October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

I think my favorite moment of today, this Halloween Itself, was in the morning, not in the evening. I walked my eldest to school because she needed help carrying in a project. She'd created a diorama based on the story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which Lindsey and I admittedly cajoled her into reading. But her diorama is pretty cool. I think it will be a permanent fixture in the house.

Walking onto the school property took me back thirty years. Or to the most recent Disney Channel Halloween Movie I'd watched. It was a crisp morning, the property was framed by trees in autumn hues. Brown leavings scudded across the parking lot and under the tires of yellow buses. Costumed students lined up ready for the first bell. This was Halloween morning at school, every child itching in anticipation of the night's door-to-door candy ritual.

At lunch time, I tried to escape work to hit up the local Barnes and Noble to see if my book, Death and Douglas, was indeed on the shelves on this, its official street date. I couldn't free up the time, though. Still, me, my agent, my publisher, and many of you guys helped make a big deal of it on the socials (so thanks!).

But that evening's adventure was cool, too. My youngest went trick-or-treating as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She's way into dresses, the more ornate, the better. She'd wear hoop skirts every day if we let her. And she's basically been wearing her Belle costume for a month and a half. My eldest went as a pirate. It was her third costume this year. She started with a werewolf costume, then by the time her first Halloween party rolled around, she'd changed to a witch costume. And then she become obsessed with being a pirate, which is what she went as tonight. I ended up wearing her old werewolf mask.

Honestly, trick-or-treating tonight felt weird, more like a test run for Halloween trick-or-treating in the future. It was our first season in this new neighborhood, and we didn't join up with any other families. It was just the four of us in new neighborhoods where the houses are more spread out and the trick-or-treaters sparser than we're used to. But we put in a solid hour filling up those plastic pumpkins, until Belle was too tired to walk and too scared of the dark. By the time we'd returned, our neighbors had basically cordoned off the cul-de-sac by dragging out a fire table, and hanging out while giving candy to kids so that they wouldn't have to trudge through the whole neighborhood to fill their sacks.

We hung out with them for a bit and then came home to light our decorations one last time and watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Once they were abed, Lindsey and I realized we had no cordials to send off the season, so I made a quick run to the liquor store. That's when I realized Halloween was over, despite the black cat ears on the cashier. I bought martini fixins. Basic, dirty martinis. I mean, sure, I could have bought caramel apple martini fixins. Or something pumpkiny. But I went with a basic drink.

The Halloween Season is just over for me after trick-or-treating is done. Even back when we had no kids, the second there was no more tiny monsters coming to our door, it seemed over. The magic run out. Sometimes we tried to keep the Jack-O's lit by watching something spooky paired with some Halloween comestible, but it never really works like we want it to. Feels forced. The last trick-or-treater more often than not just seems to be the end of the Halloween Season for us. 

And we'll never have the 2017 Halloween Season ever again. Makes me wish I'd kept a diary. Happy Halloween, boils and ghouls.

October 30, 2017

Wish I'd seen these witches weather the storm. Must've looked terrifying.

As presumed based on the storm last night, we did awake to some serious devastation in my state, my neighborhood, and my yard...in that order of severity. 

In my state, hundreds of thousands of people awoke without power, schools were closed for the day, and there were downed trees everywhere.

In my neighborhood, the biggest victim was the house two doors down from ours, who had a large tree fall directly on their house. They seem to be okay, though. The tree is gone now, leaving smashed gutters, a broken roof line, and a front yard that will never be the same, but they might have been lucky overall as far as the damage (considering they were first really unlucky).

In my yard, it was my Halloween decorations that took the brunt. The big spider web fell down, the witches were reduces to a melted pile of black cloth, mums were toppled, skeletons fell, jack-o-lanterns were moldy and sunken-in, and foam tombstones were strewn across the yard, in addition to a forest's worth of falling branches.

This is the third Halloween season out of ten for me in New England that have ended in storms. There was the Great Oct-snow-ber of 2011 were it snowed bad enough that they pushed off trick-or-treat for a week. No kids came by my door that strange November night. And then there was the fabled Hallowcane/Frankenstorm of 2012, which was relatively minor for all the names it had, but that just might be my memory smoothing things out.

Ending a Halloween Season on a storm seems right. As long as there is enough calm for trick-or-treating, as seems to be the case this year.

We headed out to Target after work to pick up some snacks for our eldest's school Halloween party tomorrow, as well as snacks for ourselves on this Halloween eve. Target had a surprising amount of Halloween still out, although you could see the Christmas creeping. While we were checking out, I saw a woman walk in with a God's-honest Christmas T-shirt on. She immediately squealed and ran to the dollar bins at the front of the store, which were packed with Christmas gewgaws. It made me nostalgic for August 31.

