot to maintain the legacy of Poe over the last 100-some years."

Monday, October 5, 2009

October Orchard

As busy as October gets, we still try to make time to do those fall activities that make the season so special. Last weekend we made the journey to Lake City to eat at a quaint little diner called 'Chickadee's' that had a really fabulous breakfast. After that we drove around Lake Pepin and took in the sights along the waterfront - tons of sailing riggers shoring up their vessels for the season.

After that it was out to Pepin Heights Apple Orchard (who claim to be the biggest in Minnesota). We picked out some odd looking pumpkins that looked like a cross between traditional orange pumpkins and white pumpkins and a few decorative gourds - then it was back home toiling away in the garage haunt. If you live in the Northstar State, Lake City is a picturesque drive of rolling valleys and beautiful scenery. I recommend it if you've got a weekend to spare.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


My taste-test of the latest variety of pumpkin ale brought me to Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale. To my unrefined palate, this offering was very similar in taste to Anheuser Busch's Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale - which is okay, but not remarkable. Out of the three different brews I've sampled, Blue Moon's seasonal ale is the easy victor with it's subtle aroma and mellow taste.

In other news: the new graveyard fence was painted and installed yesterday. This was a big project which took several hours to complete - but well worth the effort. We came across some extra money and splurged this year. After five years of rebuilding a dilapidated graveyard fence that was held together with duct tape and zip ties, we finally went to Home Depot and bought four 8' sections of fencing. After killing a million brain cells spray painting them black, I finally erected them on the front lawn. The headstones went up last night as well - which means...

WIND! And lots of it. It's an annual tradition for us. I put up our elaborate haunt so it's ready to go on October 1st - and Mother Nature promptly does her very best to rip it all down. 35 mph winds? CHECK! Driving rains? CHECK! Freezing temperatures? CHECK! I was pleased to see this morning that everything withstood the elements, but this morning my centerpiece Edgar Allan Poe headstone blew over and was impaled on its re-bar stake. Some minor repair and I think he'll pull through, but boy is it frustrating.

Like I said: an annual tradition. More to come...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I And Love And You

One foot in and one foot back.
But it don’t pay to live like that.
So I cut the ties and I jumped the track.
For never to return.

It's finally here - today is the day! For fans of The Avett Brothers this is a moment filled with intense excitement and a bit of lingering remorse. We are excited because the Avett's new album: "I And Love And You" is released today. Their first release on a major label, many believe this will be the album that will rocket them from indie poster boys to international stardom.

And therein lies the rub. In granting the boys the acclaim they so rightfully deserve, we must grudgingly accept that they will no longer be playing shows for a small fan base who have been with them from the first. It's like letting go of a child's hand as they take their first, tentative steps into a larger world. Your heart soars, but you know they will never be the same.

Here's hoping The Avett Brothers never change - and here's hoping the postman doesn't let me down in delivering my copy of the album today!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Witch Jars

Another great idea from the brilliant (and twisted) mind of Pumpkinrot. These are my attempt at Rot's superior design for 'Witch Jars,' which are basically Mason jars coated in Elmer's Glue with some red and black paint splashed inside. I also gave it a fine coat of black spray paint just to age it a bit and a few gooey, drippy lines of ooze from a hot glue gun just for funsies. Last but not least, I tied some twine I found in a dumpster around the top and dropped some battery operated tea lights inside. To see the real deal - and a much better version of it - head on over to

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lines On Ale

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

Last year's ale of choice during the haunting season was Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale, an Anheuser Busch product. While it did its duty last year, apparently my taste buds have changed over the course of a year. I rushed out and bought a six pack just as soon as it became available and was decidedly underwhelmed. It was okay - but tasted rather... manufactured. Where was the spice? Where was the bite? All gone - in its place was a slightly acidic aftertaste that grew unpleasant after the first few quaffs.

Something had to be done.

In my pursuit for the next great pumpkin ale, I moved on to Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale. A much better draught in my opinion, I was pleased with the overall performance of this mellow tasting ale. Not as blandly perfect as AB's Jack's, this was a subtler ale with less emphasis on the pumpkin taste. I would recommend it for those looking for a refreshing autumn treat while toiling away over those last minute props in the garage.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Equal Night, or, Points In Time & Space

The first day of fall.

For me, this usually translates into: "My God! I'm running out of time!" This year is no different - too many projects, not enough time. My main goal at the moment is to finish up with our Halloween poems and invites, which have been pushed onto the back burner for far too long. This is also a long-standing fall tradition, which usually requires pulling an all-nighter to finish on time.

