Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Halloween Superstitions

Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures. Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how or why they came into being.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits. They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Here's a list of ten superstitions that seem to apply specifically to Halloween.

1) If a candle goes out on its own on Halloween, it is thought a ghost has come to call.

2) A burning candle inside of a Jack-o-lantern on Halloween keeps evil spirits at bay.

3) You invite bad luck into your home if you allow a fire to burn out on Halloween.

4) A person born on Halloween can both see and talk to spirits.

5) Seeing a spider on Halloween could be the spirit of a dead loved one who is watching you.

6) If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don't look back because it could be the dead following.

7) Don't look at your shadow in moonlight on Halloween night. Otherwise, you will die within a short period of time.

8) If a bat flies around a house three times, it is a death omen.

9) Ringing a bell on Halloween will scare evil spirits away.

10) A bat that enters a home may have been let in by a ghost.

Do you have any favorite Halloween superstitions?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

American Haunted Hotels

Are you looking for that Halloween thrill that's real rather than manufactured? A true haunted hotel for a night away from home? We have many haunted hotels and inns from which to choose. Here's a sampling (in no particular order) of 20 spooky destinations to spend the night. Or longer…if you're brave enough.

The Myrtles Plantation—St. Francisville, Louisiana
Built approximately 1796, this former home is considered one of the most haunted homes in the U.S. with one murder and several natural deaths. The Plantation now has 11 guest rooms.

Hotel del Coronado—Coronado, California (San Diego)
Opened in 1888 and a National Historic Landmark since 1977, the Hotel del Coronado is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, who died there. This is one of my favorite hotels and has also been used as a location in many movies and television shows, probably the most well-known being SOME LIKE IT HOT starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.

Marrero's Guest Mansion—Key West, Florida
Built in 1889 by Francisco Marrero for his bride, the 13 guest room Victorian home is rumored to still be haunted by her ghost.

Stanley Hotel—Estes Park, Colorado
First opened in 1909, this hotel is most famous these days as the inspiration for Stephen King's THE SHINING.

Queen Anne Hotel—San Francisco, California
This B&B in San Francisco's Pacific Heights area is said to be haunted by the spirit of Mary Lake who was the Head Mistress of the school that used to be located there.

Manresa Castle—Port Townsend, Washington
A former 30 room private residence is haunted by 2 ghosts, including a former guest who was stood up by her lover and subsequently jumped to her death from the hotel.

Driskill Hotel—Austin, Texas
Originally built in 1886 for cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the Austin landmark hosts travelers today in addition to the spirit of Jesse Driskill.

The Lemp Mansion—St. Louis, Missouri
This hotel offers paranormal tours complete with appetizers and a drink. Several members of the Lemp family died under various circumstances including more than one suicide.

Hawthorne Hotel—Salem, Massachusetts
The town that was the site of the Salem Witch Trials would certainly lend itself to hauntings and Halloween visitors. Guests of the hotel reported hearing eerie sounds in the stairwells and feeling ill at ease while staying there.

Green Mountain Inn—Stowe, Vermont
Boots Berry died in a fall from the roof. His ghost has been seen standing in room 1840, where he was born.

Buxton Inn—Granville, Ohio
The ghost of Orrin Granger, who built the Buxton Inn, has been seen wandering the halls. The ghost of Bonnie Bounell, a former innkeeper, is said to hang out in room 9.

1866 Crescent Hotel & Spa—Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The deceased who are still residing at the hotel include a stonemason, a cancer patient, a cat and a man in a white suit. A new ghost, a dancer, was spotted recently.

Beverly Hills Inn—Atlanta, Georgia
This property is said to be haunted by the souls of 3 women. An investigation in 2007 recorded voices whispering "Get out."

Hotel Queen Mary—Long Beach, California
With its history as both a luxury liner and during World War II a troop transport ship, the Queen Mary is reportedly haunted by many spirits. One of them is a young girl who broke her neck sliding down one of the ship's banisters. She can be seen today hanging out by the swimming pool.

Gettysburg Hotel—Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Ghosts dance in the ballroom and the ghost of a Union soldier strolls through the halls. The nearby Gettysburg Civil War battle field is considered by many to be the most haunted place in the country.

Congress Plaza Hotel—Chicago, Illinois
Built in 1893 for visitors to the Chicago World's Fair, the hotel is reputedly one of Al Capone's hideouts. Members of a rival gang did a drive by shooting attempt on his life while he was staying there. The hotel is said to be haunted by a young boy, possibly an innocent victim of that shooting.

