Tag Archives: Halloween

An Autumn Walk in St. John’s Cemetery

Between Halloween and fall foliage, October seems the perfect month to post blogs on my cemetery visits.  St. John’s Cemetery is one of my favorites, a beautiful rural setting that was just starting to put on display its lovely autumn colors.  Unlike the rolling hills of some Romantic-style cemeteries, the layout is fairly flat, but it has a plethora of  old trees providing shade in summer and wonderful colors in the fall.  A river runs alongside with all kinds of  brush that serves as home to many different birds.
There is plenty of beautiful statuary in this cemetery, as well.  Some of it shows magnificently against the backdrop of autumn’s leafy splendor.  Here we’ve got Jesus.
And here we have a sad woman shouldering the sacred cross, perhaps striving to lift the burden from Christ’s shoulders with repenting her sins.
There are so many beautiful statues here celebrating Catholic figures of holiness-many of which you won’t find in non-Catholic cemeteries.  We found many different versions of the Virgin Mary.  These are some  especially interesting ones.  This monument evokes the Infant of Prague motif.

 

 

These other two images of Mary are intriguing as well.  The first figure reminds me of Our Lady or Lourdes or of Fatima.  The second shows her crowned Queen of Earth and the Heavens, with the Christ child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images of angels were fascinating, too.  I love this relief that seems to show Saint Michael, sword in hand, ready for Someone Special.

 

 

 

 

 

However this exquisite carving of an angel struck me the deepest.  I’m including more than one shot, I’m so impressed with it.  Look at the deep contemplation in the features.  What is this angel thinking?  Brooding on the fall of some many angels and humans once bright with promise?  Or is there a trace of a smile in the subtle shaping of his cheeks and lips?  Take time to delight in how the material of his gown seems to drape gracefully as a part of his body.  What does he hold tucked behind?  A sword or a staff?  The features are so gracefully, believably carved that not a single Dr. Who fan would blink in his presence.

 

I’m just not sure who this saint is.  He’s in monk’s robes, so it can’t be Joseph-and no baby Jesus. There are no animals around, so it wouldn’t be Saint Francis.  No baby Jesus on his shoulder-not St. Christopher.  Maybe St. Anthony or St. Peter?  He is holding a cross, the way Peter was martyred, but what about the skull?

 

 

There are other wonderful statues that are not of Saints, much in line with what you’d expect in any cemetery.  Behold this piece that looks like a cathedral.

 

 

 

 

Then there are some lovely statues of women, like this one of a mother reading from a book to her daughter. The book is probably a Bible, but I like to think of it as something by C. Brontë.  Charlotte was actually pretty spiritual.
You can also find some impressive examples of Celtic Crosses in this cemetery, some with intricate relief designs carved on them.  Below are two examples I found captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The river that parallels one side of this cemetery hosts many wonderful critters.  We’ve seen ducks and a Great Blue Heron here.  Once we even saw a muskrat swim gaily upstream.  The brush and trees along the banks host flocks of Robins, Chickadees, Vireos, Phoebes, Catbirds,  and King Birds.  In the summer, we’ve seen Orioles and woodpeckers flying and perching on the imposing tress on the grounds.
Speaking of birds, one time we showed up in the cemetery too late to be allowed to continue our walk.  As we were driving slowly toward the main road to leave, Yang asked me, “What’s that on the tomb stone ahead?”  It was a great big red-tailed hawk!  The pictures aren’t perfect because it was night and we took them through the windshield of our car, but they are pretty darned neat.  I especially like the one where Mr. or Ms. Hawk does an almost 180 with the head and stares right at us.  Yikes!
Lastly, this gravestone raised  an important question for me.   If Curley’s here, where did they plant Moe and Larry?  Or Shemp?

 

Adventures of a Pumpkin Grower: Harvest Time

My last post was about the denizens growing in my pumpkin patch.  Now, I can write you about the harvest.  I still have one large orange pumpkin on the vine, and two embryos actually got fertilized about a week ago-who knows if they’ll make it.  However, most of the others are now decorating my house!
Number One Son is here in the living room, decorated appropriately for Halloween.  He may not be the biggest of the family, but he’s the brave first to be fertilized and survive.  He’s right next to the television, so we can see him all the time.

 

 

 

Here is Number Two Son on the dining room table-another place that we spend a lot of time.  He’s a bit bigger than his elder brother, and he is strong and handsome.  You can also see he shares the table with a lovely striped gourd.  Each of these was the only survivor on its respective vine, but both do the mother plant proud.  They certainly fit nicely with the Halloween decorations, don’t they?

And speaking of handsome gourds in the dining room, here’s this gorgeous  melange of orange and green.  He’s a perfect fall color!  The first gourd on his vine grew for a while, but didn’t make it.  This chap grew up next, initially hanging from the fence where the vine had climbed.  His healthy form soon brought the vine down to earth.  Beautiful color and shape, wouldn’t you say?
I have already harvested three more orange pumpkins.  I suspect they are sugar pumpkins, but they are just too pretty to eat.  Two of them, I have put by the fireplace with a white pumpkin and a green striped one.  I think they make a neat combo.  How about you?