And yet, there is a magic in the air which inspires the wicked heart. As I read the article on the internets today regarding the first day of autumn I came across this passage which seems steeped in mystery and ripe for inspiration as I scramble to finish our poems on time:

"...Equinoxes, which mark the onset of spring and autumn, and solstices, which mark when summer and winter begin, are points in time and space that mark a transition in our planet's annual trip around the sun.

At each equinox, the sun crosses the Earth's equator, making night and day of approximately equal length on most of the planet (from the Latin, equinox means "equal night"). At the equator, the sun is directly overhead at noon on either equinox..."

Let the all-nighter begin.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mmm Mmm Good...

Mmmm mmmm! Yum! The first pumpkin spice cappuccino of the year is always the tastiest. Sure, it's the push-button variety from a machine - you know, the syrupy sugar filled beverage from your local gas station - but man is it good! Yeah, I know I could go down the road to the local coffee shop to get an authentic pumpkin spice, but why pay $3.85 (seriously!) when I can get the same size for $1.06? Well, I suppose there is something to be said for supporting the local businesses and not the faceless giant corporations, but what can I say... I'm a miser at heart.

It's that time of the year - something I'm coming to enjoy more and more as I get older. I used to dread the ending of summer. To me it meant winter was right around the corner - which is a frightening prospect in SE Minnesota. But now I'm finding so many things to enjoy about the season, with Halloween being a big part of it. As you age, you come to appreciate the falling leaves, the taste of good coffee, the crisp smell of autumn air, the roar of the crowd at a high school football game, pumpkins ripening on the vine, and so much more. Even though it's a time when things begin to die, it feels more and more like a great time to be alive.

(P.S. The black jars next to the coffee are some $1.00 garage sale buys I bought a week ago. They were hand made for herbs - but a coat of black paint and some sprigs from our yard and they are transformed into diabolical potion bottles from some witch's cabinet. The names, by the way, are titles of stories from Edgar Allan Poe.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Haunted Bookshelf

A little preview of one of the bigger projects I've got going for Halloween this year. Each year I like to pick one big project and try to get it done at all costs (which can sometimes be expensive!) This year's project is 'The Haunted Bookshelf.' Taken off the Monster List website, this is one has A LOT of working parts. Pictured above are my line-up of books; the whole lot bought from Goodwill for $2.00. I spent an afternoon tearing their guts out with an exacto knife, and then another day aging them and putting on their titles - accomplished with a little help from my wife's scrapbooking supplies...

For 'The Haunted Bookshelf' I've enlisted the aid of my father-in-law, as the inner workings of this thing are a little too complex for my duct-tape and hot glue capabilities. I've seen a test run of this bad boy and it looks incredible. He's building a containing box right now - and I can't wait to see the whole thing operational. This is one of those special projects, much like our 'Pepper's Ghost' from a couple of years ago, that leaves guests at our Halloween party saying: "How did you do that?"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Game Day!

It's hard to believe that summer is finally over and game day is officially here. My alma mater: the mighty Iowa State Cyclones kick off against North Dakota State in Ames, IA tonight! All the strange looks and curious glances from friends and neighbors as I worked on Halloween props in July will be worth it as the pigskin flies and the clock to October 31st starts ticking down. Sing it with me everyone...

O we will fight, fight, fight for Iowa State,
And may her colors ever fly.
Yes, we will fight with might for Iowa State,
With a will to do or die,
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Loyal sons forever true,
And we will fight the battle through.
And when we hit that line we'll hit it hard
ev'ry yard for I. S. U.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Old Dreedle Place

Whenever we go to visit 'Big Grandma and Grandpa' in Iowa (according to my daughter my parents are 'Little Grandma and Grandpa' because they live in a small house, and my wife's parents are 'Big Grandma and Grandpa' because they live in a big house), we always try to take a walk past the old Dreedle Place - otherwise affectionately known as The Spookhouse.

Do the Dreedles actually live there? No, not to my knowledge - the name is from a Halloween picture book my daughter has, but it seemed appropriate. My two year old son calls it the 'pookhouse!' If you look closely in the window you'll see why. As we stroll by we like to dare each other to get close - maybe even knock on the door or ring the bell. My fearless daughter has no qualms with marching right up there and confronting the Boogeyman. Me, I don't know. There's just something sinister about a house that leaves a frightened looking jack-o-lantern in the window all year long...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Halloween II

For those who dug the first one, Rob Zombie's follow-up to the ultra violent (yet not-so-scary) 'Halloween' remake 'Halloween II' comes out today. I was not a fan of Zombie's 're-imaging' of John Carpenter's 1978 classic, but I have seen every Halloween movie on the big screen since 'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers' back in 1988, so I suppose I'll go see this blood soaked hillbilly jamboree.