The Battery Carriage House Inn—Charleston, South Carolina
Many guests have reported seeing the torso of a decapitated confederate soldier floating through the Inn.

1859 Historic National Hotel—Jamestown, California
Located in the Sierra foothills in the heart of the California gold rush country, the hotel is said to be haunted by a woman whose fiancé was shot by a drunk on the hotel premises. She is said to have died of a broken heart while wearing her wedding dress and has been giving hotel guests an uncomfortable feeling ever since.

Burn Brae Mansion—Glen Spy, New York
This former home of the third president of the Singer Sewing Machine company offers ghost tours.

Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn—Mountain City, Tennessee
The haunting spirit at this Inn apparently has a sweet tooth. The smell of baking cookies wafts through the Inn in the wee hours of the morning.

The Colonial Inn—Concord, Massachusetts
This 24 room Inn was established in 1716. Room 24, located in the oldest part of the Inn, was reportedly used as an emergency hospital during the Revolutionary War and that is where guests have reported odd happenings.

There are, of course, many more reportedly haunted hotels and inns. This is just a sampling. Do you have any haunted hotels in your city?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Horror Movies For The Halloween Season

A thought struck me the other day. It was not anything earth shattering nor a profound realization, but a thought none-the-less. I haven't seen much in the way of promo on television for the October theatrical horror movie releases typical of the Halloween season. Did Hollywood run out of ideas for this year's tribute to the spooky, macabre, and gruesome?

What happened to the scary horror movies from the past that traded on the atmosphere of fear rather than the visual of spurting blood and flying body parts? The tingling sensation that made the hair stand on the back of our necks and goose bumps on our arms as our imaginations ran amuck. The spooky ground fog that seemed to slither over and around the tombstones, cloaking the cemetery in an eerie silence.

I'm talking about the traditional horror classics like Frankenstein from 1931 with Boris Karloff's brilliant performance as the monster. Also from 1931, Dracula with Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the vampire as both elegant and mesmerizing which left the horror to the imagination of the viewer. Then came 1941's The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the stricken Larry Talbot.

True to Hollywood tradition, these classic horror movies spawned numerous sequels—Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter. And as long as Hollywood was on a roll, they added to the profit factor by capitalizing on the popularity of the characters by having them co-star in such movies as Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Then there were the myriad remakes that came over the ensuing years, some serious attempts and others totally ludicrous. Each one pushed the envelope in its own way in order to hopefully make it better (as in more box office dollars) than its predecessor.

And the award for the most remakes over the years goes to Dracula. Some were serious films and others were more on the ridiculous side with titles such as Dracula's Dog and Dracula's Widow.

With all three of the original movies, the remakes never really captured the essence of the originals…in my humble opinion.

And these certainly aren't the only horror movies that fall into the classic category. This month Turner Classic Movies cable channel is doing their October retrospective of horror movies. This year it's Classic Horror Monday with a total of 32 horror movies and one new offering in their A Night At The Movies series, their 2011 documentary The Horrors Of Stephen King. Their viewing schedule includes the silent classics of 1919's The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and 1922's Nosferatu, takes us through the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, and culminates with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead.

And that should be enough to satisfy any classic horror movie buff's needs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beware Of America's Creepiest Roads!

They've been called urban legends, ghost stories, creepy encounters. But they all have one thing in common—unexplained happenings on dark roads in the dead of night. If you'll pardon the use of the word dead.

Or maybe it's more appropriate than you realize. :)

Halloween is this month and the perfect time of year to explore these creepy lanes and the unexplained happenings. Here's a sampling of some of these haunted roads.

The San Antonio Ghost Track: If you put your car in neutral on the tracks, the car will move by itself off the tracks. And if you cover the bumper in baby power, you'll find child-sized palm prints. However, be careful if you decide to try it out. There have been reports of bandits waiting in hiding for people to start their paranormal test.

The Georgia Ghost Roads: Travelers late at night along Railroad Bed Road and Old Ghost Road (Robertson Road) see a faint orange light flashing in the distance. As they drive closer to it, a man will appear who is digging a ditch…or perhaps a grave. He turns and walks toward the car, but disappears before he gets there.

Buckout Road in Harrison, NY: The shocking murders committed by Issac Buckhout are believed responsible for the area's many reports of notorious activities such as farms burning, vandalism in a local historic cemetery, and people who claimed to have been attacked by flesh-eating monsters because they parked in front of a specific red house and honked their car horn three times.

