Tag Archives: Halloween

Are we scared yet?

I wasn’t going to write a Halloween post this year, it not being my favourite holiday, but then this happened:

I haven’t been sleeping well lately, which means I’ve been exhausted and generally worthless, so the other day I decided to take a nap. Just a quick nap on the couch, maybe 20 minutes. Heh.

I woke up roughly two hours later, about the time the sun was starting to go down, feeling all groggy and worse than before my nap. I went to use the downstairs bathroom and noticed a weird reddish glow on the wall of the back stairs. Still feeling mostly out of it, I stopped and looked up the stairs at the glow and thought, “Wow, must be a really gorgeous sunset going on.” Not wanting to miss it, I backtracked to look out the windows by the deck, but the sky looked very ordinary. No red at all. No orange or even any pink. That was weird.

So I used the bathroom and then looked again and there was still this weird red glow coming from upstairs. Groggy, I briefly wondered whether the bonus room was on fire. But it wasn’t that kind of light. No flickering, no smell of smoke. No sound at all. Fire is noisy.

Then I wondered whether maybe there was something red up there and the sun was hitting it or reflecting off it. Like maybe a red vase. Or maybe my daughter had hung something in a window last weekend when she was home. But I couldn’t remember seeing anything up there that might do that.

Now by this time, the sun had pretty much gone down and there was no way the red glow was being caused by sunlight. And it was definitely still red. Very red. And it was sort of starting to freak me out. Normally, the staircase leading to the bonus room is completely dark at night.

This is what it looked like, as if maybe a portal had opened to the ninth circle of hell up there:

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It didn’t help that I’ve already been a bit jumpy for the past week or so. The oak trees have produced a bumper crop of acorns this year and the damn things have been hitting the house and deck with great force at irregular intervals. The ones that land on the deck bounce up and hit the French windows and it sounds like someone is trying to break in. Startles me every single time. Sort of like an ineffective mash-up of The Lottery and The Raven. Smooth, round acorns, carefully selected, gently rapping, rapping . . . tapping my house to death.

In fact, I can easily imagine both Jackson and Poe, sitting in their respective houses being pelted by acorns, thinking, “This sound is irritating; I wonder how I can make it horrifying, so that years from now some woman with a wild imagination . . .”

I did mention I’ve been sleep deprived, right?

I stepped up onto the bottom stair, to get a better look. I craned my head as far off to the side as I could and— the neon Budweiser sign my son brought home from college and hung on the wall was lit up!

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Okay, now I was TOTALLY FREAKED OUT. Not to mention finally wide awake. I know that sign wasn’t on before then. I definitely would have noticed the red glow. I was the only one in the house. Who the hell had turned it on? Had someone come into the house while I was napping? I’d been totally zonked out, dead to the world, but surely that would have woken me. Wouldn’t it? And why would anyone even DO THAT? Who breaks into a house and TURNS ON A LIGHT?

If someone was gaslighting me and using a neon sign to do it, I could appreciate the pun, I guess, but that would be beyond bizarre. And unlikely.

I remembered that while I was drifting off, Cauliflower (my daughter’s cat who now lives with me, because allergies) had been spazzing out, running around downstairs and then charging up the back stairs and thumping around up there before coming back down and racing around some more down here. This is nothing new. It’s what she does. But now she was sitting in the back entry, all tense and alert with her tail puffed up like she was scared, and swiveling her head every once in a while to look up the stairs before looking expectantly back at me.

WHAT THE HELL?

I almost called my son to come over and investigate. Because he’s 6’3″ and strong and athletic and . . . I am not. But probably it was nothing. Probably. And given that he inherited my sense of humour, I’d never hear the end of it. Except, how could it be nothing? I can understand a light going OFF unexpectedly, but not one that turned on for no reason. Someone or something had to have turned it on. And then, predictably, helpfully, of course I had this bit of movie dialog running through my head:

Cowardly Lion: I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I do!

