Un-BOO-lievable Halloween Facts!

Halloween Jack o LanternsThink you know all there is to know about your favorite holiday?  (Which surely is Halloween, of course…)  Here’s a list of surprisingly bewitching Halloween facts and trivia tidbits that you might find fun to read while taking your “coffin break.” (ya…ha…ha…) These facts are sure to leave you feeling positively ghoully. 

  • Jack-o-Lanterns originated in Ireland thousands of years ago.  These odd precursors to the Jack’s we know and love today were actually made from hollowed out turnips, not pumpkins and were lit with candles in order to frighten off spirits and ghosts during the Samhain holiday.
  • Halloween came to North America along with European immigrants who held onto many of their old traditions when they came to America.  Halloween traditions such as bonfires, telling ghost stories and singing and dancing were all part of the celebration.
  • Those ancient Celtic people were a very superstitious bunch.  They believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth on Halloween night.  The Celts would wear masks and scary costumes to avoid being recognized as alive by the ghosts.  
  • In Medieval Europe, the owl was thought to actually be a witch in disguise.  If you were to hear an owl calling it was considered a very bad omen that someone was about to die.
  • Halloween (October 31st) was the last day of the Celtic calendar.
  • Black Cats were thought to be witch’s familiars who hung out with the local witches in order to protect their powers.
  • Bobbing for apples may have originated from a Roman harvest festival honoring the goddess Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
  • Each year over 2 billion dollars is spent on Halloween candy.
  • Vampire bats actually DO exist, but it’s not in Transylvania.  Vampire bats are indigenous to Central and South America where they enjoy feeding on the blood of cattle, horses and birds.
  • Seeing a creepy spider on Halloween may not be such a bad thing.  Ancient folklore states that seeing a spider on Halloween is a manifestation that the spirit of a loved one is watching over you.
  • 25% of all annual candy sales can be attributed to Halloween.
  • Halloween is one of the oldest celebrations in the entire world, originating over 2000 years ago in the time of the ancient Celts.
  • 93% of all children will go trick or treating.
  • Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, coming in only behind Christmas.
  • Halloween pranks became so notorious in the 1930′s that an actual public outcry followed by an organized movement was held in order to calm down the out of control mayhem that was ensuing each year.  Many more positive activities were encouraged–like going door to door for candy, of course.
  • For all you party animals out there, Halloween is considered the 3rd biggest party day of the year, coming in only behind New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday.

Now that you have all the spooky Halloween facts, it’s time to go out and enjoy what has to be of the most hauntingly beloved holidays of the entire year.  From all of us here at Halloween Experts, be safe and have fun this Halloween as you eat, drink and BE SCARY!  Have a terror-ific Halloween! 

 

 

Halloween Costume Safety Tips

trick-or-treaters-iStock_000014213898SmallHalloween is one of America’s favorite holidays of the year for good reason.  Between Halloween parties, trick-or-treating, getting dressed up in fun and fabulous costumes–well, there’s a lot about this wonderful fall holiday to love! Staying safe and preventing avoidable accidents on Halloween will obviously help you to enjoy your Halloween celebrating all the more! Hospital Emergency rooms have offered the following tips to help you as you plan your Halloween costume, ensuring that your costume duds are as safe and hazard-free as they can possibly be. 

Perfect Costume Fit:  A well-fitting costume is a safe costume!  If a costume is too big for your child you run the risk that he or she may trip over the hem and fall.  Sleeves or necklines that are billowy and falling down can easily snag on protruding objects or even other kids and their costumes/props.  Loose fabric can also be a fire hazard if your child is going to be around any open flames–even simple candles or lit jack-o-lanterns can be potentially hazardous.  Make sure your costume fits your child snug (not tight) to the body and is hemmed to an easy to navigate length!

Choose Flame Resistant Fabrics:  Check all labels on fabrics/costumes to ensure that the item is made from flame resistant fabrics.  Halloween celebrating often has many chances to potentially be around open flames. Candles, lanterns, etc. can easily become hazardous, so avoid using fabrics in costumes that may ignite and burn easily.

Keep the Neck Area Clear:  Any ties, neckwear, sashes, or cords that go around the neck should be avoided if at all possible.  These items can potentially get caught on something and then pose a strangulation risk.  Even jewelry items that may possibly get entangled on something should be judiciously avoided. 

Avoid Capes:  Capes are the most common accessory item that causes a potential strangulation risk for kids.  Avoid capes with ties for children for this reason as well as the fact that very long capes can also be a trip hazard.

