Category Archives: Autumn

An Autumn Stroll in Crystal Lake Cemetery

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As autumn slips into winter, I thought it would be nice to share some images from the Crystal Lake Cemetery when the season was just beginning and color was gradually flashing into the foliage.  One Friday afternoon, Yang and I took a drive out to the cemetery for a walk and some photos, just as the sun was starting its creep into the other hemisphere.  The view across Crystal Lake beautifully gleamed with  setting sunlight. You could also see the windmills and classroom buildings at Wachusett Community College, glowing pink along with the clouds.

 

Most of the trees were still green, but there were several beautiful trees that asserted their flaming orange glory in the vanguard of seasonal change.  You might see one tree peeping from behind the out buildings.  While another slender being rose and asserted itself amongst more imposing or darker trees with its delicate blending of yellow into orange flame  from above a traditional New England stone wall.

 

I love the way this tree stands out amidst the graves:
And how about this tree tossing it’s flaming foliage against the gorgeously pure, soft blue of a fall afternoon?

Notice that flash of fire behind the weather-worn statue of the little girl atop a child’s grave.
And  there I go, with a pair of jeans that color coordinate with the tree I’m walking past.

 

So, what’s Yang pointing to here?  Must be one of thebeautiful tombstones in this small but wonderfully located cemetery.

 

 

 

I love this shot of the stones complimented by the colorful foliage across the pond. But there are some more unique stones to appreciate.

 

 

 

Consider this beautifully done Celtic Cross, for instance:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, there is this intriguing piece where the rock appears to be only partially hewn into a monument to the Lord family.

 

 

 

Particularly interesting is this enormous tree that almost seems to engulf a family’s several tombstones.  I wonder if they had any idea how much it would expand when they first planted the enormous (I think) maple.  It’s a little hard to distinguish the leaves.  Well, this tree expanded way beyond what you might expect.  If you check out the photo below, you will see that one of the graves has been devoured by the tree.  There’s a Lovecraft story in there somewhere – or maybe just a Lucy poem by Wordsworth.  Let’s hope the latter.

 

 

 

I’m especially caught up with this stone image of a woman raised up against the autumn sky, gently darkening blue, swirled with cloud white, her lineaments shadowed by approaching dusk.  Haunting.  Lovely and haunting.

 

 

So, our visit ends and we will head off before it’s too dark and have a cozy dinner at a pub in Leominster.  We may not have had a lot of foliage this autumn, but we were able to enjoy some splashes of beauty!

 

 

Charles Island: Haunting and Serene

The ground may be covered with snow right now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Yang and I had an autumn day at the beach.  Of course, it was kind of a gothic day at the beach because we were visiting one of the famous Five Ruins of Connecticut, The Aquinas Retreat at Charles Island.
We hadn’t planned on starting the grand tour, but our love of ruins has already taken us to two of the locations in the set. I  posted our earlier visit to Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, CT. So, that Sunday afternoon, we trekked down to Milford, CT to finally get the chance to travel the tombolo out across the bay to

the island.  This trip had been on our agenda for years, but getting to the island is no easy feat – not because of  reefs, pirates, or sea monsters, though.  The ocean only subsides from the tombolo  during low tide and this land path  is only dry and clear enough when the moon and sun exert their strongest gravitational pull.  On top of that, colonies of egrets and cranes nest on the island from April until September, so the Wildlife Service has deemed Charles Island off limits during that time.
There’s a legend about the island holding  Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure, but the treasure we found were beautiful ocean scenes and fun walking and exploring the edges of the island that has a circumference of a bout a mile.  The going could be a bit rocky and uneven when you start out counterclockwise, but you get to enjoy the gorgeous ocean bay as much as do the lounging cormorants.

 

Then there are the ruins of the Aquinas Retreat Center.  Not many extensive ruins  to find.  Built in 1929 by the Dominican Fathers as a lay retreat, it was abandoned by 1938.  Perhaps storms or difficult access for supplies undermined its success. At this point, there are barely the scraps of stone and mortar outlines left to some out buildings and small towers.