Zombie claims he was not constrained by the story-line of the original sequel, so this one is all new material. That can either be good or bad when you consider the director. Zombie's movies contain too many redneck psychos for my taste, and in any case it will be hard to live up to the suspense of The Shape chasing Jamie Lee Curtis through the hospital halls on Halloween night. But I will squirm my way through the mayhem, all the while hoping they finally entice Carpenter back for one last Halloween installment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Change Is In The Air...

Just a quick note to say that some new pics are up on the site. Mostly under the 2008 link, but there are some others scattered throughout as well. I have the desire to overhaul the site a bit this haunting season. I have the ambition, but not necessarily the time. Until then, I hope to upload some new stuff over the next few weeks as we start gearing up for the big day...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spiced Pumpkins

My wife keeps amping up the anticipation for autumn with her wonderful purchases. I was surprised to find a deep, cinnamon orange Yankee Candle the other day with the words 'Spiced Pumpkin' printed on it. When I popped off the top, the scents of fall brought visions of red and orange leaves falling off of trees and crunching under foot, kids off to school with backpacks slung over their shoulders, and high school football kicking off under the lights on a Friday night. It smells even better when lit and it really has me motivated to make this the best Halloween ever (it's on a Saturday night - so every effort has to be made to ensure that it IS the best ever!) Great candles like this definitely help...

P.S. Behind the candle is a paper mache skull purchased at Michaels for just a couple of bucks. These make great decorations and are easy for kids to paint if you're looking for a spooky craft project to keep the little ghouls busy. On the right is my new coffee mug - also from Michaels. What can I say - I LOVE this mug! (I'm sipping out of it right now). In the back of the picture are some 'witch jars' I'm working on. The inspiration for these great Halloween decorations come from who never ceases to amaze me with his artistry.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Still Waiting...

Saw this dude waiting for a bus to downtown Chicago. I know that traffic can be murder in the windy city, but this is ridiculous. Actually, he was an advertisement for a chiropractor, which I thought was pretty clever. Just one of the many oddities we observed during our whirlwind weekend to Chi-town for the Jimmy Buffett show.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The new season of GHOST HUNTERS starts tonight. For those who don't know, 'Ghost Hunters' chronicles the adventures of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S. for short.) After a dull run of Ghost Hunters International, the real deal finally returns to the airwaves just in time for the haunting season to kick into full swing.

Don't get me wrong - GHI is okay. It just seems that with all the history of Europe and its ancient buildings, castles, and crypts at their disposal, you'd think the ever-changing GHI team could capture a little more compelling evidence than disembodied groans. It just seems to me the original Ghost Hunters team appears a little more consistent with their reveals - and the previews for the upcoming season seem to hold much promise.

As one who has participated in a professional paranormal investigation, I have a keen interest in this show. While there seems to be a lot of sensationalism with the program that is inherent to the television format, it is easily overlooked for the anticipation the shows delivers in it's mid-week time slot. And now that GHI has wrapped - we can pop the popcorn, chill the rootbeer, and settle in under a cozy blanket for another great season of the 'real' Ghost Hunters.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Best. Coozie. Ever.

My beautiful wife picked up the can coozie pictured above for a buck at JoAnn Fabrics the other day. Best. Coozie. Ever! Now I only need some Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale to put inside of it and I'll be able to kick off the haunting season in style!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Never A Monster

On today's date in 1994, the world lost one of it's greatest actors and all-around gentleman: Peter Cushing. Like many movie buffs my age, I was first introduced to Mr. Cushing's impressive body of work with George Lucas' 1977 space opus 'Star Wars.' The next time I would see Mr. Cushing on screen would be in the bizarre 1984 comedy 'Top Secret.' But my respect and devotion for the silver screen's greatest Van Helsing would come when I saw Hammer Studio's terrific production of 'Dracula.'

Although known for his monster movies, Cushing could do Shakespeare with ease, although he was known to have said: "Who wants to see me as Hamlet? Very few. But millions want to see me as Frankenstein so that's the one I do. If I played Hamlet, they'd call it a horror film."

One movie of his that I always enjoy watching is the 1974 Hammer schlock-fest "The Satanic Rites of Dracula." It is a rather absurd Dracula movie which also starred Cushing's great friend, Christopher Lee, but Cushing brings such a presence to the movie that he quite literally steals every scene he's in. The simple act of him making tea and offering around a box of cigarettes while nonchalantly discussing vampires and the undead is one of my all time favorite scenes. As for destroying monsters, here's what the man himself had to say on the subject...

"People look at me as if I were some sort of monster, but I can't think why. In my macabre pictures, I have either been a monster-maker or a monster-destroyer, but never a monster. Actually, I'm a gentle fellow. Never harmed a fly. I love animals, and when I'm in the country I'm a keen bird-watcher."

