Ghosts? Who Am I To Judge?

[illustration of mysterious man behind glass surface. Source: Google search.]

To me, Halloween evokes memories of walking down Front Street in Owego, NY, kicking the piles of unraked leaves while dressed up in a throw-it-all-together costume. Clutching paper bags, my friends and I would go door to door seeking treats. There was a chill in the air, mixed with the rotting leaves that produced a scent that has stayed with me over the years. Never has an autumn arrived that doesn’t take me back to the old houses of Owego and the leaves.

It was a magical evening that enriched my store of memories that etched themselves in my fascination with the past.

Before the advent of such films as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, the themes were witches, Frankenstein, vampires of all sorts and ghosts. Every young kid on the streets that night became believers in spirits from beyond the grave.

It certainly didn’t hurt to live in a town overshadowed by the presence of the awesome Evergreen Cemetery set on a hill to the north of town.

Do I believe in ghosts? I’d like to say that I do but I am a true skeptic. I’ve heard many strange unsettling stories about my hometown over the years and I do believe some of them sound quite believable. But still I wonder. I have never seen a spirit (once in a B&B in Cooperstown a voice called me at night.)

I post many photos in my blogs and on Facebook and I love looking at supposed “spirit photos’. I look at these pictures and wonder.

Here are four of my favorite:

[The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. Source: Wikipedia]

This photo has never to my knowledge been fully debunked or proven authentic. This is arguably the most famous ‘ghost’ photo that has been published.

[Little girl being comforted by a friend/brother sitting on the stairs. Source: Wikipedia]

I have no comment on this photo.

[Who is in the corner? Source: Wikipedia]

Again, I am not familiar with the background of this photo.

[Little girl looks into a pool. Source: Wikipedia]

This photo has always fascinated me. If it’s a faked picture, it’s a very clever one.

It’s creepy!

[If you care to comment on any of these or just tell a ghost story, be my guest.]


[ A Peek at my collection of ghost stories.]
[Source: Google search.]

It’s Not Easy

Elisa Pumpkins[Elias has to choose. It’s very important what to consider.]


It’s not an easy life being a child. No, the easy part of life is being a grown-up.  They can go to bed when they want, they can watch any TV show on the cable…like The Bachelor in Paradise or Hoarders, take a bath when they choose and even get to drive a car.

All is not perfect in child land at certain times of the year.

Like October. This is when the difficult choices begin to manifest themselves. The major issue at this time of the year happens to be pumpkins. Every year a child (except those that are home schooled and believe that Halloween is a satanic practice) has to choose the perfect pumpkin to display on the front steps of his or her house. This is not an easy matter. There are endless considerations to be made. To make a very long story somewhat shorter, I will use bullet points to illustrate my…points.

The usual first step for the parents is to take the child to a Pumpkin Farm. At such places, many choices come into play. Shall the child have a cup of cider? A candy apple? Or, perhaps a doughnut?

But then, reality begins. Choosing the absolutely perfect pumpkin. And this is the most difficult process of all. A child has to consider a number of factors in selecting the correct pumpkin. if I remember correctly from my childhood, this is what the youngster needs to consider:

  • How does the pumpkin heft? How do two pumpkins feel when held in each hand?  Is there a proper equilibrium?
  • How does the weight (or mass) compare with others with the same volume? This can be determined, in large part by the heft, but it is not based on solid scientific empirical data.
  • What is the carvability factor? How easy would the knife cut through the orange skin?
  • The size. Will the size support a proper face carving?
  • Is there enough surface area to support a carved face? Should it be scary or funny?
  • The specific gravity. How does the pumpkin relate to it’s volume in a bucket of water?
  • Does it have enough internal space (post-carving) to support a stub of a old dinner candle?
  • What is the Curb Appeal? Can this be seen easily from the street? Will it scare away trick or treaters or will it signal that goodies are to be had in the house that sits behind this special pumpkin?
  • What is the life span? How long can the child keep the pumpkin on the front porch before it becomes a moldy mass of yellow pulp that needs to be shoveled from the steps? Can it last into December?

So many things to consider when you’re a child. But the one thing that will not be a worry is that you will have a loving Mommy and Daddy that will tuck you into bed and tell you that the spooks and goblins are not real and that the candy will have to wait.