Back home, we ate pizza with the kids and watched the new SpongeBob Halloween special ("The Legend of Boo-kini Bottom"), which had a delightfully throwback vibe with its puppetry and stop motion, and then we sent them off to bed and watched The Babysitter on Netflix, which was pretty good, but would probably have been great had it been directed by anybody except McG. Then we went an episode deeper into Stranger Things 2, where still not much is happening in any direction, but we're having a good time.

As much as I want Halloween tomorrow, I don't want Halloween Eve to end.

October 29, 2017

Jerk took up three spaces.

It's almost midnight as I write this, and through the open window behind me, I can hear a terrible storm. Hear, hell, I can feel it through that window: pouring rain and roaring wind. I've even heard multiple trees fall in the surrounding forest. Might wake up tomorrow to some serious devastation. Of course, waking up means I'd have to go to bed at some point tonight, and I hate doing that.

Most of the day here was steady wet, but nothing too apocalyptic. And that was fine. We had indoor plans, anyway. We headed to the multi-haunt Fright Kingdom, which I've written about here on OTIS before, but this time it was for its Hardly Haunted event, which is basically a Halloween party for kids with trick-or-treating through a slightly de-scarified subset of its haunted houses. I'm going to write about the experience tomorrow. It'll be my last full OTIS Halloween post, not counting the final wrap up.

On our watch list for the day, we saw Michael Jackson's Halloween special with the kids (and about which I have no idea what to say), continued our way through the second episode of Stranger Things 2 (so far nothing's happened except lots of 80s references and updates on all the characters, but, man, it's so good to be back in that world), and we also randomly watched a show on Point Pleasant's Mothman called Myth or Monster on the Travel Channel (we live in a bizarre time where the Mothman is, like, really mainstream somehow).

And that leaves two more days of this, the Halloween Die-ary. I'm not going to know what to do with the commentary running through my head every night when I stop doing this. 

October 28, 2017

Without a doubt, 2017 was the year of the clown.
Today was my eldest's first horse show. She's been riding for, I don't know, half a year or so maybe? Not long. But they thought it would be good experience for her. It was certainly a brand new experience for me, this world was, but I've learned that I do love walking down aisles of earthy giant creatures with deadly clubs at the end of each foot.

Even better, many of the stables at this competition decorated their area of the massive barn (it was at the Big E in Springfield, MA, the site of the largest agricultural fair on the East Coast--even has life-sized replicas of every state house in New England's six states). I posted on Twitter some of the decorations from my kid's stable, but above is one from a different stable. Clown-themed. And look, they went old-school IT for that clown at the bottom. For a sport dominated by tween girls, this is really, really impressive.

Anyway, it was a great time and Esme won a few ribbons. From there, we split the family again. Lindsey stuck around with Esme for a bunch of post-show activities (including a Halloween party where her entire stable was dressing as zombie pirates), while I headed home with my youngest, since I'd have more luck carting nitroglycerin around that fray while roller skating than making my youngest hang out during all those activities. 

On the way home, her and I stopped at Springfield Cemetery, which I've never been to. Mostly, I stopped to see the grave of board game pioneer Milton Bradley, but the cemetery itself was a great one, especially at this time of year.

Anyway, after catching some more Hocus Pocus with my youngest, I put her to bed and then it was decision time again: Screw around and watch some horror flicks or do something productive writing wise. Strangely, I chose the latter. To me writing about spooky stuff is just as much of a seasonal activity as watching it. Which is why we'll have a new OTIS Halloween Season post up tomorrow.

October 27, 2017

Halloween party in my hotel room!

I’m writing this entry from a hotel bed in Springfield, Massachusetts. My wife is asleep beside me, and my two children are across the room asleep on the foldout couch. We’re here because my eldest is riding in a horse show tomorrow, so we thought we’d make it more of an event for her and stay the night before.

Because of work and driving the two and a half trafficky hours to Springfield (home of the new Dr. Seuss Museum and the not-new Dr.Seuss sculpture garden, by the way), I actually thought it was going to be a non-Halloween day. But then I walked into the hotel room to find bags of candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins awaiting me. My family had come down earlier in the day, and my father had driven up from Maryland for the show, and he’d brought the candy for me/the girls.

Not only did that make this day an official Halloween day, it saved me from having my first ever candy cornless Halloween Season. I don’t know why. We just never bought a bag of it this year. Like, I can live without the taste of the candy, but I can’t live without the sight of it. I usually need bowls of it surrounding me throughout September and October that I can run my fingers through like it's Leprechaun treasure. I mean, look at today. A couple of bags of them kept my Halloween spirit going strong and were a great accompaniment to us starting Stranger Things 2 on a laptop on the hotel bed. Halloween doesn’t care where you are.