Wicked Witch of the West: Ah! You’ll believe in more than that before I’m finished with you.

I would have scared myself silly and fled from the house by now, if I had a tail to pull.

CRACK. CRACK-CRACK.

Forget the tail, the acorns hitting the windows were going to finish me off.

Not yet ready to abandon all hope, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and decided to go upstairs to check it out. It’s not like I could just ignore it. At the very least, I had to go turn off the glowing red light. Never mind that I was starting to feel like the too-stupid-to-live heroine who goes down into the basement at night, wearing a diaphanous nightgown and carrying only a lit candle, to check out the strange noises after the power goes out in spite of knowing there’s an escaped serial killer in the area. But it was either go up there or put a sign in a front window, advertising hourly rates.

I don’t think there are any escaped villains in the area, not that I’d watched the news recently, not with an election imminent. And my power wasn’t out – obviously, given the sign was on – and I did arm myself with my cell phone. I mean, really, what kind of weapon would even be useful, let alone necessary, when confronting someone who entered a home with the sole intent of turning on a neon beer sign? I half expected to find some vagrant passed out on the couch, empty longneck dangling from his fingers, waiting for someone to come shoot a few games of pool with him.

Yes, there’s a pool table up there. If worst came to worst, I absolutely know my way around a pool cue. I am fucking proficient with a pool cue.

I went up the front stairs. If there was something in that room that was going to startle me, I didn’t want to be teetering at the top of the back staircase when it happened. I checked out all the other rooms first. Nothing seemed out of place. The house was quiet. Very quiet. Other than the sound of acorns hitting the roof from time to time, making me jump. And the stampeding feet of the cat thundering up the stairs behind me.

I cautiously made my way to the bonus room. If there was an intruder, it was the quietest intruder, ever, in the entire history of intruders. And also invisible. There was no one in the room. Believe me, I checked thoroughly. The only living things in the house were the two cats and me. And the big-ass spider that got away before I could smash it earlier.

My elderly cat was downstairs on the living room couch, blissfully deaf in her old age and sound asleep. The spider was somewhere in the depths of the hall closet, never (I hope) to be seen again. But Cauliflower was now sitting in the middle of the pool table, tail all puffed up and eyes gone dark, staring intently at the neon Budweiser sign. Which was still glowing.

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Well hell.

Sure, I was relieved not to find an intruder. Of course I was. But that had been the obvious rational explanation for this mystery . . . and now . . . I didn’t know what to think. I don’t like unsolved mysteries and I don’t like feeling afraid. Not that I had a choice. It’s not like anyone asked me whether I wanted to participate in a locked room mystery for the evening’s entertainment.

Seemed like the only thing to do was turn off the sign and go back downstairs and, I don’t know, remain hyper-vigilant. For the rest of my life.

So I started looking for the off switch. I assumed it was one of those wheel-type things on the cord that you spin with your thumb. Standing at what I considered a questionably safe distance, because I’m now more than slightly leery of this thing, I ran my hand along the entire length of cord but couldn’t find a switch. Fuuuuck. There had to be a switch because, in my dogged pursuit of reason, I had decided probably it was faulty. I wasn’t giving up until I found it. No way was I willing to believe that some unknown force had picked up the cord and plugged the damn thing in.

I looked again, moving even closer. I’m telling you, this is as brave as I get, standing alone at night in a silent house with a freaked-out cat at my back, an eerie red glow painting my face, trying to figure out how to turn off an apparently possessed neon sign.

And then I saw it:

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The World’s Most Perfect Cat Toy, dangling right there in front of me.

If you think there wasn’t some choice profanity at this point, you don’t know me very well.

I figure Cauliflower must have been messing around with that string attached to the pull chain when she was racing around earlier, probably got a claw stuck in it, and turned on the light. Idiot cat. I don’t have absolute proof or anything. But that’s the most likely, the only reasonable, explanation. Right? It’s not like there are ghouls running around loose and making mischief this time of year. RIGHT?!

