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Category Archives: Halloween

Herkimer Ghosts

I love ghost stories any time of year, but I find they are easiest to come by at Halloween. Last week on Oct. 30, Steven and I heard not one but four ghost stories, one each at Herkimer NY’s Historic Four Corners.

The event, sponsored by Herkimer Now, began at 6:30.m. We put Tabby on the leash and walked from our house. It had been raining earlier in the day and was still misting a little as we set out. Tabby seemed OK with it (she usually doesn’t like to be rained on), so we persevered. We could see a small crowd gathered around the courthouse steps as we approached. A lady dressed in an old-fashioned dress with a hoop skirt and a shawl stood on the steps.

I thought she looked familiar. When she greeted Tabby as Super Dog, I remembered her from the first Superhero Sprint. It was Tina Cirelli, a member of Herkimer Now. I also remembered her from the Main Street Walks that Herkimer Now sponsored last year.

Kathy Penree welcomed everyone and introduced the first storyteller, the ghost of Grace Brown. I think most people in the area have heard of Grace Brown. She was murdered by her boyfriend, Chester Gilette, who was tried in the courtroom on whose steps the ghost now stood. At least, she assured us she was a ghost. I must say she looked pretty good for someone who had been conked on the head, drowned and been dead for over a hundred years.

Herkimer Now had said on their Facebook page that the stories were not meant to be historically accurate but were for entertainment purposes. The Ghost of Grace Brown was certainly entertaining. I always pictured Grace Brown as a quieter, more self-effacing person. That would have made a boring story. This was fun, and she pretty much got the facts of the case right.

Next we all walked across the street to the 1834 Jail where Jim Greiner told us the story of a serial killer from the 1920s. Jim Greiner, as you may remember, wrote a book about Roxalana Druse, who killed her husband and was subsequently hanged at the very jail we stood in front of. I’ve heard Jim speak before and taken tours of the jail led by him. He is a dynamic speaker.

I confess I missed part of the story, because Tabby was pulling quite insistently on her leash. I thought she might have to poop, so we moved a discreet distance away. As we went I recognized the police officer who was standing nearby as one of my new friends from Coffee and Conversation with a Cop. We said a quiet hello.

I was sorry to have missed any part of Jim’s story. Perhaps I’ll get another chance to hear him tell it, or maybe he’ll write a book about it then give a talk about the book at the Herkimer County Historical Society. but I digress.

Next we went to the Herkimer Reformed Church, which is surrounded by an intriguing-looking graveyard. Kaylynn Iglesias from Ilion told the story of the Weeping Widow of Herkimer, which she said she had first heard as a little girl. We’ve seen Kaylynn in a few plays at Ilion Little Theatre. She is a talented actress and an excellent storyteller. By the end of the story many of us were making plans to walk by the cemetery Halloween night and listen for the ghost.

Anthony Brindisi, mayor of Herkimer, awaited us in front of the Historical Society for the final tale of the evening. He told us how the Suiter Building, as it is called, was built by Dr. A. Walter Suiter, who acted as medical examiner for some of Herkimer’s prominent murder trials.

The mayor led us down Court Street where we could see the back of the building. Some archaeologists had been digging back there, he told us, but they had mysteriously disappeared. He was going on to say nobody knew why they had left and he hoped they came back, when a few of the kids in the crowd exclaimed that they saw somebody.

“What? Who?” the mayor asked.

“That guy!”

Then we all heard a very scary noise. I never saw anybody (or any THING!), but others did. I think one lady got a picture. I hope she posts it on Herkimer Now’s Facebook page.

Steven and I were so happy we had walked down for the program. It was great fun. I sought out Kathy Penree and told her I would love to be one of the storytellers next year. Steven could do it with me. Maybe we could be Roxalana Druse and her murdered husband.

Herkimer Now, who sponsored the event, is an organization whose aim is to revitalize Herkimer, beginning with Main Street. In addition to the storytelling, they sponsored trick or treating on Main Street and a party at the VFW on Halloween night. They also have plans for Christmas. To keep informed on future events, visit their website, www.herkimernow.org, and Like their Facebook page.