I was going to spend the rest of the night polishing up a Halloween Season article for posting, but realized I left some of the photos I needed on a computer back home, so nothing’s going on the main page today. That’s fine, though, I guess. More time to eat candy corn and watch horror movies on my laptop.

October 26, 2017

Not pictured: Tube of orange and black "Fall Gummy Worms."

Another day of complete morning-to-night rain. And I spent most of this day behind a set of window wipers, driving around the dark grayness and listening to the first four (of seven) episodes of the "Inside The Exorcist" podcast. This is from Mark Ramsey and the folks at Wondery, who did the mindbogglingly great "Inside Psycho." These short-run podcasts aren't just self-taught movie critics in a room talking casually about movies at random. These podcasts are tightly written, produced, and performed one-man radio plays that tell the stories of both the inspirations for and the making of these extremely complex and legendary movies. It's, I don't know how to describe it, very adult, I guess, for a genre for whose commentary is mostly fannish gabbling. 

I returned home to find a nice gift from an OTIS reader: A box of Halloween candy and an Edgar Allan Poe-themed Halloween card. So thoughtful. I love that candy ax.

And then Lindsey and I finished up the last part of four of the Expedition Unknown: The Hunt for Extraterrestrials. Ended kind of cheesily, what with it pretending to break into Roswell rooms locked long ago and catching UFOs on camera, but despite the overdone drama, a really good show. 

Tomorrow's the last weekend before Halloween. I'm not telling you anything you don't know there. I'm spending most of it at a horse show. That's something you didn't know. Unless it's the second time you're reading this entry.

October 25, 2017

I forgot to take any photos today, so I rushed out just now and snapped this pic.

Man. Raiiiii-neeeeee day today. Like all day. And it's still going. I have the window behind my desk open, and it's just constant wet static in the dark. Really nice.

After work today, the family split in two. Lindsey took our seven-year-old to her riding lesson, and I took our three-year-old out on some errands. We stopped at Macy's...and it was completely decorated for Christmas. We stopped at Barnes & Noble...and it had all of its Christmas books out. We stopped at McDonald's...and it had no appropriately themed Happy Meal toy. Not even those modern equivalents of the McBoo Pail they've been handing out the past few years. If it weren't for the weather, I'd say Halloween must be over. But that can't be true. We still have six days. You can wreak a whole lotta Halloween havoc in six days. So back off, Santa.

Anyway, my kid and I took our fast food back home and watched the new Disney show Vampirina. It's one of those plastic-looking CGI cartoons that they do a lot of for kids shows, but it's basically an Addams Family type of story. We never get bored of the spooky but well-meaning family who doesn't fit in trope. And here's hoping we never do.

My night was overall a bit too G-rated for my taste with its Happy Meals and vampire kid shows and children's books section full of Elf on the Shelfs, so I finished the night in a very R place...with Brian Yuzna's 1989 flick Society. Not exactly the type of movie that you're supposed to pair with a rainstorm, but, to its credit, it's kind of an unpairable movie.  

October 24, 2017

I forgot my presentation remote control and had to stay behind the podium,
else I would have paced the stage like it was a TED Talk.

Holy crow, I don't think we could have had better Halloween weather than today. Like Skid Row, I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. Then that stopped, and the day grew gusty, like "hear it whistle around the house" gusty. Like "shaking yellow and red leaves off the trees in constant showers of autumn" gusty. Like "making my 12-foot-tall inflatable ghoul flow eerily in the wind" gusty. Once night fell, we had a full-on torrential downpour, one which eventually found me in the car driving home from my presentation, my eyes trying to make sense of the road through the rain and the dark and the wipers, while listening to an episode of the Ghosts in the 'Burbs podcast.

The event went well, I think. The Lowell National Historic Park Theater was a great facility, purpose-built for this kind of talk, small and cozy, but somehow fitting in two-level theater-style seating, a large screen, and a stage. Had about 45 people in attendance, including some OTIS readers! One reader who found OTIS through that episode of New Hampshire Chronicle that I was on came up to me afterward and told me that after reading about the Westford Edgar Allan Poe memorial in The New England Grimpendium, he went out to find it one night, only to be questioned by the police as he sat in his car on the side of the swiping through the photos he had just taken of it."Basically," he finished, "my last encounter with police was your fault."

When I got home, I watched the second half of The Blair Witch.

Feels weird that we live in a world with three of those movies.

October 23, 2017

I think the problem with the concept is that I hate my face.

One of those days. Bad day at work. Bad evening with the kids. Tried to avoid it all by taking photos of my Ray Bradbury artifacts for the day's OTIS Halloween Season Blog post. In line with the theme of the day, my original concept for the photos didn't work out well at all. They were supposed to be spontaneous-looking selfies with the items exactly where they sit in my study or (in the case of the above photo) out among the Halloween decorations to show them in their usual spots. Couldn't get the photos to look right, though, and I didn't want to spend seven years on them, so I just moved the items to a better spot outside on the porch and took more composed photos of the objects themselves. Not as interesting of a concept, but the photos look better, so I went with those.

