January 30, 2009
When planning a trip to an unfamiliar city, one of the first things I do is find a local ghost walk. I enjoy listening to "true" ghost stories and legends, especially when I can stand at or near the place where the story originated. Walk in the footsteps of the ghosts (when ghosts are kind enough to leave footprints).
Fortunately, one of my favourite places to hear ghost stories is conveniently close to home. Within the stone walls of an old military fort on a hill that rises up out of the centre of Halifax. Bleak, damp, windowless rooms; narrow, crumbling tunnels; high stone walls; a long and harsh, often cruel, military history. The Citadel is a haven for restless spirits. And a lantern-lit walk inside its walls on a dark and cold October evening has become a Halloween tradition.
One of my favourite stories dates back to the mid-1800's when the Citadel was home to the British regiment, the 78th Highlanders. The story goes that a fire broke out in one of the fort's barracks and soldiers hurried to the wells for water to extinguish it. In the aftermath, a roll-call was conducted and one soldier was discovered to be missing. Not surprising. It was believed that he had used the chaos of the fire to his advantage and deserted. He was probably stowing away aboard a ship in the harbour at that moment. Time passed. Soon there were suggestions that the well, from which the fort obtained its drinking water, should be inspected and perhaps, cleaned. Apparently, the water tasted a little . . . odd. And it was then that the body of the missing soldier was found. What remained of him was pulled from the well, recognizable only by the remnants of his uniform. Did he accidentally fall in during the rush to put out the fire? Or was he deliberately pushed? He wasn't talking. But through the years since, Citadel guards have witnessed the lonely figure of a soldier in the uniform of the 78th Highlanders. He walks quietly back and forth . . . back and forth . . . along the ramparts above Casement 18. The location of the long-abandoned well.
January 28, 2009
January 27, 2009
January 26, 2009
Much of Maryanne Piro's whimsical Halloween art involves witches, with the occasional jack-o-lantern making an appearance. I was able to spend some time meeting and talking with the artist herself. And of course, I bought a few favourite prints, which I finally got around to framing this week.
January 23, 2009
Some were . . . just not quite what I had in mind . . .
And some just might work . . .
January 21, 2009
January 20, 2009
So where am I in this photograph? Am I the brightly attired, deceptively cheerful, evil clown? No. Perhaps then I am one of the menacing trio in black? Nope. No, I am none other than Sylvester the cat, standing incongruously in the midst of this sinister-looking Halloween group.
January 17, 2009
Well . . . in honour of its return, I am exploring the process involved in creating a Cylon jack-o-lantern. I knew I had seen one of these somewhere before and tracked it down at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. The entire process is conveniently outlined on the website.
It looked simple enough. It's just a pumpkin after all. Sharpie markers, pumpkin carving knives, zesters, tweezers . . . all of which I feel I could confidently handle. I even got past the early discussion of integrated circuits because they were introduced in such a friendly, non-threatening way. When I reached the section entitled Electronics, however, I felt the first wave of concern flood over me. And by the time I got to the phrase, "CD4017 decimal counter chip", my eyes had begun to glaze over. Needless to say, I didn't even make it to the wiring diagrams. A clever idea, certainly, but far, far, far beyond my abilities.
No, if I ever decide to bring some Battlestar Galactica into my Halloween celebrations (which, being a Halloween traditionalist, I likely never will), it would have to be a decidedly lower-tech approach. Maybe I could carve a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, put my hand inside, and slowly move a red light back and forth . . . back and forth. It could work. In the meantime, I'm content to admire the talent of others.
January 15, 2009
Then, a few years ago, the Halloween stars aligned. I moved into a house with a great front porch, and my children were finally old enough to embrace the creepier side of Halloween (with the possible exception of spiders). It was time.
I started small, and as usual, tried to make something for (almost) nothing. Old costumes were called into action and the backyard shed was emptied of flowerpots, boards and various remnants left behind by the previous owners. But it wasn't enough. I needed more to work with. And then . . . good luck shone down upon me. In September, our region was hit by a Category 2 hurricane.