There was also one lovely archway. I wonder if this structure could be the remains of an entrance to a chapel or shrine.

 

This space must have been a wonderful location for contemplation and communing with God through nature amidst the calls of wild birds, the surge of waves, and the rush of wind.

We also saw some nice smaller birds on the island.  Yang got a great shot of an Eastern Kingbird.

And while I was watching birds, Yang was watching me!

It was such a lovely, warm and sunny fall afternoon.  There were families and young and old couples, also making the circuit of the island, but never so many you’d feel crowded – and the cormorants didn’t seem to mind.

Say, what do you think of this place for setting a mystery novel?  In the 1860s, there was resort here.  Maybe Jessica and James need a vacation, or Liz needs a retreat – Naagh, no shopping!

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery Part 2

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 I promised you a second post on our adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, so here it is!  This blog will concentrate on the unique statuary gracing the cemetery.  However, to begin, I want to revisit two of the monuments I showed you last time out.  I’ve done some additional research and discovered intriguing background on them.
First is this beauty.  I wrote about it as a penitent soul being ministered by an angel.  However, I found out that it has an intriguing back story.  A mill girl had saved up a considerable sum over the years, planning for a special monument to be erected upon her death, which came to pass in 1886, after a long life.  For various reasons, her plans weren’t implemented until some after her burial.  Finally, when everything came together for the tomb stone to be created, there was $8000 available (lots of dough back then!),  and those left in charge employed Daniel Chester French (creator of the Minute Man Monument) to create this work of art (Chris Camire).

 

This monument to the Bonney family has been the subject of all kinds of crazy stories about witches and hauntings.  However, the truth  is that it is just a remarkable monument to the Bonney family (“Mysterious Witch Bonney”).  It was created by Frank Elwell, the director of the Sculpture Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He titled the monument “New Life”(Camire), no references to witchcraft at all!  The tomb honors Clara Bonney, who died relatively young in 1894, as well as other members of her family (Camire) – which kind precludes the monument housing the remains of anyone executed in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s as some like to claim.  I’m just saying . . .
Maybe the most remarkable monument, definitely the most well known, is this gorgeous recumbent lion. Called the Ayer Lion it memorializes James Ayer, a business man so prominent that he has a major street named after him in the city.  The face is so powerfully expressive you almost forget it’s not a human.  The lion is made of the finest Italian marble and was created in Italy, by Price Joy (“The Ayer Lion,” Lowell Cemetery).

 

 

 

I don’t have any  back stories on the following statuary, but I think their beauty speaks for itself.  I did note that books and publishing seemed popular, with two monuments taking the forms of volumes.   I believe this one on the right  honors two publishing partners.   I also found the one below that showed the “open volume” of one man’s life, resting steadfast on a rock.

 

 

 

 

 

And below, is a closeup of the text of his life.

There were also some funky, creative shapes.  I love the intertwining of initials here with what could be some form of a Celtic cross.

 

I can’t even begin to tell you what this thing is supposed to be – but it does have a kind of Lovecraftian flavor,  does it not?  Speaking of Lovecraft, there were some people taking pictures of a wonderfully goth-coutured wedding party.  The groom had perfect H.P.  hair, glasses, and suit!  We exchanged conspiratorial smiles as Yang and I drove by!

 

Of course there were also plenty of  angels, women ready to guide you to the unknown, and wise matrons. Something that gave many of these statues a wonderfully eerie quality was that, as Yang noted, they hadn’t been cleaned, so they frequently were aged with wear from the elements.  This woman bearing a cross is a particularly good example.  Is she coming to get me or guide me?  Her blurred features make her seem unnervingly not quite human and her motives ambivalent.
Others could be put in unique settings like atop a tall monument or caged within the marble barriers of something like a spire.  I see the woman above as a symbol of the heaven to which we all aspire above us. Holding a victory wreath, she implies if we reach her we can achieve the victory of salvation.   Perhaps she is a guide waiting in a liminal space to lead us ever upward.  Still, what about the woman encased in marble.  Does she need to be kept in to protect us?  Don’t blink!