After the kids finally dissolved into bed, I spent most of my time working on my presentation for my talk in Lowell, Massachusetts, tomorrow evening while Lindsey worked on editing some of her photography projects. By the time I came up for air at around 11 pm, she was asleep and the house was dark, so I ended the day by watching half of The Blair Witch

Feels weird that we live in a world with three of those movies.

October 22, 2017

Pumpkin family portrait.

Today, I might have done one of the cooler Halloween things I've done in many, many Halloweens: The day-time walk-through of Haunted Overload. It's in Lee, New Hampshire, and it's a pretty famous haunt. I did the haunt many, many years ago. But during some of the days, they open the maze up sans actors, and let you just walk through and marvel at it all. Which I've never done. But it is a marvel. I mean, it's a haunt attraction that holds up to the light of day and with zero haunters in it, you know? We got some extremely cool photos, and I'll do a write-up this week. I have to do it this week.

Once we got home, we carved the pumpkins that we got last weekend. Lindsey carved Pipkin's pumpkin from The Halloween Tree, even down to the freckles (which you can't see in this photo--it's the one on the table). The horse pumpkin is Esme's. She obsessed with those beasties. Mine is on the rocking chair, and little Hazel's is with the skeleton. She basically scribbled all over her pumpkin and I looked for a face in all the markings to carve for her. Pumpkin carving by paradoilia.

And then we topped it all of with The Simpsons' new "Treehouse of Horror" special. Because you have to. Even if you're numb to everything about The Simpsons just by dint of it being on so long.

October 21, 2017

The most interesting thing about this shot to me isn't the crowd, but the lack of costumes.
Today, I did Salem the worst I've ever done Salem. First, my timing. It's near the end of October and there's only one more weekend to go. This is Salem at peak crowd. I'm talking 2.5-hour waits at restaurants, streets so packed it was hard to walk two steps without hitting a wall of backs, the whole deal. I also went right smack in the afternoon and didn't ask for any parking favors from anyone I knew in town. It took me 45 minutes just to get into a 700-spot parking garage (I think it was at capacity and they were only letting cars in as cars left).

But...I had a great time. I didn't have my kids with me, so that stress wasn't there, and the whole point of my visit wasn't really Salem, it was to meet up with some friends and take in some ambiance. And that mission was accomplished. With ciders.

And I kept my unbroken streak of Salems in October alive. I'm at 11.

October 20, 2017

When your neighbor's Herman Munster, weird stuff's gonna happen.
Originally, we planned to carve the pumpkins we got last weekend, but at the last second we veered into a lazier plan of relaxing and movie watching. I think that was because we locked our Saturday and Sunday plans right before, and they've got activity aplenty for us. Saturday, Lindsey has a photography gig, and I'm heading to Salem to meet up with some friends, and the girls have a Halloween party to go to. Sunday, it's looking like we're all going to do a daytime tour of Haunted Overload, one of the more famous haunts in the area. We'll probably also carve some pumpkins up that night.

I'm looking forward to Salem. I actually wasn't planning on going to Salem this month for the first year in a while. I think us going in September sort of scratched the itch. After all, these days, the only real difference between September and October in Salem are the crowds and the Haunted Happenings banners. But I've got a friend coming in from out-of-town, and it's a good opportunity to, you know, hang there.

So we played it low-key. We caught anther accidental few minutes of Hocus Pocus, and then we settled in for real for Pet Sematary. The film always reminds me of the pleasant day I spent visiting all of the Maine filming sites in it for The New England Grimpendium. My wife hadn't seen it before, and her first comment was when the Creeds were moving into the house in the blaring sun to an audio track thick with bug droning, "This takes place in the summer?" And then about 20 minutes in, we see a paper jack-o-lantern in the window, and she really settled in, and then two seconds later it was taken down for a paper turkey. Ha. 

At the end, the credits rolled and The Ramones' Pet Sematary came on and all was right because I need to hear that song every season. 

October 19, 2017

I know, I know. I need to dust those lower shelves.

Today was my day in Cambridge, so I didn't get home until 7:30 pm or so. Still, some cool stuff happened today. Like my guest spot on the Beyond the Darkness podcast was released. And Lindsey and I watched episode three of Expedition Unknown: Hunt for Extraterrestrials. And I saw my first snippet of Hocus Pocus. I always joke that I watch it every year, but only in small pieces here and there and out of order because the movie is always on in October. Freeform is even running a 12-hour marathon of it on Halloween. We've arrived at that stage of Hocus Pocus fandom.