Looking for Halloween

Now I’ve done it. I used up both movies we watched on Saturday for my Monday post, and now I’ve got nothing for Tuesday.

In my defense, Saturday’s movies really felt like a double feature. That, coupled with my inability to recall the plot of one or the title of the other, made combining them for one post seem like a natural. What I failed to take into account was, I get tired by the end of the day on Monday. I did not have the energy to have a Mohawk Valley adventure for Tuesday’s post.

So I sat at work today, cursing my fate. Previously in these situations I have gone for a run after work and written about the run. Was it time to ease my way back into running? My back suggested not. Then I remembered that Steven would be home when I got there. We could take a walk with Tabby, admiring various Halloween decorations around the neighborhood, and I could write about that.

I had some coffee first. A wise woman told me you can’t rush into these things (it was my mother). Tabby was very excited when she saw me putting on my sneakers. I let her run around the back yard barking her excitement while Steven smoked a cigarette (I know, an unhealthy act to precede a healthy one; you tell him). Finally we set out.

We walked up toward German Street, then turned left toward Caroline. Tabby was not best pleased with this. For some reason she always wants to go right onto German. Tabby has such a sweet disposition, though, she graciously agreed to the change in plans.

I specifically remembered seeing some cool decorations on Caroline when I was running (it wasn’t really that long ago, but it feels like it). At first, though, all we saw were a few beautiful trees, one bright yellow, a couple orange and red. I saw some all-season lawn ornaments and said if I had those I would at least cover them in cobwebs. Maybe a vampire cloak for the lawn jockey.

In the next block we saw the house with the lumpy cobwebs and the gravestone in the front lawn that I remembered from my run. I pointed out to Steven how the bunched up spots really looked OK. He had found a bag of the stuff in our attic. I must see what I can do with it later.

We saw a number of pumpkins on various porches. Steven had purchased a little one at the Mohawk Farmer’s Market last week. I said we needed a bigger one, to have lots of pumpkin seeds to roast. Steven said we should get a really big one and put the little one in its mouth, like some pictures he’s seen on the internet (Steven has a major collection of Halloween pictures on his Facebook page).

Twice Tabby wanted to head towards home and we convinced her to go another block. At last we turned back toward our street. She was happy about that, although she couldn’t have been too anxious to get home judging from the number of trees and posts she wanted to sniff.

It was not a long walk, but it was very pleasant. And it made my back feel better. Note to self: walk more. And look for a Mohawk Valley adventure to blog about tomorrow. Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Halloween for Thanksgiving?

Some people say we should make the spirit of Christmas last all year. I like to make the spirit of Halloween last all year. Last night, I had a couple of Halloween-y experiences I’d like to share.

I gave my schnoodle, Tabby, a bath, because we’re going on a visit for Thanksgiving. Of course, that was more scary for her than for me, but she survived and even forgave me. The point was, I could not just let her run in the muddy backyard to take care of business. I had to put her on the leash and make her stay pretty much on the sidewalk. She’s a good dog and pretty much complied.

I don’t mind walking in the dark. I strolled down the street, looking forward to the Christmas lights we’ll see in the coming weeks. Soon Tabby was ready to head home.

When Steven took down our Halloween decorations, he left out a couple of scarecrows as being appropriate for Thanksgiving. One is rather large. Steve stuck his post into the ground in front of the porch, propping it with some large rocks and letting Scarecrow lean back on the brick pillar. Well, Scarecrow had leaned forward. There are no streetlights right near my house. It’s a little dark. All I saw was an almost person-sized figure lurking near my front porch. Eek!

My alarm was short lived. Then I merely admired the eerie quality of the crazily leaning decoration. As we walked up the driveway (we always go in the back door), I had my second fright when I heard a deep male voice coming from inside my house. Eek!

Had I left the television on? No, I hadn’t turned the television on! The voice sounded calm… and familiar… Oh. It was the answer machine, coincidentally located near the window we were passing under. I’m so silly!

It was actually a pretty enjoyable fright. But I would be glad when Steven got home. After all, you only scare yourself when you’re alone, right?