 

The white pumpkin was actually attacked by a grub and has a hole in it, but a little peroxide seems to have ended the invasion.  I put the side with no wounding out to face the world.  Good-sized guy, isn’t it?  When we harvested it, we found it also had a local root coming off the stem.  I guess that’s how it got enough nutrition to grow this big.

 

There’s also this good sized pumpkin or squash that’s green with stripes.  I don’t know what kind it is, but it sure is pretty.  Does anyone out there know?  I’d love to hear from you so I could find out what I have.  I wonder if there was some cross pollination that created a hybrid?

 

Remember the runaway/escapee?  That pumpkin grew into a real beauty.  There’s even an almost bluish cast to it’s white skin.  Is this a Lumina or  is it another breed of pumpkin?

 

Last but not least, remember I said I’d harvested three orange pumpkins?  Well, the third one is not on display at home. Instead, I brought it to the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains and left it as a token of esteem.  Presents you work to create yourself are usually the best!

 

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

 

 

Swan Point Twilight – Don’t Blink!

Last weekend, Yang and I paid a twilight visit to the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.  It’s a beautiful cemetery on the bay, encircled and populated by graceful old trees.  The graveyard is designed in the Romantic style initiated by the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and emulated by others, such as Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, the Lowell Cemetery (guess where), and Sleepy Hollow in Concord – Tarrytown, too!

This style is characterized by sloping greens; stately, shady trees; ponds; and monuments created to reflect both the sadness of loss and the serenity of eternal peace.  Keats and Shelley would just die, so to speak, for a sojourn here.

This cemetery is surrounded on the street side by a stone wall of large rocks.  So, it captures the New England tradition of dry stone walls, but adds solemn majesty by using boulders as its dry stones.  I love this configuration near the entrance.  We came here close to dusk because Rosie and ‘Tasha kept us out later than usual walking in the yard.  So, we had to hurry  a bit and were unable to stroll and take photographs at our leisure.

 

 

 

The posture and positioning of many of these statues seem to tell a moral about death.  Perhaps women were usually chosen to immortalize in keeping with Poe’s dictum that the saddest thing in the world is the death of a beautiful woman.  Each of these beautiful figures seems to convey a message back to the living.   This woman looks down on our world, bearing a veiled gift.  The broken column signifies a life cut off.  I’m not sure where I learned about the column, but I do remember it was a legitimate source.

 

 

 

 

 

Here, a woman peers off into the beyond, urging us to look upward and outward, past this vale of tears – or is that veil of tears?  Either makes sense in this context.  She also holds an anchor on her far side.  Does it symbolize that she is anchored to us, though she is looking to attain something beyond the earthly realm – or is she from a seafaring family?

 

 

I’m particularly interested in this figure, looking down at us from the heights of a pillar, perhaps symbolizing she is no longer anchored to this earth but soars above us toward the empyrean.  Still, her gaze of concern is fixed on us suffering mortals below.

I found this stylized monument of an angel  particularly intriguing.  Yang thought it had an Egyptian look, but I find it much more art deco.  It seems to flow down into the ground – or does it shoot upward?I didn’t have a chance to check the date on it to see if it fit into the deco period.  I’m so impressed by its soft but still clean lines.

 

 

The weathering of this limestone angel blurs and softens it’s features so that it seems ethereal – and more than a little eerie.  What do you think?  What does she perceive hovering above even her?  Don’t blink!

 

 

 

 

 

The cemetery has other lovely qualities. There is a pond surrounded by hedges, but I didn’t get any pictures this time.  We had to rush.  However, I did get a shot of this gazebo.  What a wonderful place to sit and read.  Yang graded papers here, while I attended a Renaissance Conference in town one time.

 

 

I have to add that there are some impressive selections of Celtic crosses.    Some in family groupings.

 

 

 

 

 

Others even in pairs.

 

 

I especially loved the balustrades or curved stone work surrounding or leading up to family burial plots.  The first of these pictures shows a lovely plaza surrounded by a bowed stone rail.  I remember when there were actually a barrier of tall yews forming a second circle inside the balustrade.  You couldn’t see within the green cavern it created.  One of the grounds-people told me they had to cut  down the yews because weird stuff went on in there at times.  This was some time ago that I heard this tale.  I hadn’t heard any tales about these gently curving steps and barrier, leading to this prominent family’s plot.  I do love the graceful shape.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, here are the pictures that all you faithful Lovecraftians are waiting for:  Mr. Lovecraft’s family plot and monuments.  We actually had some shots of me next to the monuments, but I looked awful enough to give a Shuggoth the willies.  So, vanity prevailed and I ditched them.  You may notice that there were deposits of presents by Mr. H.P.’s grave.  If you look carefully on the gravestone, you can see that his birthday had been just a few days before.

 

 

 

 

 

There are lots of beautiful scenes that I hadn’t time to photograph that twilight, but seeing that I couldn’t fit in all the wonderful images that I took this trip, I don’t feel too bad now about not getting them.  There should be another trip, maybe when the fall colors are aflame.  Won’t that be a treat to see?  So, with this proud, victorious angel, I will bid you adieu and slip away into the gloaming – whatever the heck a gloaming is!