My big news today is that my author copies for Death and Douglas arrived today. They're in that box up there in the photo, and they are things of beauty. I mean, they're no human skull, but only human skulls are that. I'll post a photo of the book tomorrow. Much different than the advanced reader copies. These are hardback, with dust jackets, and a more designed wrap-around cover with a different arrangement on the front to give top billing to Jay Asher's wonderful blurb about the book. 

By the way, I think their arrival also means that those of you who pre-ordered will also get your copy early. 

October 18, 2017

It was a pleasure to make its acquaintance.

So tonight I held a human skull for the first time. I think. I'm pretty sure I've never held one before. But I've been around a lot of skeletons in my life of oddity, so I can't be Bible-definite about that. I didn't know the night was going in that direction. We just had some dinner plans on the docket. We were going to hang out with the parents of one of Esme's school friends. We'd all seen each other here and there, but had never officially gotten together for dinner, so we went over to their house for some burgers. 

At some point in the night the conversation got on the topic of "dead things," which is inevitably a place I go with people with whom I'm trying to be friends--actually, just with anybody--and I was told, "If you like dead things, you'll love what I have in the basement." And he was right. He'd gotten the ancient cranium from Ryan Cohn, that suit-goth guy with the mad skeleton articulation skills who used to be on that Oddities show on the Discovery Channel. 

After that we came home, I practiced my talk for my upcoming appearance and then I guested on the Beyond the Darkness podcast. I'll let you know when that show is live, but right now that means I've been talking for two straight hours and my throat feels like what I assume Tom Waits's feels like after a particularly guttural concert.

I held a skull, guys. A real highlight of the season.

October 17, 2017

A mummy and a colonel.

Last night, we didn't sit down to unwind until pretty late. Too late to really get into a movie, honestly, and plus I wasn't really feeling anything too involved since I'd listened to three different spooky podcasts on the drive home. We just wanted something quick and easy and atmospheric. We found ourselves in our Amazon Prime account, where we hadn't been for a while, and, holy crow, was that filled with spooky stuff.

We found all kinds of random and obscure bite-sized shows like the Christopher Lee-hosted 100 Years of Horror documentary series, The Nightmare World of H.G. Wells, Mystery Files, and Patrick Macnee's Ghost Stories.

We settled on the "Colonel Stonesteel and the Desperate Empties" episode from Season 5 of the Ray Bradbury Theater. In it, an old man and a young buy build a mummy in an attic and trick the town into thinking it's real just to liven the place up. It was a very, very Ray Bradbury story. We followed that up with the first Roseanne Halloween episode. It's a very, very Roseanne episode.

Then I finished the night prepping my talk for next Tuesday at the Lowell National Historic Park Theater.

Honestly, last night felt a little like we were winding down the Halloween Season. Which is not true, of course. Just felt weird in contrast to what most people are feeling this time of year. That's a great thing about the long Halloween Season, though. Plenty of time to take a breath, gather your energy, and burst out from around the corner with a loud "BOO!". 

October 16, 2017

To me, "Ghosts Turn Mile Green!" is as equally acceptable a seasonal greeting as
"Happy Halloween!" or "Trick-or-Treat!"

I don't know which of these two moments today were the most Halloween-y. Walking the trash down to the curb in the dark to turn around and see my house glowing all purple and orange for Halloween (the season's transformative magic at its finest, turning even the act of taking out the garbage into a transcendent moment) or, while watching a scene in a movie about a serial killer in which he's talking to a severed head on his coffee table, Lindsey leans over to me and says, "I bought Halloween Crunch at the store today." You decide. I'll take 'em both. 

I did have one bummer of a moment. After dinner, we all sat down to watch The Halloween Tree. This is a sacred special for me, as is the book it's based on. And both my kids and my wife got bored and wandered away before it was over. The three-year-old, that's expected of her. My wife? She has a hard time watching cartoons. But my (almost) eight-year-old has sat through just about everything with me. I don't remember the last time she quit Team Couch early. I mean, they don't need to like the special (and I don't need them to like it...I'm not that kind of parent), but I actually thought the special was good enough to hold their attention. Next time I watch it, it will be from that perspective.

Oh, and the serial killer flick was the 2014 Ryan Reynolds black comedy, The Voices. Watchable for Reynolds and a general WTF-ness to the movie. Turrrrible ending.

October 15, 2017

Hay monsters of a different sort.
Today we chased our pumpkins. We usually have a specific place we got to every year called Mack's, but this time we steered to another farm because they had a giant hay monster out front (I know that should be the photo, but I'm saving it for a later post). We dropped by in the late afternoon, which meant it was a mad dash for pumpkins, with people swarming all over the piles and dodging the epic collisions of pumpkin wagons. Like somebody had dropped money from a helicopter, and we were all scrambling for it.