 

 

Uh oh!  Hope that Whovian reference wasn’t too unnerving!  Here’s a picture of the victory lady in closeup to comfort you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what better way to end an October visit to a Romantic cemetery than with an autumn moon in a pure blue October sky?  Keats would surely approve.

Below are the web sites where I found the background information not evident from just looking at the monuments.  Check them out for more information and photos:

Chris Camire.  “What a Site!  The Lowell Cemetery Celebrates Its 175th Anniversary and ‘The Serenity of Nature.'” The Lowell Sun. 16 June 2016.  http://www.lowellsun.com/lifestyles/ci_30022685/what-site

“The History of the Ayer Lion”  Lowell Cemetery. 2015.  http://www.lowellcemetery.com/

“The Mysterious Witch Bonney.” Atlas Obscura.  2017. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mysterious-witch-bonney

Celebrating Claude Rains in New Hampshire

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About three weeks ago, my husband and I paid a visit to the Lake Winnipesaukee area.  I was  to be one of the reps at the Sisters In Crime booth at NELA in Burlington, Vt., so the day before we went north and visited the resting place of my favorite actor, Claude Rains.  It was a beautiful weekend!  The fall colors were in full flourish.  On the way up, we stopped in Concord for lunch then proceeded to the small, country cemetery that Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary made their final resting place.

You can see Red Hill in the background,  much more of a mountain that a hill than some of the “mountains” that Yang and I have hiked.  One of my knees was acting up from climbing one of those smaller mountains – that was still big enough to give me trouble – so we didn’t go up that day.  I highly recommend the hike, though.  It’s invigorating and beautiful.  Anyway, that gave me more time for contemplation.

The stones for Claude Rains and Rosemary are beautiful  shiny black Gothic arches.  The script on them is also reminiscent of Gothic.  I love the sentiment of faith and endurance on both.  On Claude’s is:  “All Things Once/Are Things Forever,/ Soul Once Living/Lives forever.”   Rosemary’s says:  “When I Am Gone My Dearest,/ Sing No Sad Songs For Me,” a variation on a poem of Christina Rossetti (one of my favorite poets). I wonder whether they picked their epitaphs or if a loving family member selected them.

It’s nice to see that we aren’t the only admirers of Mr. Rains.  Yang and I left the pumpkins in honor of the autumn season of  harvest.  Someone else had also expressed his/her regard by carefully placing beautiful sunflower stalks,  before the stones.  In the center, you can also see some artificial flowers that have been set there in respect quite some time ago – we’ve seen them there over the years.  Perhaps someone else in our group payed respectful visits?

 

This cemetery is  beautiful.   I’m glad Claude and Rosemary picked it.  I have to share some lovely shots we got of the gorgeous New Hampshire foliage show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I especially like the second one, because of the handsome guy in the shot: aka my husband who is always game for adventures in the wilds of the Northeast!

 

Finally, here are shots of the majestic farmhouse that Mr. Rains called his last home. I wonder what the inside is like? Isn’t the tree next to the house gorgeous?! We took three shots, but one came out too fuzzy.  Not supernatural interference, just our not being able to get the best lighting since we wanted to be unobtrusive.  Let no one calls those who honor Claude Rains stalkers!  I think this one might be the best shot, the crispest, anyway.  Below are some interesting links that tell you more about the cemetery and the farm house.  Just remember:  respect the privacy of others.  But I don’t have to tell that to anyone in our illustrious group!

 

So long for now and happy belated Claude Rains’s birthday to all!

Claude Rains’s Grave Atlas Obscura

O.T.I.S. – a nice description of the graveyard and the house

 

 

Return to Pittsfield for Fall Beauty

 

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 A week ago Saturday, Yang and I had the pleasure of biking on the rail trail from Pittsfield to Adams, MA.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day with the sunshine, pellucid blue October skies, and mild weather.  Fortunately for us, the foliage was just moving into peak, giving us some lovely sights.  Here I go!
The following photos start at the end of the trail in Adams because we wanted to make sure we could get that far, so we didn’t stop for photos on the way down.  To our surprise, the trail had been extended by about two miles along the new rail tracks and the Hoosic River.  After 12.5 miles, we had to take a little break.  The sun softly and warmly lit the surrounding hills, but I don’t think my camera could quite capture the magic.  Still, I think the image is pretty neat.  Also pretty neat is Yang taking a break and noshing on a Honey Crisp apple.  We’ve got way too many, since I accidentally bought a bag of them instead of Macs for apple pie.