Then they can get back to Hoarders.


On Front Street At The End Of October

Different times…different places…different memories…

[Photo source: Google search.]

I should mention that, as a child, one of my favorite things to do this time of year was to kick a pile of leaves along a stone sidewalk.

It’s gloomy, rainy and windy here in the North Country.  It rained hard before dawn this morning so nearly all the foliage is now on the ground.  If the wind continues, the little color that is left will leave the deciduous trees naked in a few days.  But, surprisingly, the outside temperature is in the mid-sixties, so it’s hard to think of this being October 8, only a few weeks before my favorite time of year, Halloween! But, we live in a rather isolated location, so there will be no trick-or-treat for us.  There never has been any since we moved here in 2011.

This is not like the place where I grew up, Owego, NY.  It’s about six hours downstate and it probably rained there as well last night.  But, in the vast store of my childhood memories, I’m sure there were wet and dark days in my home town when I was young.  However, once the weather front went through, the air would turn crisp and sometimes there would be frost on grassy lawns, and on the pumpkins, carved and candle-lit, that sat on the porches and front steps like sentinels…or warnings.  The strange truck with the giant vacuum hose had already made its slow way along the curbside to suck up the leaves that were raked in piles.  We were still allowed to burn leaves in those days so the air was rich with the scent of smoldering oak and maple and elm leaves from someones back yard fire pile. Trick-or-treating down Front and Main Streets, as well as John, Ross and Paige Streets was a joyful time of year for me.

My happiest Halloween’s were when I would take my daughter, Erin (in the mid to late 1970’s) and later, my son, Brian (in the early 1990’s) down those fearful streets. Those were when the sidewalks would be crowded with families and the houses would be lit up with orange light and strange candles and we could see our breath in the chilly air.

[My daughter, Erin.  Getting ready for a trip to Owego.]

[My son, Brian…as Fu Manchu.]

After a lifetime of growing up on Front Street, this was my chance to peek inside the older and larger houses…all the way to the business district.

Our first stop was the Sparks’ house next to ours.  Then it was across the street to the old Loring house and then back across the street to walk past the only ‘haunted’ house in my neighborhood, the very old Taylor mansion with the floor to ceiling windows and mansard roof.  We’d be sure to stop at Dr. Amouk’s house (pardon the spelling).  He usually had the best candy which was ironic because he was a dentist.

My children usually made a ‘pretty good haul’ on those nights.  And, it was a joy to view their excitement from an adults perspective.

I remember one Halloween in particular.  My wife and I were taking my son Brian on the rounds.  We got to a house that was almost directly across the street from my old elementary school, St. Patrick’s.  There were corn shocks and fake cobwebs all over the large porch.  Then my son spotted a pair of feet sticking out of a box next to the front door.  He hesitated.  We pushed the door bell.  A woman dressed like a vampire came to answer.  She was holding a box of candy.  But Brian had already made a retreat to the sidewalk.  He was having no part of this woman’s fun that night.

Remembering how my kids enjoyed those walks forces me to remember the times when my friends and I owned those after dark hours while we hid behind the Frankenstein masks or space-suits; the hours when you never knew who would open a door or what monster might cross you path.  So many leaves were scattered on the slate sidewalks that one simply had to kick at them.  As children, we knew the magic of that season would last only a few days.

Now, we can still kick leaves along our road…but it’s not the same as it was.  Nothing will ever be the same as those charmed nights of a spooky holiday when you’re seven or eight…or even fifteen, when your goal is not an apple or twenty M & M’s, but to steal a kiss behind the large elms that once lined Front Street.

To steal that kiss was a treat that couldn’t be bought in any candy store.



Elegy From The North Country


The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day;

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea;

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

                                     -Thomas Gray

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline

Remember me to one who lives there

She once was a true love of mine.

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm

When the rivers freeze and summer ends

Please see if she’s is wearing a coat so warm

To keep her from the howlin’ winds.

                               -Bob Dylan

Driving north from Saranac Lake to Malone, one notices that the country has a peculiar and distinctive appearance.  Mostly covered by trees, there is a the occasional pond or lake–even a farmhouse or, as you progress northward, a cornfield may come into view.