Peter Cushing was a great talent who lives on in so many memorable roles; from Baron Von Frankenstein to Lawrence Van Helsing to Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Who. May you rest in peace, Mr. Cushing. You were a class act who is sorely missed by many.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Halloween in Tijuana

Halloween in Tijuana, full moon in my eyes
I wonder how in the hell I got here without a disguise...

So the countdown has begun for our next Jimmy Buffett experience. It's been almost six long years since we saw him on his 2003 'Tikki Time' tour. On that excursion we missed out on the fabulous pre-show festivities since my wife was seven months pregnant at the time - we like to tell our daughter that her first concert was Jimmy Buffett! And while there is something to be said for enjoying yourself responsibly, there is nothing quite like tailgating before a Jimmy show. Parrotheads (Buffett faithful) come out in force and everyone is your friend, cousin, or drinking buddy.

Pretty girls they beckon from their rooms above
Skeletons are dancing in the name of love...

We definitely wanted to get in on the act this time around with our own game of chance that peppers the parking lot of any venue Buffett visits. Since we are going with my sister-in-law and her husband - who is an avid golf enthusiast - I thought it would be appropriate to rig up a little putting green in honor of the occasion. My version, called the 'Tin Cup Challenge' (real Parrotheads will get the reference) is built in the true spirit of Jimmy and the lifestyle he promotes. Parrotheads that can thread the needle of obstacles and sink a putt into the tin cup will earn themselves a tasty Jell-O shot.

I hear the people singing that same old haunting tune
I drink because I know it's me against the moon...

While I have been enjoying the unusually cool weather this summer and the keen spark to build Halloween props that comes with it, I have to admit that the putting green was a nice diversion. Seeing Jimmy this Saturday kind of brings the summer to a close for us. While there are a few weeks left of August, after the show we kind of switch gears and go into full Halloween mode...

Yo quiero a bailar en Mexico
We do the desperation samba con nos amigos...


Friday, July 24, 2009

Double Creature Feature

Exciting news coming out of the San Diego Comic Con. At director Tim Burton's forum for his upcoming Alice In Wonderland, he and his special 'imaginary friend' the incomparable Johnny Depp announced their next project would be a re-vamp (get it?) of the campy 60's vampire soap-opera DARK SHADOWS.

I have long been a fan of this weird cult hit, and seeing it come to life on the big screen - with Burton and Depp no less - is nothing short of a fan-boy's dream. The dynamic duo have collaborated on so many amazing films (Ed Wood, Sleepy Hallow, Corpse Bride, and so many more...) and this one in particular seems custom made for Burton's phantasmagorical eye and Depp's over-the-top acting. Good show!

Our second creature feature comes from writer/director Eben McGarr, entitled HOUSE OF THE WOLF MAN. Appearing like a vintage horror flick from the 30's and 40's, McGarr is focusing this 'house of...' entry on our lupine friend, The Wolf Man - and it stars none other than the grandson of the original Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, jr.): Ron Chaney! Talk about a fan-boy's dream - how cool is that? The synopsis reads thusly:

"Dr. Bela Reinhardt (Chaney) has invited five people to his castle to see which of them will inherit his estate. He has arranged for a competition of sorts, the victor shall be determined through process of... elimination."

Using the 1940's House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula as inspiration. McGarr says he wants his film to “slip seamlessly in with the other two movies, and with no gore, language, or sex, it should be for all members of the family.”

Here's a link to McGarr's MySpace page for his film which contains a terrifically old-school trailer:

No distributor or release date has been announced yet - but I'll be sure to let you know when I find out. First Dark Shadows and now House Of The Wolf Man - this all seems too good to be true. Keep your fingers 'crossed,' your garlic ripe, and your wooden stakes sharp that these two gems find their way on to the silver screen!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

100 Days

Yikes! I just looked at my calendar and realized there are only one hundred days left until Halloween (which means there are eighty-six days left until our Halloween party!) Where does the time go - so much to do and so very little time to do it!

The good news is that I am in full Halloween mode at the moment. This has been due to the unusual weather we've been having in July here in Minnesota. No scorching 100 degree days here (not even 90 degrees... it's barely hit 80!) No, the weather has been very reminiscent of fall, seeming more like football season than baseball. With the mild days and crisp air I have been extremely motivated to work on props, which is a very, very good thing - as I have a tendency to put things off until October.

Now that we are at the one hundred day mark, however, it's time to double my efforts. The weekends in August tend to be busy ones, and autumn truly will be here before I know it. I have a big project under wraps at the moment - my first pneumatic prop - and I can't put it off much longer. The plans have been drawn up, the motors are hacked and ready to go - there are no excuses for not getting this prop completed. More on that as it progresses.