 

 

 

 

Coming back through Adams, we saw a gorgeous Great Blue Heron skim by along the Hoosic, but we couldn’t catch up to him to get a shot.  Nevertheless, as we came back through town, I managed to get this picture of the twin spires of a Catholic church rising between the town buildings and the warm seasonal colors of the surrounding hills.  What must it feel like to live nestled in the arms of autumn glory?
Going into Adams, along the trail, you rush down a steep slope, accompanied by the galloping river.  It’s a kick to ride down.  Going back up it is a kick in the pants!  What an incline!  I still managed to charge up to the top without stopping.  This old gal can still make it without having to walk her  bike.  Yippee  for me!  Once you get to the top, there’s a bridge over the pooling river where you can rest – and fish!  We met a young dad taking his son fishing.  They were after trout, but further toward Pittsfield I had talked to a young guy who’d caught a pickerel.  Didn’t think to get a picture, though.  Anyway, here’s the other side of the bridge with the handsome Yang looking profound and happy.

 

 

 

 

On the ride back, we luxuriated in watching the surrounding hills changing into their fall vestments!  Lovely, right?

 

 

 

There were other trees that created a wondrous concert of colors:  blending with one another or even displaying a deliciously complimentary palette all in one tree.  Delighting in these gorgeous crimsons, oranges that flamed or shone a gentle peach, yellows pale or startling, I thought of the fourth novel I planned in my Jessica Minton series. It will be set in a Maine in a vibrant autumn show of color.  The beauty of this season, the liminal sense of freedom and haunting adventure draws me to create a tale of delicious mystery and spirit.

 

 

 

 

We rode toward the end of our journey, with visions of crepes and tea dancing in our heads – 25 miles works up an appetite!  But the beauty of New England fall never deserted us.  So, enjoy the ride  along with us.

 

 

A Breath of Autumn

 

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Here’s a melange of interesting autumn images that I’ve come across this past September. One Friday afternoon, while riding the bicycle trail from Coventry, Yang and I came across these funky caterpillars. We’d seen them last fall on the same trail, so apparently these are their main stomping, er crawling, grounds. Does any one know into what they ultimately metamorph? Notice how they have prongs on their derrieres, no doubt to confuse predators as to which end they are biting. We wonder what these guys are.

The following weekend, we did 22 miles on the Nickerson Park Trail on the Cape. What should we see on the trail but this adorable quail! I suspect s/he is domesticated because the little critter did not seem at all unnerved by passing cyclists or walkers. I’ve seen pictures of domesticated quails on line, and this little guy seems to match up. Nevertheless, I’m counting him/her as one of my bird sightings for the year. I hope you can see the little guy in the center of the picture to left on the trail, almost in the leaves. Click on the image for a bigger picture.

 

Though not nearly as cute, here are some pictures of me in Brattleboro, VT. Every year this house creates a tunnel of enormous sunflowers. We went up last weekend and took these shots. The house used to also have a hutch for chickens and bunnies, but alas, those adorable creatures are no longer kept there. I’m not quite so adorable as a bunny, but I like to think I have some charm. Yang staged the photos nicely, don’t you think? Is there anything he can’t do?

 

 

 

Finally, Natasha desires to send you the best of autumn holiday greetings!

 

Rosie wants to photo bomb Natasha’s greeting – and Natasha is NOT amused.

 


 



Fall Preveiw

People have been a bit sad over the ending of summer, but we’re forgetting the glorious colors of autumn.  Already some of the trees, vines, and bushes are shifting into hues of scarlet, maroon, gold, orange, brilliant yellow.  And don’t forget the breathtaking contrast with the pellucid blue skies of the season.  So, I thought you might like a little preview of the beauties in store for us, courtesy of the reservoir in West Boylston and the hills around my home.