Odd, is it not?


I’m driving to the county jail to tutor a few inmates in the correct methods to write an essay for a G.E.D. (now called, T.A.S.C.).  I sit and listen to a thirty-three year old woman in prison orange (with matching orange CROCS), tell a tale of a life spent smuggling drugs, addictions, abuse and even witnessing a murder.  Yes, I sit and listen.  I hand her a golf pencil and a few sheets of paper.  No staples, paper clips or pens that contain tiny springs are allowed.  I keep myself from staring at the diamond stud in her nose.  She wants her G.E.D. very badly.  I seriously question what meager skills I can offer this poor misguided woman who, ten years younger than my daughter, has already lived a lifetime of grief and bad judgements.  I feel helpless and not a little insignificant when I hear my voice explaining the meaning of a “Thesis Statement.”

But, I digress.

As I drive, the clouds are low and heavy.  It has been raining steady all the previous night and day.  The spectacular colors for which the North Country is so famous, are muted in the dull monotones of a late afternoon sun that is hidden beyond a layer of gray, slate and approaching darkness.  Darkness comes early around these parts this time of year.  Usually, in these weeks of approaching winter, the dusk begins around the end of the day.  If the sun was shining, the shadows would be long.  But, it’s a world without shadows–because the day is one of clouds.  I am losing the npr station so I slip a CD of bluegrass into the player.  The group is called the Welfare Liners.  They sing a sad song.

I become aware of the date.  It is September 30, 2015.  In a few hours it will be October 1!  That should come as no surprise since there are only thirty days in September (April, June and November).  All my senses are now on alert.  I have yet to plan my 2nd Annual Countdown To Halloween blog series.  I will be weary and depressed when I get back home after the tutoring.  How will I ever have the energy to write an interesting post that will live up to the standards that my readers have come to expect?

I worry about these things.  But, something strange has happened in my subconscious.  My lateral thinking skills kick in.  Thoughts begin to fill my brain.

One terrifying thought concerns the date, October 1, 2015.  Another, relates to recent events that have happened.  I have stumbled on somethings so strange that I am fearful of revealing my discoveries.  But, I shall:

  • Consider that a vast number of those attending the 50th high school reunion of O.F.A. have been stricken by a mysterious aliment, myself included.  What did these people have in common?  I have discovered the following: All were present for the dinner dance at the Treadway.  Even the name, tread and way denotes caution.  And, all listened to me make a short speech.  Did the sound of my voice somehow carry with it a strange and mutant virus.  Many of my friends have felt this has been the case for many years.  Perhaps…just perhaps????
  • Many of those attending had undergone a process known as aging, something we all swore would not happen.  So, why did it?
  • All of us have recently been exposed to a rare Blood Moon Eclipse.  The next such astronomical event is not scheduled to occur until 2033.  Is there anything strange about that year?  May I be the first to offer the theory that in all likelihood, many of us may be deceased by that date!  Statistically speaking, that is.  Does this suggest a curse of some sort placed on those attendees?  I’ll let you decide.  This may sound shocking and unusual, but the facts are the facts.
  • And, now the date: October 1, 2015.  If written out numerically in numbers, it would read 10/01/15.  That makes 6 digits!  Now, if you add the numbers together the sum of the total is 26, again, a 6!  That makes two 6‘s. Using the same logic, if you take the total of 26 and divide it by 4, the number of Beatles (before Paul was killed in the car accident), then you are left with 6.5!  Eliminating the decimal point, it is the very year of our graduation!
  • It gets stranger.
  • What about the 19 in 1965, you may ask.  Well, simply add those two digits and the result is 10!  If you then add my present age, 68, the number is 78!  Now, subtract the reoccurring number 6 from this number and you get 72! The present age of Mick Jaggar.  Sound familiar?  Simply reverse that number and you arrive at 27, the age when Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain died!  Further, if you add the 2 and the 7 the result is clear, 9.  If you then subtract the estimated number of Rolling Stones who have OD’d (3), the inescapable number is 6!
  • And, know you have it! The dreaded number: 666, the Number of Satan!

My fingers tremble as I type these words.  This is due to pure fear combined with the fact that the outside temperature is 37.8 F.  That isn’t far from the temperature from this dining room where I am writing this.  Hey, I’m always cold.