Later on, after Steven was home and it was getting closer to bedtime, I thought I’d take Tabby out for her last business meeting of the day.

It was cloudy out. I know the moon has been very bright these last few days, and I thought I saw it glowing through the clouds. Wait! It moved! Was that my eyes playing tricks on me? Damn bifocals! No, an amorphous blob of light was moving back and forth. Steven had to see this. I went to the front door and knocked (I mentioned we rarely use the front door, right?). I had to knock twice and Tabby had to bark, but we got Steven’s attention. He came out on the porch and was equally impressed by the ghostly glow.

As we observed it, we saw its movements were fairly regular, and you could almost, sort of see that the light continued groundward. It must have been a beacon, we thought. It was still mysterious, because we don’t know of any beacons in the area. And it added a fillip of interest to my walk, thinking it just might be something else.

So those were my Halloween adventures the night before Thanksgiving. I can’t wait to see what happens at Christmas!

Breakfast and a Movie

I begin this post with a plug for a local business which I have plugged before, Philly’s Breakfast House, 309 S. Caroline St., Herkimer.

Steven and I both had to work on Saturday, but our schedules were such that we were at least able to go out to breakfast together. Philly’s is a real hometown diner: friendly atmosphere, prompt service, good food. I had a Phils-a-wich — egg, cheese and sausage on a hard roll. Steven had eggs over medium with bacon and sourdough toast. It made my shift at work a little easier to get through.

Fast forward to early evening. I had a couple hours till Steven was expected home, so I decided to continue my extended Halloween by viewing a movie Steven is not overly fond of: Carnival of Souls.

The reason we even have the movie is that it is part of a two DVD set we purchased because it included The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. That is a movie we discovered back in the olden days when we were renting movies for our first VCR. I do love a cheesy horror movie (although I hate cheesy reenactments on crime shows, and I have no claims to being a Great Cheese Lady).

Carnival of Souls is a black and white low budget flick from 1962. I wouldn’t call it cheesy, although I suppose it has its moments. What it has in spades is atmosphere. It is weird and creepy.

The movie begins rather scarily with a drag race gone wrong. A car full of young girls plunges off a bridge. After hope of even finding the car “with this current and all this sand” (they mention the current and sand more than once) is fading, a lone survivor totters out of the water.

It seems she plays the kind of huge pipe organ you sometimes find in churches. Rather than take time to recover from her traumatic experience, our heroine drives through the night (with one scary little interlude) to her new job playing the organ at a church.

To her it is just a job, although her mentor at the organ factory warns her that she must put her soul into the music. When she tries the organ at the church, the minister says he believes he has hired an organist that will stir his congregation’s souls. Just so we don’t forget the title of the movie, I guess.

The movie makes copious use of organ music in maintaining the mood of weirdness and doom. I think my television needs a better sound system, because I kept upping the volume for the dialogue and lowering it during the musical interludes.

Soon strange things are happening to our heroine, ranging from the unsettling — as when suddenly nobody can see or hear her — to the frightening — when she keeps seeing this strange man. He looks a little like Bill Murray in Goth make up. I wouldn’t want to meet up with him. Things get more confusing — for her and for us — as the movie wends toward its creepy conclusion. Naturally I won’t tell you anything about that.

I’ve heard that the movie has something of a cult following. That could be. I admire its unsettling quality, and how they are able to do a lot with a little to create mood. It unsettled me. When it was over, I looked for an episode of “World’s Dumbest” to cleanse my mental palate.

An Invisible Friday

I mentioned a few days ago that I intended to extend my Halloween by viewing scary movies into November. Friday night TCM helped me out by screening The Invisible Man.

We had planned a real Mohawk Valley evening. Herkimer County Community College was hosting a screening of A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Moose Lake, a documentary about the murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette in 1906. Gillette, as you may know, was held in Herkimer’s 1834 Jail while he was tried in the Herkimer County Courthouse. Unfortunately, the screening was sold out. We were not the only ones disappointed. A man there told us there might be an additional screening. We’ll watch for it.