But we suffered only minor bruises in finding our four pumpkins, wheeled them back to the car, and, right when we were about to take off, saw the corn maze sign...and we were right back in it. The best things about corn mazes with kids is that you just follow them as they frantically try to figure it out on their own. It's a lot of fun. My youngest hadn't ever really walked a corn maze before (maybe we carried her through one or two in the past), and she seemed to have a blast, walking through with her arms outstretched, slapping stalk leaves on both sides of the path.

From there, we went home and hung out, eventually ending the day with some spooky TV. We continued Stranger Things with my oldest. Then we watched Practical Magic after the kids went to bed. It had been a long time since I'd seen that flick. I liked the idea of it, but the story structure was really bad. It was almost a clip show for the first 45 minutes, and then the two aunts take off so that their nieces can figure a way out of their own mess and then return at the exact moment the mess needs cleaning up.

We finished the night with a Travel Channel show called Haunted U.S.A. because it was running a Salem episode. I thought it'd be more about the city, but it was basically a "highly produced" ghost catching show that couldn't find enough ghosts in Salem, so it headed two hours south to Fall River to fill out the episode with an overnight at Lizzie Borden's.

But that was our day. Half of it wandering around in fresh farm air, the other half hunkered on couch cushions with homemade brownies. I like a balanced life.

October 14, 2017

Like quaintly quaint.

Good time today. Our main event was my book talk at Dorset Village Library in Dorset, Vermont (at the tip of the Green Mountains in the southwest corner of the state). But we decided to make a  bigger road trip out of it, take the long way, see a few sites on the way. I kind of messed up the planning, though, left a little to late, made a bad call about which route to take, but we still saw some cool stuff and had a great little fall road trip. 

We stopped by Jaffrey, New Hampshire, which every year has a big scarecrow event where people go downtown and make scarecrows en masse. They then leave them up around town for people to come see, you know, on their fall road trips. I've written about it before. Then we dropped by the Madame Sherri ruins. It's probably been eight or so years since we'd been to that dramatic set of forest ruins. Back then, we had it all to ourselves, but this time, there were about a dozen people there. The big arch in the staircase seems to have started to fall, but that didn't stop people from clambering up the stairs. Certainly stopped me, though.

From there we wended through Green Mountain National Forest, thrilling at all the fall festivals and pumpkin stands and ended up in Dorset a little early, so we checkout the local quarry, which, with its giant stone blocks, water, and surrounding foliage, is a pretty perfect thing to see in the fall.

It was my first time in Dorset that I can remember, and we found it ridiculously quaint. Like a set from a Lifetime movie about an ex-Manahattanite corporate executive who loses her job and buys a struggling pumpkin farm that comes with a handsome widowed farmhand with a daughter and they all live happily ever after--after a couple minor misunderstandings. I'm pretty sure that's an actual plot from one of those movies.

The library itself is inside a 19th century meeting house and tavern. It was like walking through a small, book-lined mansion. In the basement, they were in the process of making a haunted house for Halloween. Paper jack-o's and bats dangling from the ceiling on the main floor. A mouse named Booker running a hamster wheel in a cage on the shelf. The librarian's pug wandered the floors looking for crumbs from the Halloween cookies and popcorn that were set out. Pretty awesome place.

My next and last appearance for the season is going to be a little more urban. It's in Lowell, Massachusetts on Tuesday night, October 24. I can't promise pugs and Halloween cookies, but it'll be a good time. You should come.

October 13, 2017

Caramel is my ambrosia.

We don't always get a Friday the 13th in October. But this year we did. And us spooky-folk can do two things about it. One, we can go out and plan an over-the-top activity with the other masses of people celebrating an October Friday the 13th or we can hide from those crowds and celebrate it quietly at home. Me and mine did the latter. 

As soon as the work day was over, we headed over to the grocery store and bought supplies. Those supplies were 100% for making caramel apples. Now, here's the thing about making caramel apples in my experience. Kraft caramels are the best for it. Best taste. Best consistency. Just the best. But you only see Kraft caramels when you're not looking for them. I've seen bags of Kraft caramels on every shopping trip in the past six months. But, tonight, when we were looking for bags of Kraft caramels, we couldn't find them at all. And that happens every year to us.

So we settled for Brachs. They don't even put caramel apple sticks in their bags.

But the caramel apples we made were fine, and our kids aren't old enough yet to have any basis of comparison around their caramel apples, and we all had a good time making them.

Then we showed my eldest the first episode of Stranger Things. Lindsey and I wanted to rewatch it in preparation for Season 2 on October 27, and we thought Esme might like to join in on this jag. She seemed to dig it, but I'm not sure if she got it. I mean, the Dungeons and Dragons sequence went right over her head, of course, but various parts were spooky enough for her to hide her eyes. Mostly she asked us about Dustin's lack of teeth and dived under the covers any time there was a kissing scene. 