This, then is the first of an irregular blog post relating to Halloween.  The posts that will follow will be something like I did last year, a collection of scary and frightful things.  WARNING: The images I post may be too intense for those with gentle hearts and delicate natures.  Guys like Chuck Carter, for example.  But, be fore-warned.  You may be exposed to pictures of ghosts (I will state here that these images are in no way intended to disrespect those individuals who are “life-challenged”.  Some of my best friends are like this.)  There may be depictions of female vampires or zombies with cleavage.  I have viewed hundreds such images and I have selected only the most appropriate for general viewing.  I apologize ahead of time for this.  There may be graphic images of kittens dressed in goofy Halloween customs.  There will surely be photos, graphic photos, of disfigured and hideous pumpkins.


But don’t expect too much too soon.  I’m going to toss in a non-Halloween post on my ancestral castle in Ireland.  (Sorry, but I wrote it as a back-up to having failed at my speech at the reunion.)

I welcome public comment on the posts.  If you have something strange and frightening to share, please don’t hesitate, as long as it does not involve sleeping puppies.

And, speaking of curses–it is well-known that if a person reads a blog and fails to “like” said blog, well, I cannot be held responsible for the aftermath.  The most dreadful action, they say, is to take no action.  So, find the little button on my blog and click “FOLLOW”.  That way, my posts will come to you as email, along with all the other important emails you get every day.  (FYI–there a sale at Macy’s coming up!).

Sleep well, my friends.  Keep you collars turned up against the chilly winds of Autumn and keep your loved ones near you at all times.

You never know…


Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve: XVII [FINAL POST]: “The Pumpkin Hall of Horror”


I can often be found in dark corners of old libraries, pouring over ancient dusty tomes of arcane legends, forgotten lore and collections of 1950’s issues of Popular Mechanics and Playboy. In my researches of things unusual and macabre, I once came upon a large volume of images most horrifying to look upon.  To see them with your own eyes was like staring into the bright full moon, looking down the barrel of a cat-teasing laser or gazing into one of those weird instruments in the optometrists office.  Some of what was included in that book were early plates of mid-career Madonna’s wardrobes, or late career images of Cher, Ozzy Osbourne and Keith Richards.

In the bibliography section, I came across references to ancient Halloween customs.  Further research led me to rare and out-of-print books of popular costumes.  There I found references to the famous Tor Johnson mask, the Vampire dress (oddly indexed under “C” for cleavage) and early clay studies of Wayne Newton’s face for a possible mask.

When I got to the chapter on pumpkins, I uncovered an unusual fact.  There seems to be two schools of thought about pumpkin carving.  One school suggested that happy faces were the only way to carve pumpkins.  The other school stated that scary images were more in keeping with the true essence of All Hallow’s Eve.

By nature, I tend to gravitate toward the more ghoulish visages. How else are you going to scare the stuffing out of children who come to your door begging for candy? I mean, what kid is going to be frightened by a pumpkin face of Porky Pig or Casper?

Only kids from Connecticut would.

So, I googled the address of the school that held to the idea of “scary is better.”

I drove down the leaf-covered lane just outside of Amityville, NY. and pulled up to the gate.  It was late in the afternoon.  The sky was darkening and the sun was beginning to set.

“A strange coincidence,” I thought to myself. “Getting dark this late in the day may be a prelude of something sinister awaiting me. Gosh this is scary.”

An old wooden sign swung in the suspicious breeze.  It made a strange and haunting creaking sound.  It read: THE BATES SCHOOL, in perfect Times Roman.

“Needs a little WD40,” I said to no one.

Once inside the main building, I was struck by the awful quiet.  It appeared to be deserted.

“Was it vacation?” I asked myself. “Where is everyone?”

Then I noticed the directory mounted on the ancient maple wainscoted wall.

I looked at the names.  They seemed to come straight out of a gothic novel.

Prof. S. King     Room 531 Suite 47

Dr. Pangloss     Room 420

Dr. Vibes     Room 74

Prof. M. R. James     Room 221b

Dr. J. T. Ripper     Room 666

Dr. Who     Room BBC

Dr. John     Room d’Orleans

Hall of Scary Pumpkins     Basement (Don’t go down there!)