Among the casualties was a large spruce tree that had dominated our backyard. Down it came and its trunk was carved into stumps. Stumps that simply begged to find new purpose as the bodies of the witches I had been attemping to construct. They were perfect. And they had literally dropped in front of me. A few old cloaks and masks, and the porch witches were born.
The haunt eventually grew off the porch and into the front yard and began to include more polished, more elaborate, and yes, better props. Still, the venerable old witches remained. Inevitably, comments like "Great witch!" gave way to "Oh yeah, those witches are there every year." It was becoming clear that the witches' glory days had faded and perhaps it was time for them to move on. While I certainly appreciate the importance of tradition, sometimes you just need to let go.
And so it is with mixed emotions that I send the porch witches off into a forced retirement, the first victims of my plan to build this year's haunt around a unifying theme (obviously not witches) and to introduce some fresh blood, figuratively of course. Retirement, however, need not be a permanent state. One day, in the grand tradition of Cher and Celine Dion, the porch witches may indeed return for a comeback performance.
January 12, 2009
But today I had the luxury of indulging myself and, being a huge fan of the original series, I turned to the healing power of Star Trek. I own all of the seasons on DVD, which means I am not at the whim of whatever reruns the networks choose for my viewing pleasure. So, blanket in hand, I settled back on the couch with a hot cup of tea and put in Catspaw.
January 10, 2009
January 8, 2009
January 6, 2009
January 3, 2009
January 1, 2009
So, with pen in hand . . . or with keyboard in front of me. Whatever. Here are my Halloween Resolutions for 2009 . . .
1] Create indoor props. In recent years I've spent my Halloween time and energy on outdoor props, beginning with my front porch and expanding into my yard. Meanwhile, my indoor decorations have consisted of a small (but growing) collection of candle holders and some tattered cheesecloth curtains. Pathetic. Soooo . . . this year I resolve to create more indoor props. Don't know what or how many yet. This is a resolution after all, not a strategic plan. That comes later. But if I can make them out of items destined for the garbage bin or random pieces of clutter I find around the house, my happiness will be complete.
2] Start earlier. Every year I feel like I'm getting an early start on my Halloween planning and prop-building. Some people who know me might even go so far as to say ridiculously early. Nevertheless, by the time the last week of October arrives, I'm in panic mode. And there's invariably something that doesn't get done or gets postponed to "next year". In 2009, therefore, I resolve to begin my Halloween preparations much earlier. Maybe tomorrow.
3] Develop a yard haunt theme. I love the idea of a unifying theme for a yard haunt. A colour, an image, a style of prop that pulls all of the elements together and creates a stunning impact. Alas, while my haunt tends to start this way, the best of intentions seem to go awry. New props are created, new ideas assert themselves, ambitious plans go up in flames (not literally, thankfully) and it all morphs into something more . . . eclectic. Yes, that's the word . . . eclectic. But this year . . . this year, I resolve to choose a theme for my haunt and, most importantly, I resolve to stick with the theme regardless of how many "better ideas" tempt me to stray.
4] Devote more time to the blog. I started this blog in the dying days of summer last year. Being new to the whole blogging experience (as is evident from some of the earliest posts) I decided it would be a seasonal blog devoted to Halloween. My reasoning was simple: if I ran out of blog-worthy topics or simply lost interest, chances are Halloween would have come and gone by then and I could just walk away. A project started and finished rather than tossed on a shelf somewhere . . . partly done. As it turned out, the reverse was true. I found myself with more topics than time. I've also noticed some of my fellow bloggers extending their love of Halloween throughout the year and this has served as inspiration. So, for my final resolution of 2009 . . . I resolve to devote more time to blog improvement. More posts. More often. Not every day of course (". . . that way lies madness . . . "). Let's just say "more often" and leave it at that.
Happy New Year.