Anyway - it's another early fall day in July (the weather man says this is due to El Nino?) It's very foggy outside and the temperature is holding steady at 52. Who knows - I just might get something done today. For inspiration I just might fill up my new jack-o-lantern coffee mug (pics later) and head on out to the garden to have a look at my pumpkins...

Happy Summertime Haunting!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One Man's Trash Part 2: It Came From The Garage...Sale!

A few weeks ago I walked down the block to check out a garage sale a neighbor was having. There was nothing of particular interest or value, but I did pick up a very country kitsch-like sign, about two feet long by four inches high, that read 'Nothing But Net' (I assume it had to do with fishing, this is Minnesota after all...)

Always seeing the potential in the most mundane pieces of junk, I snapped up the sign for a measly twenty-five cents and stowed it away for a rainy day. Well, that rainy day came sooner rather than later and I pulled down the sign to give it a makeover. But what to have for the quote? I couldn't think of any Halloween related quotations off the top of my head, so I perused my dvd collection, and then my bookcase, looking for inspiration.

'Double double toil and trouble' from Shakespeare's Macbeth seemed okay, but not exactly what I had in mind. I needed something else, something like... Poe. Ah, yes - Edgar Allan Poe! How could I have overlooked the master of the macabre? But what to pick? He has so many classic poems, so many great verses, so many excellent lines to choose from. Take 'The Raven' for instance - his most famous poem. That starts out "Once upon a midnight dreary..."

YES! With the quote in hand, I set out to paint over 'Nothing But Net' with a little acrylic paint. I couldn't match the faded reddish-orange of the original, so I dabbed a little pumpkin orange on the wood and smeared it around with my finger just to see what it would look like. The result was perfect! What I got was this wispy, ethereal vapor that looked like the flames of hell itself. I dabbed a little more, and then more still - the result being quite a happy accident indeed.

While I let that dry I went to work on the quote. Not having access to a design program like Quark anymore, I had to resort to Word (ughhh...) to do the job. After several attempts, mis-fires, and trials and errors, I cobbled together a template that would suffice. I then scribbled on the back of the paper with a large soft-leaded pencil from my toolbox and taped the paper to the sign. Once I traced the letters on the reverse side, I had a perfect imprint of the quote on the wood.

The last step was to fill in the words with a black permanent marker and then give it just a hint of highlight with a yellow-ish orange color. The whole process took a little over an hour (stupid Word!) but the end result is well worth the effort - particularly when guests say "Where did you get that?" and I say with a smile...

"I made it!"

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Avett Brothers

One of the few good things to come out of the miserable office job I used to work at was The Avett Brothers. A fellow co-worker of mine used to put on their albums on production day after every one else went home. As we stayed late into the night to put the newspaper together we would listen to this quirky band from North Carolina sing about longing, love and loss.

I am always reluctant to accept new music, so a new band has to make a really strong impression on me before I will admit I actually like it. The Avett Brothers had me at 'Shame.' Before long my co-worker, Katie, and I were asking to listen to these guys - then we were burning their disks - and now going to their concerts.

On a beautiful night in June, my wife and I met up with her niece and nephew and their significant others for a night of The Avett Brothers. The show was at the beautiful Hoyt Sherman Place in downtown Des Moines, IA. I had never been to the Hoyt before, but it was an amazing place to see a show; very turn-of-the-century, ornate and exquisite in design - perfect for an AB show.

I was thrilled to finally see my new 'favorite' band live and even helped support the cause by buying a couple of cds and a t-shirt. If you never heard of these guys... you will. Trust me - they are about to become internationally famous with their upcoming album, due in September. Which kind of makes me sad. I like to think I was there before they were stars, digging their folksy, blue-grass rock - positive that I would one day say: "I saw them live before they were famous!"

If you want to check them out, head over to:

You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One man's trash... another man's treasure. After a particularly windy day here in SE MN (they're almost all windy - but this one was windier than most) I spied some pink insulation board against a fence at the high school that had blown over from a nearby construction site.

People driving by must have thought it to be trash - and it wouldn't be long before it was picked up and put back in the dumpster. But holy crow these were big pieces! Just right for a bunch of new gravestones! Does it matter that it's mid June? Of course not - it's always Halloween time at our house.

So I pulled into the football field parking lot and grabbed three of the biggest pieces. I held onto them for quite a while until I had a weekend when my wife took the kids to grandma's house in Iowa. Then with two whole days at my disposal, I broke out the power tools and paint. As you can imagine, working on Halloween props in June can raise a few eyebrows - but any serious home haunter worth their salt will tell you that you almost have to start in June (or earlier) if you ever want to get anything accomplished in October!