I descended the stairs, wiping away the cobwebs.  The rats scurried underfoot.  I stopped at the bottom step.  This was it.  An ancient stone hallway lit by 13 candelabras lit the way forward.  I saw something on the floor, a head. Along the walls were small shelves.  On these shelves were a series of the scariest pumpkins I have ever laid eyes upon.

The smell of beeswax from the candles permeated the room along with other odors most foul.  I detected sulphur.  I sensed brimstone (then I realized they were the same thing).  I felt dampness.  I smelled urine.  I looked down and realized I had wet my pants.

If you, dear blog reader, have a delicate constitution and are faint of heart or suffer from a slight inner ear inflammation or dandruff, then go no further with this post.  I won’t hold it against you. Send your children to a dark room and put “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on the DVD.

But, whatever you do, prepare yourselves!  You have been warned.

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Here, my friends, are the few photos I was able to take and email before they found me…huddled in a corner, my jet black hair had turned white as a Swede.  I no longer bore a strong resemblance to George Clooney.  I looked very much like that guy you see in the Mall.  A guy who looks a lot like that writer, Patrick Egan.













I’M ADDING ONE LAST IMAGE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PUMPKINS.  IT HAS TO DO WITH LIFE.  LOOK AT THE PAINTING…my wishes to you who have followed these posts: Live your life to the fullest…every minute, every second. Live your life the best you can, love to the limit of what your heart can give…because you never really know when the bell will toll for thee……


Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve: III: “The Hunchback of 420 Front Street”

“Helen, take the kids inside and lock the door.  He’s back.”

“Who is this guy, Stan, haven’t we seen him around the neighborhood before?”

“Helen, do as I say.  He may be dangerous.  After all, he goes to St. Pat’s School.”

“Remember, lock the door,” Stan shouted over his shoulder as his wife and daughter, Sissy and son, Stanley, Jr. were safely inside.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Stan said, as he cautiously approached the boy in the yard.

“I’m your neighbor, Mr. Harrington.  I…”

“But you’re dressed for Halloween, boy, and that’s six months away.”

“I know.  You see, I’m fascinated with the movie “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  I’ve seen all the versions.  The Lon Chaney silent one was good, but I lost it over Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo.  When the mob storms the Cathedral after he saves Esmeralda and everyone thinks he’s kidnapped her, he pours molten lead on their heads from the bell tower.  The lead poured out of the mouths of the gargoyles.  Wasn’t that great?  And then when Esmeralda is taken away by the hero, he sits on the parapet, next to one of the gargoyles and says: “Why am I not made of stone like these statues?  I cry every time I see it.  I can feel his pain…his loneliness…his feelings of rejection because of the deformity he was born with…was no fault of his own.”

“Yeah, I guess I’ve seen one of the movies.  I think it was the Anthony Quinn one,” said Stan, his tension easing slightly.  “But what are you doing dressed like that?”

“Well, my brothers were playing Wiffle Ball in our backyard and I climbed out on the back porch roof and pretended I was Quasimodo.  I have an overactive imagination…sometimes.  But, instead of scaring anyone, they laughed at me.  Our neighbor, Mr. Sparks was getting into his car and he saw me on the roof.  He told my father later that he laughed so hard he wet his pants.  I mean the guy is about 52 years old.”

“So, then what happened?”

“My brothers talked me into coming down to the back yard.  My older brother, Denny, wanted to take a picture.  At first I refused but he said he would give me the picture.  He never did.  My other brother, Dan, got a copy of the picture.  He won’t give it back.  He keeps threatening me with it.  He says he’ll pass it around St. Pat’s school if I don’t give him all the Mars bars he wants for the next six months…and then he said he wanted half my Halloween candy, too.”


So, that’s the true story of how this picture was taken.  I have been terrified for decades about anyone seeing it.  My brother held it over my head.  I lived in a state of panic.  What would my girlfriend say?  She already thinks I’m weird enough.  Now she’ll think I really insane.

Well, all the Self-Help and Life Advice books will tell you to face your fears.  Confront them.  [If you want to get over a fear of flying, you have to take a flight].

So, after being hidden away for longer than I can say… this is the picture that I wanted no one to see.