 

 

Right across the street from the stone church in West Boylston are some wonderful trails through the woods and around the reservoir.  You can enjoy the calming umbers of fallen leaves in this flowing brook, with just a highlight of pine and hemlock green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe you’re looking for something to make your eyes pop!  Like the scarlet magnificence of this beauty, exquisitely contrasting with the greens shading into yellow, blending with the fiery oranges bursting from yellow – all against the compliment of that pure October sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 Here is a more individualized look at one of those green-morphing-yellow tress. A maple, maybe?  First the long shot.

 

 

 

 

Now, she’s ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille!

 

 

Perhaps most beautiful of all is this panorama of the brilliant hues on the opposite shore, across an arm of the reservoir.  Breathtaking, right?
And of course it’s no fun to take a walk through all this gorgeous scenery without someone to share it!  Here’s my special companion.  I’ll bet you can guess who.And look at that warm coat!  Do you still remember how it feels to have a little nip in the air?
I don’t even have to go far from home to enjoy the fall finery.  Look at some of the trees surrounding where I live.

 

 

Finally, there’s that wonderful October sky, pure blue with the graceful swirl of silver, grey, and white clouds.  So, the coming autumn isn’t that bad, after all, is it?

 

Autumnal Woodlawn Cemetery – No Blinking!

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Three years ago, Yang and I took an autumnal visit to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  This was our second visit.  Our first was in the summer, and we took many woodlawn1photos of the gorgeous sepulchres with their ornate carvings of lions and sphinxes, as well as beautiful stained glass inside.  This time, with the fall leaves beginning their metamorphoses into vivid colors, we concentrated on the outdoor imagery.  I love the way this angel is framed by the flaming curve of the branch and leaves above it.

 

 

woodlawn4I also found this figure fascinating, straining for freedom, emerging from his marble prison – perhaps to burst the bonds of the body’s clay and fly away on the sharp wind of the north to eternity.

 

 

 

woodlawn10We found this image especially beautiful, the soft orange of the tree leaves providing a brilliant background contrast to the soft grey/white of the stone and  the gentle and flowing draperies of woman portrayed here.

 

 

 

 

 

This woman draped meltingly over the tomb stone in her anguish was a deliciously melancholy image to ponder.woodlawn2 I actually manged to find a piece similar to this monument from Toscano to add to my own Halloween graveyard in my front yard this year.

 

 

 

I’m fascinated by this monument.  My guess is that the chap memorialized in Roman senatorial garb must have been a judge or a  high political figure. woodlawn3 I hope he met a better end than Julius Caesar!  I thought the warm orange of the tree behind his imposing statue made an appealing contrast.  Stern but not harsh features on this chap.

 

 

 

 

Happily, we found a wonderful living denizen in the cemetery.  woodlawn9Woodlawn also contains a beautiful reflecting lake, and this Great Egret found it just the ticket!  Of course, he was probably more up to fishing than reflecting – a bird’s got to eat!
There were other typical Victorian monuments, wonderfully complemented by the fall colors.woodlawn6  Here is a mother with her children.  One hopes this is not a comment on the high mother/child mortality rate but rather a celebration of deep feelings between parent and children.
I was intrigued by this praying woman, high atop her monument.  woodlawn11She almost has an aspect of the Catholic Virgin Mary, not what you would expect in a seemingly predominantly Protestant cemetery.  Again, the autumn trees provide a pleasurable contrast to the cool white and grey-aged stone.

 

 

This cemetery is indeed a pleasure to stroll through, just be sure to bring your camera – whatever season you visit!

Here’s a link that gives you a virtual tour.

 

Halloween Reading Treats!