So we returned home, much to our dog’s delight, and looked for something to do. Steven discovered the 1933 movie starring Claude Rains on TCM at eight.

We adore Claude Rains. I hadn’t known that The Invisible Man was his American movie debut. It made him a star, which is pretty impressive when you don’t even see him for most of the movie.

Una O’Connor is in the movie as well. She is one of our favorite character actors. She has a small part in The Bride of Frankenstein, which had the same director. In that movie she gets to make extremely frightened faces then scream her head off. In The Invisible Man she has a slightly larger role, but still gets plenty of scream time.

The movie is directed by James Whale. I feel I know a lot about James Whale, because he was the subject of an episode of Mysteries and Scandals on E! which I saw several times. Also, we have the movie Of Gods and Monsters, which is based on a fictional imagining of Whale’s last days. I’d like to read a reputable biography of the man, but have not come across one yet. He was an excellent director, particularly of horror movies.

The movie is fast moving and scary. It was fascinating to me to be frightened by a monster movie in which the monster consists of objects moved by unseen hands or a guy with his face completely covered in bandages. I think a lot of the scariness comes from Claude Rains’ voice, especially his maniacal laughter as he revels in his evil power. Also unsettling is the idea of fighting a foe you can’t see.

I was really glad Steven noticed the movie was on. If you can’t see a documentary about a local murder, I guess the next best thing is an old monster movie.

Post Halloween Run

This post is about running and about Halloween. What, you think just because it’s November I’m done talking about Halloween? Who do you think you’re dealing with? Goodness, how long did I talk about the DARE 5K after it was run (as you see, I’m still talking about it)?

Having re-started my habit of running on Sunday and Monday, Tuesday I felt pretty damn awful. I started getting sick Monday after trick or treating. I thought at first it was too much chocolate on an empty stomach. Then I thought it might be a virus or something. After all, the too much chocolate thing is usually curable with herbal tea and real food. No such luck. The tea didn’t help, and I couldn’t even look at the food.

So Tuesday, in addition to my post-Halloween let-down, I was dreadfully sick to my stomach. Then my legs started in. That hasn’t happened to me in years! They ached, they throbbed. They begged to be stretched. They begged to be still. They begged to move around. They were never happy. I was never happy. I muddled through work, then went home and took a bath with Epson Salts. Aaahhh…. Was this due to my run? Nevertheless, I was undaunted.

The next day my stomach felt much better, but I had a raging sinus headache. I was beginning to feel my troubles were a little comical. As Gilda Radner famously said, it’s always somethin’ (I know, it was her character on Saturday Night Live that said it, but I know how to spell Gilda Radner). I dealt with the headache by concentrating on the sheer relief of NOT feeling nauseous. I was determined to go running.

It was the gorgeous day we wished we had for Halloween. In fact, the bright sun was right in my eyes part of the time. I was pleased to see many Halloween decorations still out. Ours still are (in fact ours will probably remain till Monday, because Steven is down with a cold and I’m on overtime). One especially elaborate house near Weller Park was down. Alas! I tried not to take it personally. Another good house on Church Street still had all its stuff out. I especially liked the skellington that looked as if it was coming up out of the ground.

I felt that my run was enhanced by seeing Halloween decorations. It makes me feel better to think that my favorite holiday will come all over again next year. In the meantime, I remembered that there are several Halloween movies in my collection that we have not viewed this season. Maybe I can make my Halloween last till Thanksgiving.

And my run was a success. It felt good at the time, and my legs ached less the next day. I am looking forward to future runs. I suppose soon I’ll be seeing Christmas decorations.

Trick or Treat!

It’s no secret that Steven and I love Halloween. One of the highlights of my year is to stand on my front porch October 31 with my husband and my dog, and greet the trick or treaters. Last night that is just what I did. Of course you knew I was going to write a blog post about it.

Trick or treating in Herkimer was scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. I thought I would have just enough time after work to go running, take a shower and just possibly make my blog post.