I wonder.  Does that mean that my brother doesn’t really care about me anymore?  No one cares what I do with the picture.  If no one cares to humiliate me anymore…does that mean no one cares?


So, go ahead.  Look at it.  Gaze on it.  Make fun of it.  Tease me. Mock me…maybe then I’ll know you really care.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve: II “What Lies Beyond?”


If you walked this path.  If you dared to enter this forest…who would you encounter?  What would you encounter?  Are there leaves on the branches, ever?  Do wildflowers grow along the trail, ever?  Was this photo taken at noon? at midnight?  Are you dreaming? Having a nightmare?  Or are you fully awake, your senses alert and your eyes wide open?  Are you even alive?

If you stop and listen…what do you hear?  Footsteps behind you?  Something beckoning to you from a tree in the middle distance?  If you met anyone (or anything) on this path, what would you say?  What would you be asked?

A word of advice: If you meet a figure with a hooded cloak, face hidden, ugly thin fingers clinging to a scythe…go the other way.  But, having said that, you can go in any direction…for awhile…but he will always be somewhere nearby…waiting for you…waiting for the moment that your name comes to the top of the page of the Book-That-Only-He-Can-See.

In the end, it won’t really matter what you do…

[Revised 9/9/14]

Waiting For All Hallows Eve: Part I “Ned’s Poor Wife”

Pull your chairs closer to the fireplace.  Come in from the shadows beyond the campfire.  I’m going to tell you a spooky story.

I will begin by stating that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  The time of year is ideal…the pumpkins sit on the vine, the corn is tied into six-foot shocks.  The nights are chilly.  The cider is hot.  The apples may still be on the branches, but some of them may have already fallen to the ground, starting to turn brown, starting to rot into the earth while giving off a sweet odor that attracts the Autumn bees.  The mornings may find a frost on the grass.  The moon is brighter now that the summer humidity is gone.  The smell of burning leaves (where they are allowed to be burned) fill the air with a scent that is unique to only a few weeks out of the year.  The smoke often drifts across the mowed fields and pastures, mixing with the fog of late summer.  The trees in the graveyards seem to drop their foliage first, leaving bare trees that look like skeletons.  Pumpkins are cut into funny faces and candles placed inside their hallow heads glow with an eerie orange light from the eyes, nose and mouth.  Some people, like me, prefer to carve the pumpkins into scary faces.  After all, isn’t that what this time of year is all about?  The intense green of mid summer has given way to a dull and dusty faded green of late summer.  Now, the trees burst into spectacular scarlets, yellows, oranges, reds and amber.  Life, for a time, is over.  Hints of death are in the air.  Stories are told about ghosts, strange lights, floating objects, disembodied voices, floating skulls and walking skeletons…or worse.

That’s why I’m here.  I intend to devote a series of posts that are macabre, spooky, scary, strange and full of the seasonal feelings of the Autumn.  Sometimes the posts will be simple pictures with no comments.  Perhaps a short story.  Maybe a poem.  But it will, hopefully, evoke a feeling (or need) of pulling the blanket up close to your chin and keeping an extra light on during the night-time. Yes, the night time…when nightmares come, dreams arrive, shadows lengthen and candles burn low.

[I invite comments!  If I post an illustration, please, please feel free to write something about it in the comment box.  Make it a story.  Make it a thought, a poem, a song, a memory, a rumor or simply a comment.  Please keep the thread alive and stay decent.]

Here’s my first offering:

“The Tale of Ned’s Poor Wife”

On the edge of a small body of water close to Blue Mountain Lake, NY, there lived a writer.  His legal name was E.C.Z. Judson but he wrote under the pen name of Ned Buntline.  Perhaps you have read some of his tales of the Wild West.  These were published as “dime novels” in the middle of the 19th century.  He became quite famous and sold millions of copies of his “pulp fiction” novels.  Often, these were peddled as authentic histories, but it has been said that Ned never traveled west of the Mississippi River.

Ned was something of a recluse.  Some would say he was nearly a hermit.  He liked to be alone to write his books.  He also was a very eccentric character.  I read an account of him dressing up like an Indian and standing on the shore of the lake where he lived hooting and yelling at the steamboats that chugged past his cabin carrying tourists to nearby hotels.