After that, the kids went to bed, we poured ourselves a couple glasses of port, and I introduced Lindsey to Evil Dead II. She's never seen a single Evil Dead film. But that's the one that my Twitter and Facebook page followers wanted her to see over Phantasm and Dead Alive. Tomorrow, I'll interview her about her impressions and then write 'em up for you guys.

Because tomorrow, we'll be on the road for hours. We're doing southern Vermont all day, and ending up at a library in Dorset, Vermont, for a book talk at 6 pm. Hope to see you there.

October 12, 2017

I turned this on in my living room just long enough to take a photo.
That's how not-Halloween today was.

Today was a no-Halloween day. At least for me. Like not a glimpsed changing leaf. Not a half-watched horror movie. Not even a few pages in Paperbacks from Hell. Just a long day at the office and then a dinner afterward. I came home with just enough time to have a cider from yesterday's box, take care of a few practical things that needed doin', and hit the pillow.

But that's okay. Because this marks the end of  Thursday, and that means the weekend is practically here. A a Friday the 13th weekend! Plans include subjecting Lindsey to Evil Dead 2 (thanks to you guys), heading out on a road trip to Vermont, giving a presentation on creepy oddities at a library, going out to get pumpkins, and who knows what all else.

Really looking forward to it all, though.

October 11, 2017

Time for a game of cider roulette.
Tonight was a night of small, glorious things. Like realizing as I'm walking around the house that I'm cold and heading upstairs to grab a sweater. Like Lindsey coming home from the grocery store with a box of different kinds of cider so that we can play cider roulette. Like watching Garfield's Halloween Adventure on YouTube and my older kid asking me why the cat never moves his mouth when he talks and my younger covering her ears when it gets spooky toward the end. Not her eyes. Her ears. Like after the special, YouTube spinning up Michael Jackson's Thriller to keep us watching. Like going outside in the dusk to photograph the house decorations that we put so much time into. Small, glorious things.

Oh, and I'm deep into Paperbacks from Hell and am loving it as much as I thought I would.

And Lindsey and I finished The Harvest and didn't like it so much. But it had an interesting concept. And a fall setting. And Michael Shannon.

Just an average October evening of small, glorious things.

October 10, 2017

Yeah, I just dropped the books on the floor and snapped a pic.

Today I finished Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest. Came out in 2006.  One of those stories of small towns with dark, violent secrets. This one involves a living scarecrow with a jack-o-lantern head. It was fine. A really brisk read. More like a horror movie than a book, almost. Big flaw was that it left its one big question completely unanswered. I don’t mean left it vague. Just ignored it. I’m really excited about starting Grady Hendrix’s new book Paperbacks from Hell next. I’ve heard amazing things about it, but I didn’t need to. Just one look at the cover is enough.

So we kind of live at the bottom of a wooded ravine. Our neighbors behind us through the forest are about thirty feet more elevated than us. Sometimes they have bon fires, and tonight was one of those nights. Because of their height and distance away from us, the big fire looks like its floating high up in the forest. We can see it out our window as we watch TV.

And tonight, while that fire was blazing in the dark air, we started watching a 2013 movie called The Harvest (you can see I’m a sucker for that word in my stories). I’d never heard of it before. But its title plus its orange cover art plus the fact that it stars Michael Shannon was all we needed to hit play. It’s not a horror movie, but it is set in the fall, complete with cornstalks and ravens and dead leaves. I don’t want to write too much about it because we still have about half an hour to go. Saved the end for another night. I will say that everybody in the cast has a really strong sweater game. Sometimes that’s all I need out of a fall movie.

October 9, 2017

My decorations will never again be complete without a stabbed pumpkin.

It poured all day today. Which I love. Except that I had no idea what to do about my exterior Halloween decorations. Leave them out? Take them all down? Throw tarps over everything? I'm kind of a nube at all this and, honestly, if the answer involved effort, I wasn't going to do it anyway. So we ended up letting them weather the storm on their own. I'll assess the damage tomorrow. Meanwhile, it has gotten hot and muggy this evening like New Hampshire is a Gulf State swamp instead of the New England tundra it's supposed to be. I don't get this unseasonably hot October. I'm still wearing my sweaters, mind you, but I'm sweating in them.

I spent some of my evening fixing up a Halloween decoration my artist friend from a few entries back had given me. It's above-pictured. And awesome, right? It's a fountain that dribbles water (ostensibly colored red) down a lighted pumpkin. It worked when I got it, but the waterproof bulb casing was broken, and I didn't want my obituary to read, "electrocuted himself with a jack-o-lantern." I don't know why, though, that's an awesome obituary.

The water feature is subtle (you can kind of see it running down the eye holes in the photo), but I'm having trouble getting it to look like blood with the paltry food coloring I have at hand. In the pool at the bottom, it totally looks like blood, but while it's dribbling down the Jack-o's face, it still looks like clear water. I'll Google it at some point. I'm sure the answer's there. Blood fountains must be pretty common. Honestly, though, I like its glow the most, and that's enough to set this guy out as part of our decorations. 