When I returned from my run, I saw that Steven had added to our outside decorations. Boney, our blow up skellington, was poised between the two trash cans (Tuesday is garbage day). Our new ghoul, a six foot tall Grim Reaper was on the porch. We purchased the Reaper recently at a garage sale for a very good price. His eyes and lamp light up, his head turns, and he says creepy things, punctuated by groans or laughter. Eerie laughter, of course. He is light or sound activated. We spent a good portion of the evening stomping on the porch.

As usual I overestimated myself, so the blog post did not get done till later. I was searching for some warm clothes. We often dress in costumes for the trick or treaters, but this year we did not have our act together. Steven wore his green gardening gloves, which look a little oogie. We put Tabby’s hot dog costume on her. She is surprisingly good natured about keeping that hot dog on. We were ready and waiting for the crowd!

And we waited. And we waited. What a slow start! It doesn’t help that they moved the silly time change to a week later, so we were in broad daylight. Who wants to go trick or treating in the daylight? I remember in the olden days, when I was a little girl. The city didn’t dictate when trick or treating began and ended, and we always went out after dark. It was exciting. We especially liked the houses that had light up doorbells.

At last the kids started coming. Once again, I admired and envied the costumes. I remember when I was a kid, store bought costumes were so dumb. You’d have a plastic mask that pretty much looked like the character, whatever it was, and a polyester jump suit with a picture of the character on the chest. I remember thinking they were extremely ridiculous. Caspar the Friendly Ghost (for example) doesn’t go around with a picture of himself on his chest! (Not that I would ever have been Caspar; I thought he was kind of dumb too.) Costumes today are awesome! Still, I love the homemade ones best. One kid was a playing card. He had a joker hat on and a cardboard front and back. His mother said, “That’s what he wanted to be! I just take requests!” Awesome mom. Another memorable costume was a kid with ripped clothes and blood on his face. So simple, yet so profound.

A number of dogs were out, some in costume. Tabby took exception to a couple of them, but we had her on the leash and nothing untoward happened. I’ve read that it is best to shut your dogs up in a separate room during trick or treating. They might be frightened of the strange costumes. For one thing, Tabby’s feeling would be very hurt if we did something so fun on the front porch and shut her up inside. For another thing, she LOVED seeing all those people in costumes. Many people complimented her on her hot dog, and many petted her. She had as good a time as we did.

Fun as it was, I was not sorry to see seven o’clock roll around. It was cold, and I didn’t even have oogie gardening gloves on. We went inside to find the cheesey Mummy’s Curse from 1964 on TCM. We gave candy to a few stragglers, and started making plans for Halloween 2012.

A Halloween Poem

Today’s post is a poem I wrote which may very well have happened in the Mohawk Valley.

The Purple Broom

The witch flew on the purple broom
High above the trees.
She like to loop, she like to zoom,
Wherever she might please.

As she flew, she chanced to meet
A monster with one eye.
He tried to kick her with his feet,
But Witchy flew too high.

And then she met a Frankenstein
Walking through the wood.
Frankie said, “I’m feeling fine,
And hope that you are good.”

The witch flew on, it was such fun.
And soon she met a zombie.
He was quite the well-dressed one
In Fitch and Ambercrombie.

And on she flew into the night.
She saw a werewolf prowling.
The witch said, “Boo!” Try as she might,
She could not get him howling.

A skeleton waved from the street.
His fingers were all bloody.
“Come down!” he said. “I’d like to meet!
And I could be your buddy!”

A wizard with a cauldron black
Was stirring up his potion.
“I need a broom! Come back!” he said.
But Witchy stayed in motion.

Past ghosts and ghouls and everyone,
And as the night drew on,
The purple broom was fast and fun,
And so the witch flew on.

Haunted Walk

In the spirit (so to speak) of making another haunted post during Halloween week, I decided to walk my schnoodle, Tabby, past a couple of buildings in Herkimer which I had read might possibly harbor ghosts.

I was a little flustered when we started out, because I had many things to do that evening and was approximately halfway through them. But I needed a blog post for Wednesday (today), and it is too early in the week to go lame (so to speak) (for new or sometime readers: that is a reference to Lame Post Fridays).