The gravestone pictured above is the first one I worked on - dedicated to one of my all-time favorite actors: Peter Cushing. I also did one based on the Minnesota themed 'Kensington Rune Stone' and plan on doing the third - and biggest - as a new and improved headstone for Edgar Allan Poe.

This is the greatest part of haunting for me - doing things on a budget (ie: free) and turning trash into treasure. While everyone else driving by saw a bunch of garbage that needed to be taken to the landfill, I saw three new tombstones that will replace my lame store-bought ones that I never really liked. You don't always have to be thinking about Halloween to see the potential for new props in a bunch of junk... but it helps!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goodbye Vike

A sad day for me. One of my favorite paranormal investigators is calling it a career. I have followed the newsletters of Brian Vike and his HBCCUFO research since first learning about him back in 2003. His insightful interviews with eyewitnesses to UFOs and other strange things have been a steady diet of mine whenever online. Here is part of the statement he released on his website:

I have had a wonder time since mid 2000 meeting, talking on the telephone and writing to the thousands of eyewitnesses who were kind enough to share their experiences with me. Along this journey, I have made long lasting friends, not only with the witnesses, but so many in the media who were kind enough to have me on their radio programs and the countless newspapers who lent a hand in getting the stories out in hopes of finding more folks to a incident, or who directed their readers to my site.

I am leaving the UFO field for good, it is time for me to get back to all the things I enjoyed before getting involved with UFOs. The funny thing is I have spent so much time on this unusual topic I forgot I had another life. All I did was to place every waking hour into the UFO topic. So, time for family and many of the things I once did. Plus a big thing is to look after my health.

I have already set all of my "Report A UFO" links to Mr. John Hayes who operates a great UFO resource. John will be receiving all of the sighting reports that would have come into HBCC UFO Research. You can find UFOINFO at:

Thank you to everyone for your reports and kindness and also my deepest thanks to the folks who helped in supporting HBCC UFO Research. Take good care, Brian Vike - Director of HBCC UFO Research.

I wish you the best of luck, Brian. Here's hoping you get back to good health and that you're able to enjoy time with your family. Thanks for all you have done in this field - you will be sorely missed.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ghost Blasters

No trip to the Mall Of America is complete without a spin on the 'Ghost Blasters' ride. It is so cheesy (and incredibly expensive!) but my five-year-old loves it. Of course, it has since been replaced has her 'favorite ride' by the big rollercoaster, which she is finally tall enough to ride, but yesterday we had time to go on one ride and, to my surprise, she actually picked Ghost Blasters.

Over the loudspeaker runs a continuous harpsichord tune that is catchy at first, but after twenty-five minutes in line will drive you batty. Other than cleaning up the attraction and recalibrating the guns to make them 'aim' better, the ride has not changed at all over the years - it is one of only a few original rides still standing from the MOA's first themed amusement park: 'Camp Snoopy.'

I love the atmosphere of this ride and, while standing in line, enjoy imagining what I could do to improve it if given the chance (which is A LOT - remember, this is an extremely cheesy ride). Also while standing in line I amuse myself by feigning fear and protesting loudly that I'm too chicken to go on and need to find the exit. My daughter finds great delight in this, and the other patrons in line can only roll their eyes. We pick names for ourselves: my daughter is 'Esmerelda Copperpot,' and I go by the handle of 'Peter Cushing.' Together we are... The Ghost Blasters!

So we finally get in our cart and enter the doors. The room is pitch black, the only illumination being black lights which highlight the lame wood-cut ghosts that pop in and out. You shoot the targets and they moan and wail, all the while the cart tallies up your points (I finally topped 1,000 for the first time yesterday - but I think that has more to do with the recalibration than my aim).

Of course, no matter what I shoot, my daughter always seems to win. Naturally, I'm proud - after all, she is a chip off the old block - the ultimate Ghost Blaster!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trick 'R Treat

It's finally coming!

I have been looking forward to 'Trick 'R Treat' for a loooong time. It seems like years since it was first announced (and it probably has been years). Directed by Michael Dougherty and based on a short film of his called 'Season's Greetings,' this flick was originally scheduled to be released on October 5th of 2007 (as you can see on the poster). It was pushed back. Then it was pushed back again. After a couple of more reschedulings, it was finally dropped from Legendary Pictures itinerary completely, despite its rave reviews. Well, it seems that at long last we will finally get to see this movie... hopefully! Let's keep our fingers crossed that October of 2009 will finally be the release date - on DVD, not in theatres - of 'Trick 'R Treat!'

The trailer...

Friday, May 1, 2009

The May Day - Hallowe'en Connection

So today I said:

"Hey, kids - do you know what today is?"
They said: "What?"
I said: "May Day!"
They said: "What's May Day?"
I said: "Uhhhh..."