Every October, I like to have some bedtime reading that suits the season.  I just finished two new books:  Midnight Fires and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  The first is a mystery by Nancy Means Wright that features Mary Wollstonecraft as its intrepid detective.  marywollstonecraftaWollstonecraft is a great choice for the role, as anyone who has read her Vindications would agree that she has all the nerve, smarts, and wit to boldly ask the questions and dig the dirt necessary for an investigator.  Her being cast in this role makes perfect sense. The novel is set during Wollstonecraft’s tenure as governess to the aristocratic Kingsborough family in Ireland and does a neat job of characterizing “the troubles.”  We also get good views of the workings of the Kingsborough family, as well as how contemporary views of women have stunted and warped them – right in line with MW’s own writings.  The descriptions of the landscapes are a pleasure to read as well.  Not least of all, the mystery has some neat twists and turns.

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a pleasantly amusing visit with the supernatural – a low key, smile-inducing progress of Lucy/Lucia Muir’s liberation from oppressive Edwardian propriety to become a mischievous, independent woman – with a little help from a frank and fiery sea captain’s ghost – though she was already well on her way to freedom before they met at Gull Cottage.ghost-tierney-really-good  There are some significant changes from book to film, but both work equally well.  I do think that Gene Tierney gives Lucia Muir a bit more power than the character in the book.

 

 

There are four books that I usually return to once I finish any new prizes for the month:  The Uninvited (Dorothy Mcardle), The Sign of the Ram (Margaret Ferguson), The Undying Monster (Jessie Douglas Kerriush), and  Redeeming Time (me, unpublished – yet!).  What I admire in the first three (and try to emulate in the fourth), is the depth of characterization, the creation of a powerful mystical/eerie atmosphere, the vividness of the landscapes, and the intelligence of the storylines. signoftheram What makes them such a pleasure to read is their authors’ deftness with language:  there’s enough detail to savor and shape your imagination but no excess or filler.  Right now, I’m working on The Uninvited.  I review it and The Sign of the Ram on this web site, under Golden Age MysteriesThe Undying Monster is part of the psychic detective genre, with a woman psychic brought in to help a scientist uncover the nature of the beast that has ravaged an ancient British family for centuries and now threatens to destroy his two close friends.  The novel deftly captures the post WWI fascination with psychic phenomenon and leads characters and readers into the dark depths of ancient ruins, crypts, and family history to reach a final, mystical resolution – and it’s a fun ride!

What’s Redeeming Time about?  Think H. P. Lovecraft meets film noir meets Indiana Jones meets Val Lewton.

Image of Gene Tierney from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir copyright 1946, 20th-Century Fox (http://classicbeckybrainfood.blogspot.com/2010/08/just-thought.html)

Horrors of the Yang Manse

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So, last week, I showed you what the outside of the Yang House of Horrors looked like. party1 Here, I will give you some images of the interior decorations. How about a look at the evil bride who faced you as you ascended the stairs in the gloom of the evening?

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This creature looks especially scary, when you bathe her in a black light!

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Of course, when you look down the corridor, you want to be greeted and guided by Halloween denizens.party6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, you defiintely need a comforting night light party20when you hit the bathroom on an eerie night like this.

 

 

 

We also have charming candles to guide you back down the stairs.party14

 

Watch out for otherworldly visitors peering in the window, maybe trying to lure you off to perdition. All I said to my friend Judy was, “Oh, Look. party18 There’s someone in the window behind you.” And this lost soul prompted a shriek from my pal. Judy still comes to my house, but she’s a little leery about glancing out the windows now.

The fireplace also has its share of holiday decor, including our home grown pumpkins! party16These bad boys/girls started growing as early as April and developed into lovely, strong pumpkins. We haven’t grown anything this big since we lived in Connecticut!

 

 

Now, my problem is going to be trying to measure dscn2498up to these decorations and those of years past. Ah well, who will I creep out this year? The trick is to place your creatures in shadows so that imagination does a large part of the work – especially when you hear sounds or glimpse preternatural beings in places where you wouldn’t expect them. Unfortunately, those kind of shadows don’t lend themselves to clear photographs, so they are hard to capture and present to you in pictures.

 

So, I’ll close with this goblin wishing you a fare thee well from atop his pumpkin throne! Enjoy your holiday, and be careful whom you invite to cross your threshold!

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