Use Masks With Extreme Caution:  Masks look amazing but they can obstruct vision when out walking.  If you are going to allow your child to wear a mask, for safety reasons have him wear it only for photos or when he not out walking around.  If your child is wearing a mask, make sure it is not loose or flopping around and fits snugly in place so it is less intrusive on your child’s ability to see properly.  Make sure the holes around the eyes are as large as possible and ask your child if he can breathe well too. 

Read Face Paint Labels:  Some colors of face paint should not be used in the eye area; others should not be used near the mouth or lips.  The Halloween makeup kit should have this information clearly labeled on the packaging so be sure to read the instructions before you apply any makeup to your child’s face to make sure it is safe as you intend to use it.

Choose Halloween Accessories Wisely:  Make sure any play weapons, staffs, wands or other accessories that your child is carrying are made from soft, pliable materials that will not harm him/her if they were to fall on them.  Make sure these items do not have sharp edges or points as well. 

See and Be Seen:  Make sure that if your child carries a flashlight while outside in the dark and that his/her costume has reflective tape or some sort of reflective materials sewn into the costume so that your child can be easily seen by others.  Any adults that are chaperoning children should also carry lanterns or flashlights for safety purposes.

Step Out Safely:  Consider several factors when choosing the appropriate footwear for your child’s costume.  Make sure that the footwear design is meant for outdoor use if your child is going trick-or-treating.  If your child is wearing a shoe or boot covers over his or her shoes, make sure that these fit close to your child’s feet and aren’t loose or baggy, creating a potential trip hazard.  Ensure that your child’s footwear is comfortable, fits very well and has good traction, even if it means wearing his regular shoes during trick or treating outdoors.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!  

 

 

 

Ghost Town Haunting: The Legend of Bodie, California

bodie tstormWhether you believe in ghosts or not, you can’t help but be fascinated by the tales surrounding many of America’s legendary ghost towns.  The western states hold many remains of once bustling towns that are now just remnants and ruins of what once was.  If only decrepit walls could talk!  (But perhaps they do…) A trip to a ghost town can be almost like a trip back into time, especially if what remains is largely left intact, as it once was.  One of the most fascinating examples of a California ghost town left in this condition is Bodie, which is considered by many to be California’s most famous ghost town.  Back in the days of the California Gold Rush and the Wild West, Bodie was a town filled to the brim with lively characters that might read better out of a western novel.  Hearty and adventurous miners, seeking their fortune were abundant in this little metropolis, as were prostitutes a-plenty, Chinese, Mexicans, saloon keepers, gamblers–in addition to a plethora of plain ol’ western style bad guys–men who thought nothing of very violent behavior and subsisted largely by gambling, stagecoach-robbing and gun fighting.  Bodie became quite infamous for general lawlessness far more than it was ever known for its wealth or for the discovery of any great riches within its borders.

bodie saloonLike many of the old western mining towns, Bodie’s heyday was very brief and essentially lasted from 1879-1882.  A series of unfortunate events including a couple of devastating fires along with badly waning mines ultimately led to the slow demise of this once feisty municipality.  Although a small amount of mining continued as the years went by, once the Great Depression and Prohibition hit Bodie, the poor little town was barely breathing. Residents just up and left Bodie, abandoning their old lives and leaving many of their belongings behind.  In those days there were no moving companies or easy solutions to getting your stuff relocated.  For this reason, many folks were forced by practical reasons to just leave with what they could carry and the rest had to stay.  Thus, to this day, Bodie stands largely as it once was, and is a true snapshot of the past that also carries with it a few stories, legends, and if you are a believer, perhaps even a few ghosts.

bodieObviously there is an entire town full of potentially haunted abodes now in Bodie, as many residences still remain standing.  There are a few very consistent ghost tales that have come out of Bodie that have raised a few eyebrows.  For example, in the home of once prominent businessman J.S. Cain, the ghost of the Chinese maid that once worked for the Cain family is said to still reside in the house.  There have been several accounts of not only sightings of this ghostly being, but near suffocations as this malevolent spirit apparently has attempted to cause bodily harm by incapacitating and strapping down some of its braver inhabitants. 