After a quick jaunt over to wikipedia, I finally learned that May Day actually has a connection with Halloween...

May Day is associated with the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half of a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and neopagan festivals such as Samhain. May Day marks the end of the uncomfortable winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations, regardless of the locally prevalent political or religious establishment.

May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Beltane and in latter times as Mary's day, bonfires are lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter.

It's also my dad's birthday - Happy Birthday, Pop!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More Hallowgoodness

Another permanent display of All Hallow's Eve in our home - this time in our daughter's bedroom. She is our Halloween baby (and the reason for our annual party and yard display). We keep this stuff up year-round and add to it from time to time - it's kind of become just another part of the house - we hardly notice it anymore. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm kind of surprised my wife lets me keep this up...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Out - out are the lights - out all!

At 8:30 p.m. tonight, why not light a few candles and switch off all the lights? Not only will it give you a great opportunity to tell some spooky stories in the dark, but it will help reduce your carbon footprint.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Everything tastes better out of a pumpkin. I was thinking how difficult it is to find anything Halloweenish in Minnesota in late March, when it occurred to me that upon closer inspection I have a plethora of Halloween-related gewgaws around the house. These macabre items are such fixtures in our home that I seldom think about them or consider them to be October fare.

Above are a few coffee cups we've picked up over the years. Front and center is my favorite - a jack-o-lantern mug I bought on clearance at Target (75% off!) a few weeks after Halloween. My mom has a similar one at her place that I've always coveted (and still do...) and I'm always quick to pull that one out of the cupboard and fill with whatever is on hand. The irony is this: I don't drink coffee. I typically fill my cup with Ganoderma, an instant coffee beverage made from ganoderma mushrooms and coffee beans. As I am highly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, I opt for ganno, which has all the buzz of coffee without the cranium splitting side-effects.

For info check out:

I'll have to look around and see what other Halloween thingymabobs we have around the place. If nothing else, this early-spring exercise in boredom gives me good practice at low-level lighting photography...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hallow Goodies

In my last post I alluded to the absurd amount of Halloween bric-a-brac that we have been accumulating since November 1st of last year. Today I decided to brave my way into the cramped confines of our crawlspace to show just a small sampling of the Halloween goodies we have building up in there. Behind me - what you can't see behind the Wizard's curtain - are about seven or eight full-sized Rubbermaids filled to capacity with the exactly one-half of our Hallow-gear (the other half is stored in our garage...)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sick Again

So I'm sick again. This makes five colds since Thanksgiving - although I'm starting to think this has all been one long cold and the short intervals of wellness are just a part of it. Meanwhile, I have been eating more fruit in the last week than I have eaten all of last year: tangelos, bananas, apples, grapes, oranges... and washing it all down with orange juice or apple juice. Thank God that spring is only about three weeks away! The temp today is supposed to be near 40 (and 47 tomorrow!) so hopefully I can get some sunshine and finally kick this thing.

The writing is going really well (although I have found it hard to get motivated when you're not feeling 100%). Yesterday I was laying in bed feeling miserable, deciding I wasn't going to write for the day. When out of the blue I had a sudden inspiration and bolted out of bed. I hopped on the computer and hammered out one of those chapters that makes you pump your fists in the air and say "Yessssss!" when you're done. It was a really good feeling and just what I needed when the temptation to not write reared its ugly head.

As for Halloween - I recently ventured into our crawlspace to find a can of paint and was amazed at the treasure trove of Halloween goodies I found. It's amazing at how much spooky stuff we pick up through out the year - bargains, discounts, clearance items, gifts, etc. I don't want to drag out the Halloween bins to put this stuff away so I've been piling it in the crawlspace for the time being. All Saints Day (the day after Halloween) was a banner day for us - we picked up a ton of new decorations at half price at Target and other places - so we have a lot of brand spanking new things to look at when September rolls around!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blog On!

I'm back. We ended up using some tax return cash to get a new laptop. It wasn't the MacBook Pro I had my eye on (we settled for a cheap Toshiba to get us by for now) but it's a computer. Anyway - I will have to start getting more creative now on my excuses for not writing here. In the dead of winter it's hard to get inspired for Halloween, but I have had an idea or two lately that I think might turn into something interesting come October. I have been writing steadily every day (minus the weekends) for about an hour and a half a day, and have only now come across my first real block. I'm hoping I can work through this plot roadblock and get back on the road. We shall see...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Go Figure.

Just when I get into the groove of blogging again, my laptop goes up in smoke. The bulb in the monitor fizzled out, which apparently costs just as much as a new laptop to replace. So we're in the market right now, but have not found anything we can agree on. In the meantime, I'm using a crummy old computer down in the dungeons to type this, which explains my lack of posts lately. Yeah, yeah, yeah... there's always a reason for not writing. In the meantime, work progresses nicely on my writing projects (dig the irony?) - Halloween planning is in full swing - and spring is right around the corner... isn't it?*

[*editor's note: No, it isn't.]