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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Halloween, Yang style

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I just got all the tombstones and a few  haunting creatures up in my front yard.  I still have to add several more supernatural visitors, but the eerie atmosphere is starting to coalesce.  Just to give you an idea of what things will look like, I’ll share with you some images from last year’s outside decorations.

cemetery4 Here’s a vertical shot of the graveyard in the front lawn.  Yang joined in the fun by getting the iron fencing and putting it up for me.  Mr. Bones there seems to be chuckling over something the ghoul in black just told him.  Did they see into the future for this year’s election?

I think this chap iscemetery3 recovering from one of the Halloween parties that I have every year.  Either that or he’s someone I caught plagiarizing.  See any red marks on him?

We also were visited by a few witches, ghouls, and demons, flying joyously on the fall winds.  Some of them are looking right at you,cemetery6 and they seem awfully glad to see you – for what reason, I’m not sure.  it’s probably not good for you!

 

 

Back to those pesky skeletons again!  They’re worse than cemetery5ants in the summer – and just as hungry.  Heh, heh, heh!

 

 

And lest I forget, Here are some shots of our homemade dancing ghosts!  cemetery8These guys (or gals) usually go up closer to Halloween because if there’s too much rain and wind the ground gets too soft to support them and they become staggering, collapsing ghosts.  As Quentin and Beth say, there’s  nothing worse than cemetery7when your ectoplasm starts to sag!

 

 

 

 

 

So, I’ll just close with this nice horizontal shot of the whole front yard, to let you drink in the entire spooky panorama.  Try not to be too scared as you drive up the street.  This year, I have even some new tomb stones!  It may not be Mt. Auburn or Hope Cemetery, but it’s home sweet creepy home to me!  cemetery1

Yang Speaks!

So, to keep you entertained while you breathlessly await the forthcoming blogs on my appearance at The Book Lover’s Gourmet and my adventures at the Shakespeare of America Convention in New Orleans, here’s a link to an audio interview with me by Pat Driscoll for The New Worcester Spy.  It contains more details on my interests in film noir and horror, on film and on the page, and even a little more on my background. Just click here.  It’s what Dusty would want! Dusty reduced1

 

 

Halloween on Beacon Hill

This year, like many others, we went to Beacon Hill in Boston for Halloween.  I don’t know how many years the residents have been celebrating with elaborate, creative, undeniably SCARY decorations, but we have been enjoying their eerie creative edeavors for  close to ten years.  This year was, Wait For IT! – SPOOKTACULAR!  BeaconHill7Forgive my channeling Shawn and Gus from Psych.

 

 

 

The picture above doesn’t give you an idea of how packed the streets are with people of all ages, most in some form of costume.  You wouldn’t believe all the Imperial Troopers, Princess Leias, Spocks, robots, zombies, witches, vampires, Stay Puff Marshmallow Men, etc. we saw. The picture below gives you a better idea.

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That’s me in the gold coat and a sparkly green witch-hat fascinator.  The little kid in the tiger costume was too quick – I couldn’t take a snatch at her candy bag – Heh, heh, heh!

 

People also elaborately, artistically carved pumpkins.  Here are some of my favorites.BeaconHill8

You never knew what you’d see peering out a window

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or climbing out grates:

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arms, legs, projections of ghosts and zombie.BeaconHill12

 

 

 

 

 

All that tramping around worlds of terror BeaconHill5requires a moment to relax my tootsies.  I hope that hand coming out the window isn’t going to push me off the steps!  Or worse, grab something out of my wallet.

 

The prime display was in a courtyard between two buildings.  You need to stand in line to get in and look around.  BeaconHill9This family has projections on the walls, fake fog, human-sized creepy mannequins, and folks dressed in scary rat costumes (including one “caught” in a giant rat trap!)  Natasha and Rosalind would have been terrified! BeaconHill10These folks even give candy to adults!  Unfortunately, this was the last year they will be doing the super display.  Will someone else be able to “resurrect” such creative horror?

 

People giving out candy also get into the “spirit,” with elaborate costumes.  You see witches, mad scientists, zombies.  One year, a woman was Cruella Deville.BeaconHill14I love this woman’s Snow Queen or Fairy Queen ensemble – complete with a matching (real live!) poodle on her lap! She was kind enough to let us take her picture – and her dog agreed, too.

At the end of this journey into terror, we bopped down the street to our favorite restaurant Caffe Bella Vita.  It was fun seeing all the folks, young and old, pass by the window, some greeting Yang and I with mock threats of horror, while we returned the favor by responding with playful terror.  BeaconHill13As usual, Yang finished off my sandwich – my chai was all mine, though!  How do you like my little green fascinator? Can you see Yang reflected in the mirror, taking the picture?

 

 

At the end of the evening, we turned to a designated driver we found onBeaconHill1 Beacon Hill to get us home.  As the Three Stooges would say, “Nyaaaaaaahhhhh!”