Probably, he was the kind of guy you would want to avoid.

Ned disliked a great many things but one thing he did not dislike was a young and pretty woman.  So he (as a middle-aged man) married a young and pretty woman.  They lived happily(?) on the shores of a lake near Blue Mountain Lake in a cabin that Ned had named Eagle’s Nest.

The girl, Eva, became pregnant.  She gave birth in a bedroom of Eagle’s Nest.  Nothing unusual for 1860.

Then she died.  Her infant child died also. Again, nothing unusual for 1860.

Ned buried her in his yard next to Eagle’s Nest.

Years later, Ned moved away. He died in 1886 in Stamford, NY.  Her grave remained in the weedy yard of the old cabin.

A decade or so after her death, as a Halloween prank, the local fire department decided to have a parade.  They needed a “grand marshal” of sorts.  So they did the only thing that would enter the minds of a gang of 1860 firemen who had plenty to drink.  They dug Eva out of her grave and paraded her around the village on Halloween!

This went on for a number of years until the local police and a few rich patrons of the hotels decided that it just may have crossed the line of decency to hold such a parade.  They removed her remains (and that of her infant child) and reinterred her in the present-day cemetery at Blue Mountain Lake.  They installed a chain fence around the gravesite.

The desecration of her grave stopped.  The parades were over.

Today, the chain fence is gone, but her tombstone remains.  There is a plaque explaining why she was moved.

Recently, I stood in a light rain and stared at poor Eva’s grave.  I thought of what a strange journey she had to make, and the people who had to help her (after death) to find the rest she so dearly deserved.



[I heard this story while sitting the second-floor deck of a restaurant on Upper Saranac Lake.  The storyteller was an older man with a great white beard.  When he was finished, he walked down the bank to the lake and took off in his float-plane.  The legendary restaurant where I heard this story was purchased by someone who had it torn down.  It was a great loss of a beautiful building.]

Pacific Northwest Interlude: The Legendary Pumpkins of Washington State

We’re sitting beside Commencement Bay in lower Puget Sound, enjoying a brunch with friends.  This is not a “brunch” in the way that the word is thrown around so often these days.  We’re provided with Mimosa’s that just keep coming like the tide and enough oysters and shrimp to drive a Maine shell fisherman turn green with envy.  No, this is a real Washington State brunch.

On our way home we drive through the lovely countryside that follows the Puyallup River.  This would be the river that would turn into massive mud slides once Mt. Rainier erupts.  But no one on the road today is thinking about that.  We’re just driving and gazing in awe at the sublime majesty of the mountain itself.  Rainier is a shy and bashful mountain, hiding its beauty behind clouds much of the time…but not today.  No, not today.  It sits in the distance, begging to be climbed, hiked around and admired up close.  The only problem is that it’s a National Park…and we know about National Parks these days, don’t we.

We stop at a Pumpkin Farm.  Halloween is about two weeks away.  My grandson is having his first touching experience with those strange orange globes that fill the field.

I am very fond of this holiday.  I recall Trick or Treating as a child in my hometown of Owego, NY.  Years later, I took my own children to these same houses.  I love dressing up as something I’m not.

And I consider pumpkin carving nothing short of a work of pure art.  I carve pumpkins like a professional ghost storyteller spins yarns of ghouls and witches.  But my pumpkins are not silly ones with grins and oversized teeth.  No, my pumpkins are carved like they belong in burial grounds of places like Sleepy Hollow and Cemetery Hill.  They are spooky, scary and malevolent.

I looked over the boxes of the $1.33/lb. variety.  The blank faces stared back at me.  Take me.  Carve me.  Make me horrid, they would say to me.

I felt like Michelangelo.  I saw a lump of orange and the demon inside would form in my mine.  I was the artist whose job it was to release this spirit from within.

I selected one that said the right thing to me.  I made plans.  I drafted designs.  And then I looked across the patch and saw my grandson.  How could I carve something that would frighten this pure innocent soul?  I was stuck in a dilemma.  Be true to my dark side or make my grandson giggle?

I bought the chosen orb and then rode home trying to discover a laughable and cute demon.

They have to be out there, somewhere.  After all, isn’t that what “graveyard humor” is all about?