Saturday, January 31, 2009

All The Night Tide...

This is creepy but cool. Such a beautiful poem - I never get tired of listening to it...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Turn The Page

2009 has thus far proved to be an exceptionally singular year. I don't know what lies ahead for me, but it's certain to be interesting. A new president, new horizons, new goals... it feels like a page has been turned.

Meanwhile, I met with an incredibly talented artist today to discuss illustrations for an upcoming collaboration. I am extremely excited about this project and think it has the potential to open a lot of doors for both of us. The best part is - I finally get to write what I want (whether anyone actually wants to read it is a different story...)

I know much of this post is vague, but have faith - there will be more forthcoming information in the near future. Stay tuned, stay seated, keep your hands inside the ride at all times, and enjoy your day!

P.S. Planning has started for Halloween 2009. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy 200th Birthday!


A toast to the greatest American writer and poet - and one of my all-time heroes - Edgar Allan Poe! Poe is probably America's most misunderstood writer. Much of what people know of Poe is based on a dastardly, hateful 'memoir' of Poe written by his arch-enemy - Rufus W. Griswold. If you have a moment, why not look more deeply into the life of Edgar Poe? You might see that there was much more to his genius than the last few, troubled years of his life.

Mysterious Poe 'toaster' returns to writer's grave

The Associated Press
8:33 AM EST, January 19, 2009

BALTIMORE - To mark the 200th anniversary of writer Edgar Allan Poe's birth, a mysterious visitor again placed three red roses and a half-filled bottle of cognac at Poe's grave in Baltimore before quietly slipping away.

The curator of the Poe House and Museum, Jeff Jerome, said about 50 people waited outside the cemetery of Westminster Presbyterian Church, hoping to catch a glimpse Monday of the elusive man known as the "Poe toaster." The man returns each year in the early morning darkness on Poe's birthday.

Jerome says the visitor did not leave any note, not even to comment on the milestone anniversary. He adds the crowd was smaller than he expected and was better behaved than the rowdy groups that have attended the vigil in recent years.

The happiest day—the happiest hour
Mine eyes shall see—have ever seen,
The brightest glance of pride and power,
I feel—have been...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Movin' Right Along!

As the old Muppet song goes, I'm movin' right along! My beleaguered immune system has finally conquered this (hopefully) final cold, and everything is coming up roses. The last of the flu bugs, cold bugs, and icky, sicky, crap-o-la bugs are behind us - and now we can start concentrating on bigger and better things.

My long-put-off project is now starting to take shape, and I'm happy to say that the children's book I've been planning for more time than I care to admit is finally moving ahead at full force. I have enlisted the aid of an incredibly talented artist, and together we hope to offer something unique for children and adults alike. More on that as it develops - there will probably be a link on my website when the time comes.

In other news... the high today in Minnesota was -8. The low today in Minnesota was -28. Holy smokes land sakes alive ya just gotta love the Northstar State! In a hats-off to our Midwestern brethren, I recognize that Iowa, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and more were just as cold (or colder) but the lucky bastages in Missour-a had 15 balmy degrees!

Anyway - as a wise person I happen to know frequently says: "Be good, enjoy life, and keep dancing!" for Spring is surely just around the corner.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jar Jar Stinks

For those who had their childhood memories crapped on by George Lucas (whether it be by the abysmal Phantom Menace, the equally bad Attack of the Clones, or the absolute travesty 'The Clone Wars') this video will make perfect sense...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Are you kidding me?

Sick again? So what's the deal with my immune system lately? I have basically had a cold and/or the flu since Thanksgiving, and am now battling my third ferocious cold. To say I have been miserable is an understatement. Add on top of that a winter from Hell here in frosty Minnesota (and we're only just into January!) and I have been one pathetic human being.

Well, at least the holidays are over and all of the hustle and bustle that accompanies it. I enjoyed tremendously the time spent with my family and got some really cool gifts to boot - the best being a reproduction of Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem 'The Raven' in his handwriting on parchment. I begged and pleaded Santa for this gift, and the jolly old elf actually came through! I also picked up the books 'The Unknown Poe' by Raymond Foye, 'The Tales of Beedle The Bard' by J.K. Rowling, and 'Just After Sunset' by Stephen King (for which a review is forthcoming).

All in all, it was a decent Christmas considering everyone and their dog was sick. However, I must admit I'm glad to be home - and can now start focusing my attentions on my top secret project, as well as blue-prints for the upcoming haunting season. Stay tuned for more updates!