We headed to the Historic Four Corners, which holds the 1834 Jail and the Herkimer County Courthouse, both of which are reputed to be haunted. I thought I might also stroll by the other two corners, the Herkimer Reformed Church and the County Historic Society, just in case.

The Reformed Church seemed like a good bet, with the graveyard and all. Tabby was more interested in sniffing a handy patch of marigolds outside the yard. I started to pull her along, then I noticed a sign in front of the church that said, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s one of my favorite Bible quotes, and it was so apropos for the moment. I stood still till Tabby had finished her sniff.

I saw a light on in the church, so I did not walk into the graveyard after all. I did not want to be caught creeping around gravestones looking for spooks by people doing church business.

We crossed the street and walked up the steps to the door of the 1834 Jail. I felt somebody watching me and waiting for them to ask me what I thought I was doing there. I was all ready to say, “Just checking if there was a ghost,” but nobody asked. Then when I looked, nobody was there. It was not until later that I realized the significance of that. I felt somebody watching me, but nobody was there. Hmmmm… Only,do ghosts go out onto the sidewalk in front of buildings they haunt? I suppose it would depend on the ghost.

We walked across Main Street to the courthouse, which is still in use for the purpose for which it was built. When we got to the top of the steps, I saw a couple of current notices taped to the door. Very prosaic. We walked back down the steps in time to greet a very cute little dog walking with his person. Tabby was less than thrilled when he wanted to sniff her butt. They all do.

I started to walk up the sidewalk next to the courthouse. It bordered a parking lot so did not look like any place I was not supposed to be. I did not notice anything unusual, but Tabby pulled me very insistently back to the Main Street sidewalk. She was not at all interested in checking out the Historic Society but kept pulling in the direction of home. I could not help wondering if she saw something I did not. In any case, I figured she had been nice enough to accompany me two places ghost hunting, I would let her decide where the rest of the walk took us. She took us straight home. I only made her wait for traffic when we crossed a couple of streets.

We passed one pedestrian on our own street. Tabby barked a little angrily at his ankles as we crossed paths, which is unusual for her.

“What’s that all about?” I asked her. The odor of tobacco drifted back to me, so I wondered if Tabby had taken exception to his cigar. Then I remembered that some ghosts announce themselves with a scent such as tobacco. Maybe that guy was a particularly solid looking ghost. Dogs are supposed to know these things. Unfortunately, there was nobody else around to ask if I was the only one who had seen him. That would have been another sign.

I suppose now I’m being silly. Or else really reaching to invest my little expedition with haunted excitement. Oh well, how else am I supposed to get a Halloween blog post out of a twenty minute walk?

Haunted Castle?

I haven’t written much about haunted things this Halloween season, and I’m not sure if this is an actual haunting, but I found it of interest.

Recently I was at Beardslee Castle with a group of friends which included my sister Cheryl. We had lunch in the basement, or dungeon as some in our group called it. The next day Cheryl called me.

“Did you see the guy wearing an old fashioned captain’s uniform?” she asked.

“No, I didn’t see anyone like that.”

“I’m the only one who saw him!” Out of eight of us. “I didn’t speak to him, because he didn’t look very happy to be there.”

The not looking happy to be there part caught my attention. Usually if you’re in a cool setting wearing a cool costume, you’re happy to be there. For example, at Home Fries with the Historical Society, the gentleman dressed at General Herkimer was strolling around, chatting people up, and he looked quite contented.

“If Steve or I had seen him, we’d have said something to him,” I said. “You know, about the costume.” Theatre people would.

I suspected, of course, that she was making it up, just to freak me out.

“Why would I do that?” she asked.

“Because I’ll believe you,” I said. “And then you can laugh at me.”

“That’s what I thought you guys were doing to me,” she said. “Everybody pretending I was the only one that saw him.”

We had not so conspired, but I was a little disappointed nobody had thought of it. It would have been a great Halloween prank.

“Well, we’re totally going back there,” I said.

Cheryl agreed. I’m thinking maybe on a night when there’s a full moon. I’ll report back.