Meshack Road in Tompinsville, KY: This is supposedly the original location of the oft repeated story of the young woman in the prom dress who is walking along the road and given a ride by a young man. He gives her his coat to keep warm. The next day he returns to the house where he took her in order to retrieve his coat. The woman living there told him her daughter had died several years ago…on prom night.

Milford Road in Oxford, Ohio: The story of star-crossed lovers. The boy and girl were in love but the girl's father hated the boy. The boy would flash his motorcycle headlight three times and if he saw her porch light flash three times in return he knew it was safe to go there. One night he's killed on the road, but the flashing lights continue to haunt the area.

Mona Lisa Drive in New Orleans: A philanthropist donated a collection of statuary to the city with one stipulation. The statue commissioned to commemorate the death of his only daughter, Mona, be placed in a special location in the park by itself. One night a car chase ended with a car crashing into the statue and shattering it. After that, rumors began to circulate that Mona lurked in the park where the statue had been, haunting innocent and unsuspecting visitors.

Archer Road in Justice, IL: Resurrection Cemetery is the site of a story similar to the Meshack Road haunting. A young man met a pretty blond at a dance. At the end of the evening, he drove her home. When they reached the cemetery, she asked him to stop. She got out of the car, walked toward the gate, and disappeared. He went to the house where she said she lived and the woman told him her daughter had been dead for five years.

Spook Hill in Burkittsville, MD: In addition to the ghostly reputation courtesy of the 1990s horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, an unexplained recurring happening here is similar to the Railroad Crossing in San Antonio. When driving up Spook Hill, if you stop and put the car in neutral it won't roll back downhill. It will continue uphill as if being pushed. The local ghostly tale claims it's Civil War soldiers who think they're pushing one of their cannons up the hill.

Shades of Death Road in Warren Co., NJ: Yes, Shades of Death Road is the real name of the street, but no one is sure exactly how the name came about. Over the decades many murders have happened along this stretch of road, each its own ghastly tale, which certainly explains why so many different ghosts haunt the area.

Do you have any ghostly tales or spooky happenings where you live?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

5 Points In Favor Of Live Conversation

I read an article a few months ago about the importance of what is quickly becoming the lost art of live conversation in this age of electronic communication. How often have you seen a scene on a television show where the only two people in a room are texting each other when they could just as easily be talking? This usually occurs in a comedy, pointing up the absurdity of the situation.

Email and other forms of electronic communication such as texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc., tends to be society's primary mode of communication these days, both personally and professionally.

And, of course, we can add blogging to that list. :)

We tend to deal with difficult or emotional conversations electronically because it's easier—it's non-confrontational. Unfortunately, we often regret it later. It's easy to have conflict arise and get blown out of proportion because those involved failed to engage in live conversation—perhaps a fear of a live connection and poor judgment in using written communication. All the emoticons and acronyms in the world can't adequately convey the subtle nuances in a tone of voice, with facial expressions, body language, or the smallest gesture that can be seen or heard with live conversation.

It often seems easier to be honest and direct in writing because we don't have that live, in-the-moment reaction of the other person. Electronic communication takes less courage than live conversation with a real human being. Avoiding that live conversation allows us to feel safer and lets us say things electronically that we might not otherwise verbalize.

And therein is the trap. Sometimes things are said electronically that would not have otherwise been said because the electronic communication has a feeling of distance to it, something more impersonal, rather than being up close and in person.

The article listed five suggestions for engaging in live conversations more often and ultimately resolving conflicts more successfully.

1) Be clear about your intention.
Before sending your electronic message or leaving a voice mail, ask yourself why you are handling the situation electronically rather than live. If the matter is in any way emotionally charged or about a conflict, check to make sure you aren't sending an electronic message simply to avoid that personal involvement. And make sure you answer your question honestly.

2) Don't send everything you write.
Writing everything out in an unfiltered manner can be liberating especially when dealing with an emotional conflict, however that does not mean that it's a good idea to send it. Save it then read it again later before taking any action with it.

3) Request a call or a meeting.
Before becoming involved in a long drawn out exchange of electronic messages, request a live conversation—face-to-face if possible, or if distance doesn't allow that then on the phone.

4) Speak without judgment or blame.
When you engage in the live conversation over a conflict, focus on reality rather than being right. As soon as we move into the realm of blame, we greatly reduce the possibility of resolution.

5) Get support from others.
When dealing with emotionally charged issues, sometimes it's a good idea to seek out support and advice from others we trust and respect, people who will be honest rather than simply saying what we want to hear.

Electronic communication is going to become more and more commonplace in today's society, but resolving our conflicts can often be done quicker and easier with live conversation.