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My Picks for the Scariest Halloween Movies in the World

25 Oct

Real life is full of real  scary things, like layoffs, newly discovered lumps, registered letters, or grown-up children threatening to come back home.   While we hope to avoid these things, Halloween is a time when people consciously seek out scary experiences as a form of entertainment.                

             If you’re the sort of person who wants to be scared this year, below are my recommendations for the scariest Halloween movies ever.

  1. Psycho: Somehow I saw this Hitchcock movie, accidently when I was about 10 years old.  It’s a good thing we didn’t  have a shower at the time  or I would have been stinky until high school.
  2. The Exorcist: I read the book first and it gave me nightmares. When the little girl’s head spun completely  around in the movie,  I almost displayed what they call in the Haunted  House trade a loss of “yellow control”.
  3. IT: Pennywise, the demonic clown played by Tim Curry, is the scariest character ever.  I still don’t look down storm drains, because he  just might be there, looking up.   
  4. The Amityville Horror: After watching the begining of this movie, Diane and I actually walked out of the  theater , so we could rush home and check on our children.  
  5. The Pet Sematary: I started this book,  but  never finished it. When I got to the point in the book where the little boy gets run over by a speeding transport truck, I threw the book against the wall and never read another word. A friend at work, who had read the whole thing, asked me, “Haven’t these people ever heard of a fence?”
  6. The Shining:  Who can forget Jack Nicholson bursting through the door, screaming  “Heeere’s Johnny”.
  7. Alien: I could never get past the scene where the alien creature bursts from John Hurt’s  chest.
  8. Jaws: My popcorn went all over the theater,  when  they found the corpse in the  sunken boat. I still  swear that they flashed a picture of a shark in that scene,  right before they showed the body.  
  9. Frankenstein: When I was a kid my older brother Norman insisted on watching all of these old Universal horror movies on a local Friday night television show called Spook Spectacular. I was terrified.        
  10. The Turn of the Screw: I never really understood the book,  nor the film version, called The Innocents, until it was    explained to me. Now I think the ghosts were real and it’s very creepy.

     Finally if you prefer something a little more current you might try the  Paranormal Activity 3, The Grunge, or The Ring.  Happy Halloween!

It is interesting that all the villians have the “square mouth” expression that psychologist Paul Ekman indentified  as signalling  unbridled rage as in the illustration below.  

 

Tons of Pumpkin Fun

14 Oct

With Halloween and  Thanksgiving closing in,  the talk has turn to that venerable symbol of Autumn– the   pumpkin. Chris Stevens from New Richmond, Wisconsin currently holds the world’s record  for pumpkin growing with his 1,810.5 pound pumpkin. His pumpkin weighs more than the Smart Car. Steven took the  pumpkin title at last years Stillwater Wisconsin Festival . Growers are getting closer to that holy grail of  Pumkindom  the one-ton pumpkin- a squash bigger than a Killer Whale. Such a pumpkin could make a Jack O’ Lantern that could double as a summer cabin.

The word pumpkin is derived from the  Greek for “large melon”. The French called them   pompons. The British altered this  to pumpions in the American Colonies they were called simply “pumpkins”.    Pumpkin-like  seeds that are over nine thousand years old have been in Mexico.

Pumpkins are often included in the squash family and have also been seen as one type of vegetable marrow.

            In American over  1.5 billion pounds   of pumpkins are produced annually with Illinois and Indiana producing the most.  Pumpkins have  both male and female flowers on the same plant and hoiney bees are important  to provide pollination. The USDA recommends one bee hiove per acre of pumpkins.   The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety but the largest pumpkins are Cucurbita maxima. They were cross bred  from a  squash genotype,and the kabocha-pumpkin types in the1800’ s. The most popular pumpkin type today among competitive growers is called  the Atlantic Giant.   The 500 pound barrier was broken in  1981, by Howard Dill  of Nova Scotia and by 1994, the   the 1,000-pound mark was exceeded.

                They are approximately 80 competitive pumpkin festivals held each year around the  country. In some of these the cash prize  is based on the weight of the pumpkin. One contest in California pays 6 dollars a pound to the winner, so a one-ton pumpkin would net $12,000.  By the way the Smart Car cost about 8 dollar a pound.

Ghosts with the Most

21 Sep

My wife Diane and I just returned from spending the weekend in a log cabin. We  stayed at this cabin twice before, but this time we were unpleasantly surprised by the host of strange noises  we heard. As soon as we entered the cabin, we immediately heard creaking in the upstairs loft that sounded like  there was someone walking around. I didn’t want to scare Diane, who I’m  sure was thinking  exactly the  same thing, so I casually walked over to the corner of the room, where I could peak upstairs. Of course, there was nothing to be seen.

If anything the sounds became louder as we unpacked. Our next image was   someone  climbing on the roof. I told Diane that it must be a squirrel, and by the magnitude of the creaking,  a freakishly  large one.  Diane took a broom and standing in the loft, she vigorously whapped the ceiling several times. The sounds didn’t stop, but thank goodness it didn’t tap back.