The only consolation was that the experience seemed to have frightened the cat as much as it did me. I turned to look at her, still sitting on the pool table, still completely intent on the sign, still all puffed up and tense. If she could talk, I imagine at that moment she would have said, “See? I discovered how to make light! And it is fucking scary.” Yeah, tell me about it, cat.

So the Budweiser sign has now been turned off. And unplugged. I swear, if it happens again I’m calling an exorcist.

Enjoy your Halloween, all. Sweet dreams.

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Filed under holidays, just for fun

Scary poetry redux, for a good cause

During the month of October, some fellow book lovers have been conducting an online fundraiser called BookOrTreat in support of UNICEF. I know, I know, with the approach of the holiday season it seems as if everyone wants your money and the pleas can get to be pretty tedious. I’m not about to tell anyone what to do with their money, but you could do worse than contributing to this effort on behalf of UNICEF. They do good work.

Whether or not you decide to donate to this project, I do hope you’ll consider giving some amount of your time or effort or hard-earned dollars to those who are less fortunate. Their number seems to be growing ever larger.

At least the folks at BookOrTreat are having fun with it, encouraging people to write blog posts with a Halloween theme that are added each week to their “Blog Party.” So I figured, what the heck, I’ll join in and recycle the post from last year. Okay, and from the year before. Hey, I’ve heard traditions can be comforting. Sit back and be comforted:

Halloween is just a few short days away. This is what my sister, Booko, does to pumpkins this time of year:

Yes, she carved each and every one of them. Amazingly talented, is my sister. Here are more:

Being much less adept with a knife, I think of Halloween as the annoyingly predictable day when the neighborhood kids come to ring my doorbell, sending The Wonder Dog into frenzied fits of insanity and the cat into traumatized seclusion, interrupting my solitude with their insincere and unconvincing cries of “trick or treat!”

Of course, there are the practical souls who stand there silently, petulant, stubbornly holding out their buckets and pillowcases, recipients of a largesse earned by mere entitlement rather than effort or threat of force, their young faces costumed in ghoulish aspects of expectant greed.

No, this is not my favourite holiday. How could you tell?

Ah, but it is also Samhain, the dark twin of Beltane, sometimes known as All Hallow’s Eve — a night when it is said that the veil between the worlds of the living and of the dead is at its thinnest. Some say it is a night of unimaginable power. A night cloaked in mystery and pagan ritual, shrouded by superstition and fear. A night when the spirits of the dead roam freely among us, causing mischief and harm, unappeased by meager offerings and reined in only by the approach of dawn. Tales are told of incautious souls unwary enough to be lured by curiosity to the other side, and of those unfortunate few who do not make it back before night gives way to light.

As an antidote to the crass commercialism of the modern holiday, and just generally to cheer myself up, I tried to find a poem I could post here that would convey the dark eerie spookiness of the old pagan beliefs — that the threshold between the living and the dead is easily crossed on this night — but couldn’t find any that quite fit the right mood. So I wrote my own. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write. May your Hallow E’en be a night of safe travels, one disturbed only by visitations of benign spirits.

come dance with me

they come in the darkest of night
to be
afoot in the absence of light
and see
the souls who have given the right
to me
to waltz upon their graves

they come now to witness the dance
and see
how fortune has done more than glance
at me
and evil has won the last chance
to be
the footprints on the graves

and oh how they quiver with fear
of me
and how their own lives they hold dear
and flee
though fate never has been more clear
to see
’tis written on the graves

the game has already been won
you see
and night will give way to the sun
and be
the lament of words left unsung
to me
the keeper of the graves

they say ’tis sheer madness this night
to be
awash in the absence of light
and see
them link hands this unhallowed night
with me
and dance upon their graves

come
dance
with
me

So, what are your plans this Halloween? Going to venture out into the night?

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Filed under holidays