Other ghostly accounts coming from Bodie include the sighting of apparitions coming from the windows of the Dechambeau home and the sound of children laughing heard in the yard of the Mendocini house.  Others people have reported interactions with ghostly beings near the Bodie cemetery, including the legendary “Angel of Bodie”–a child who died at the age of three that is said to now haunt the Bodie cemetery near her grave which is marked with a marble child angel figure for a headstone. bodie angel

One of the most fascinating of the spooky legends that has come out of the ghost town of Bodie is what has become known as the “Curse of Bodie”.  Because so many personal belongings and effects remain as they once were in this old town, it has been tempting for many a visitor to try and pilfer something as a souvenir.  The “Curse of Bodie” states, however that there are fierce and hardy spirits of former Bodie residents that stand guard there, making sure that their belongings remain untouched.  The legend states that anyone who removes anything and takes it for their own will be cursed with a huge amount of bad luck as well as misfortune.

Interestingly enough, there must be some degree of truth to the old legend as many items have been mailed mysteriously back to the Bodie Park Rangers that now run the Bodie State Historic Park.  Various tales of woe and profuse apologies often accompany the item(s) being returned as it becomes clear that the person attributes new and terrible life changes to their minor act of thievery.  One letter written by an anonymous person and received by Bodie rangers in 1994 reads like this:

Dear Bodie Spirits:

I am SORRY!  One year ago around the 4th of July I was visiting the Ghost Town.  I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting.  This trip was different, I collected some items here and there and brought them home.  I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letter of others who had collected things and had “bad luck.” I started to think about the car accident, the lost [sic] of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have “haunted” me for the past year since my last visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but . . .Please find the enclosed collectibles I “just couldn’t live without,” and ask the spirits to see my regret.”

Is this collective misfortune and others like it caused by the “Curse of Bodie?”  Are the spirits of the long departed former residents of this once notoriously charismatic town continuing to stand guard over the memories and remaining artifacts left there?  Are there really actual ghosts living in this legendary and enduring ghost town?  Whether the tales strike you as true, or even if you are more inclined to view these stories as the product of overly active imaginations, there is one thing that remains clear.  Bodie still stands as a fascinating reminder of a time and place that should continue to be remembered as a unique part of history.  And you never know, perhaps there still are spirits in those places that would like to ensure that they are not ever really forgotten.

Ghouls Will Be Ghouls

ghoulWhen it comes to the legendary monsters that are a huge part of both history and folklore, the age-old ghoul is one of the most frightful of them all and has been lurking about dark and spooky places for centuries.  The term “ghoul” stems from the Arabic word “ghul” which actually means “demon”.  Arabian folklore from the pre-Islamic period around the 7th century tells of these demonic beings that were notorious not only for their reprehensible trickery, but were also known to cleverly disguise themselves in order to lure susceptible humans into traps, causing their immediate demise.  Sordid tales have been told of lustful men that were fooled into death by crafty ghouls that were disguised as alluring women. Innocent children were also preyed upon by these malevolent, manipulative and deceitful ghouls, who would connive naive youngsters into what would become an ultimately very heinous death trap.

Throughout legend and history, the ghoul itself came into existence in many different ways.  Some sources say that a ghoul is just the embodiment of an evil spirit. Others say that ghouls were once human and through the lifetime practice of innumerable evil deeds they progressed into what became a ghoulish state.  Other folktales speak of ghouls who were deceased individuals that subsequently rose from the dead as a ghoul in order to feast on human flesh.  One final theory holds that like zombie-ism or vampire-ism, a ghoul is created through a type of “ghoul fever” that begins with some form of supernatural pathogen. 

Although the origin of ghouls varies quite a bit from tale to tale, the ghoul almost always likes to hang out in places where dead bodies are in relative abundance.  The ghoul most commonly prefers to lurk in or near graveyards, crypts, tombs or catacombs.  This is because the ghoul is thought to prefer dining on already dead and putrefying flesh, although in a pinch he likely wouldn’t walk away from something a little bit more living.  Ghouls have sharp teeth and are often portrayed with very strong claws.  These frightening features of the ghoul allow him to easily dig through caskets to find what he needs and then he can consume corpses with relative ease. 

The ghoul is considered to be an almost exclusively nocturnal beast, far preferring the nighttime hours and the darkness, avoiding all sunlight while he embarks on his sickening and grisly tasks.  It is said to be quite difficult to ultimately and definitively destroy this evil fiend. Legends state that killing a ghoul requires a swift blow to the head with a mighty sword or even a full decapitation.

The ghoul makes a very strong case for not only being the epitome of ultimate evil but also for being the stuff that our worst nightmares are made of.  At Halloween time, however, many costumed up, wannabe ghouls, goblins and the like will be roaming freely through the streets, many of them trick or treating in a neighborhood near you.  After all, when it comes to Halloween, ghouls just want to have fun!