The noise continued so Diane went outside to see if there was anything actually on the roof.  Again there was nothing there.  The tin roof was quite steep and  there was only a inch of space between the tin sheeting and the indoor ceiling—  hardly enough room for an animal capable of making the creaking sounds we heard.

            Since we had never been at this cabin during a heat wave, I convinced myself that the noise was due to the expansion of the ceiling’s tongue and groove joints.  While I was comforted by this thought, I didn’t really believe it. There were long periods of complete silence and the heat didn’t seem to be related at all to the various noises we heard. Diane said that if it  was a poltergeist trying to convince us to leave, it was a pretty lame one.  All it did was make creaking noises and even seemed to get tired of doing that after a while. It reminded us of the ineffectual ghosts in the movie Beetlejuice.

             Poltergeist occurrences  are supposedly paranormal phenomenon  that involve the  movement of inanimate objects,  unaccounted for  noises,  and on  rare  occasions, physical attacks on people. Folklore attributes the phenomena to  ghosts or mischievous spirits, like Peeves the Poltergeist in the Harry Potter stories.   Poltergeist manifestations have been reported since the first century,  in virtually every part of the world. The word “poltergeist” comes from the German meaning   “noisy ghost”.

Some parapsychologists theorize that poltergeist manifestations are unconscious expressions of spontaneous mind over matter (psychokinesis) and are  unwittingly created   by people under stress,  especially children and teenagers. Skeptics, however,   believe that credulous people  and outright  fraud are the more likely explanations and there has been no conclusive scientific explanation of the phenomena, if it truly exists.

I was certain that there must have been some logical explanation for the cabin noises we heard,   but in any case they still got on our nerves.  I would   have been relieved to see   even one humongous raccoon climbing on the roof.

Oddly enough we have stayed at two other log cabins,  that also had reputations for strange occurrences.  A few years ago we spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast that had been constructed from two old log cabins. After we had settled in, the owners told us how a strange thing happened, while they were restoring the cabins. Once, after they’d painted a section of the floor, the next day human footprints appeared on the painted area.    These ghostly footprints could not be covered.  Every time they painted   over them,   the next day they were visible again. Sort of like those grease spots on my green sweatshirt.

At first I wondered if the people were pulling my leg or making up stories in order to publicize their business, but they were reluctant to talk too much about it and seemed more concerned that people might be   afraid to patronize their bed and breakfast. Fortunately there were no strange occurrences to report from that visit.

All this takes us back to the first log cabin where we ever stayed,  in  the mountains  of North Carolina, several years ago. While taking our dog to the vet, Diane saw a binder   in the waiting room with photos of a picturesque log cabin, alongside a mountain creek. She discovered that the veterinarian’s mother, who owned the cabin, rented it out and the next thing you know there we were,  in the wilds of Franklin,  North Carolina.

I was first struck by the numerous kerosene lanterns  to be found in the cabin, despite the electric lights. Every room had several of them, as if someone was deathly afraid of the dark. We had been warned that a dog from one of the neighboring cabins might visit us and sure enough  we soon found an ancient  beagle on the front stoop. He was sweet and we let him into the cabin, but were unnerved one evening when, all of a sudden, he started acting in a frantic manner. 

While the cabin was very nice, there was just something about it that wasn’t very inviting.  Perhaps the oddest thing that happened, occurred one night when  Diane was saying bedtime prayers with the kids. She had her hand on a small bedside table that started to vibrate  during the prayer. While this frightened her and she pulled her hand away, Diane didn’t  say anything,  afraid she’d   upset the children.  She went back in later to check and found that he table was as sturdy as it could be.

As time wore on, we both became more and more uncomfortable in the cabin. Our sleep was disturbed by the frequent sound of footsteps on the stairs, that even our five year old heard.  But we were obstinately determined to finish out the week regardless.  I guess we were like the foolish people that comedian Eddie  Murphy joked about. Even if the toilets had backed up with blood, we probably would have said, “A little Ajax will fix that right up.” 

It was probably becasue we  like to think of ourselves as  rational beings  and can easily imagine  that there was some reasonable explanation for  all that took place.   In any case we felt relieved when the day to leave finally arrived.

 We packed quickly and decided to take a final walk-through to check for anything forgotten. We were barely past the doorway when we both heard  the stairs creak, as if someone was walking down them. Diane and I were out the door in a flash, locked the door, and jumped into the car.   

That night we camped out in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We were all huddled together  in   a tiny leaky tent, in a heavy rain. Rangers   had warned us about an influx of  rabid skunks and bears. Despite all this, we slept like babies–  the first decent night’s sleep we had in a while.                        

When we returned home, Diane mentioned the odd occurrences to the veterinarian and he admitted that his wife never felt comfortable at the cabin either and she even refused to go back. He could have told us that beforehand.

What Does Your Halloween Costume Say about You?

27 Oct

 

Check out Dr. Stawar’s  Column on Decoding the halloween costume.

http://newsandtribune.com/columns/x1416244513/STAWAR-Decoding-the-Halloween-costume