We also watched the Mystery at the Museum vampires special tonight on the Travel Channel. Instead of just hosting on a set far away from the action like he usually does, the producers let Don Wildman out in the field Josh Gates-style to run through Transylvanian castles and graveyards. He's never seemed to me the type to thrill at original editions of Bram Stoker's Dracula and ancient skeletons as much as they've kind of positioned him as such for his shows, but he did go to some really cool sites for the special.

October 8, 2017

If your downtown doesn't look like this you should probably move.

Today was just one of those autumn days that no entry in any die-ary will be up to the task of capturing, even were I to be suddenly possessed by the ghost of Ray Bradbury.

We spent most of it in Kinderhook, New York, searching out The Legend of Sleepy Hollow sites (not to be confused with Sleepy Hollow, New York, which is two hours further south down the Hudson Valley). We toured the house of a president who hosted Washington Irving, saw the grave of the same president, hit up a one-room schoolhouse with a connection to Washington Irving, and explored a Dutch-style house that may have inspired Irving's depiction of the Van Tassel residence in his story.

Downtown, Kinderhook was absolutely haunted with ghosts. Small, homemade ghosts of cloth and straw, each one with a face obviously scrawled on by a child, were hung from every tree in the town center. Fantastic. Wanted to move there immediately.

Then we headed to a nice tavern across the state line in Massachusetts, where I had my first pumpkintini of the season. Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, somebody sideswiped our car and was picked up by the police for bad levels of bad substances in their system. It was even the perfect day for that incident, since we're turning in that car tomorrow for a token amount toward a brand new family car. Don't worry. I still have the Civic. I want to see if I can reach 250,000 miles on that guy before turning him in for, obviously, another Civic.

Anyway, it was about six hours in that car on our last road trip together. And possibly my favorite moment in a day full of favorite moments was stopping at a CVS for some snacks for the kids (and me). They just asked for candy, and any time of year I'd of handed them something boring and merely good-tasting. This time of year, I was able to surprise them with  Halloween PEZ dispensers. The magic of the season.

Lindsey and I finished the night with Gerald's Game on Netflix. It was pretty intense and tightly told for the first 85 minutes, but then after that, it feels like the movie makers stopped caring about the movie. Like it went from every flicker in the screen mattered to clumsy collages of scenes and Band-aid narration, and really pounding the moral of the story into the ground.

But whatever. We capped off an amazing day with a new Stephen King movie adaption. Yee-haw!

October 7, 2017

Find me the designer who made this sign, stat!

So the "cool trip" to the Hudson Valley that I teased in the last entry is happening tomorrow. Lindsey was too sick to sit in a car for six hours. Which means I should probably get to bed early tonight. Which means absolutely nothing to me. I'll still find myself somehow up on the computer writing a Halloween Season post or watching a horror movie at 2 am when I need to wake up at 6 am. Going to bed is one of my top ten terrors. I don't like days ending.

Since we didn't go on that road trip, we focused on finishing our exterior decorations. Spider webs still needed to be applied to bushes. Lights needed to be strung. Complicated out-of-code wiring schemes had to be implemented. And that meant a trip to Home Depot for a timer, some extension chords, and--just in case--some new smoke detectors. 

People have posted a lot on the socials about how awesome Home Depot's Halloween section has been this year. And they are totally right, even if all that Halloween is displayed on ugly metal shelves in a giant warehouse. At least Home Depot's brand color is orange. But it's the small touches throughout the Home Depot near me like the one pictured above that really just melts by gummy heart. It's enough to make me redo my kitchen for no reason. Or for a very good reason: "No, no. You don't understand. I want the look of my new kitchen to be inspired by that sign. Find me the designer who made that!"

Anyway, the outside decorations are completely done now. As soon as we take some photos, I'll post them as an OTIS article. And then I expect you all to come by and sing Halloween carols out front.

October 6, 2017

I have the feeling the card maker had no idea how serious
someone like me would take this "cute" concept.

I've been in a car more this week for work than I have been in the past three months. It's like I don't even work from home anymore. This morning found me driving to Ipswich, Massachusetts, one of the cooler named towns on the state's North Shore. To me, this is the most interesting area of the state. It's where Salem is. Gloucester. Just a salty section of Massachusetts with a deep history.

It was a little over an hour drive for me, and I chose a route that avoided highways. Man, what a fantastic drive. It was overcast, with smatterings of rain here and there. Old New England homes lining the roads, farm stands boiling over with orange spheres, decorations in every town park. I even saw my first official tree color and a banner advertising The Addams Family play. You know fall is magic when it can transform a meager commute into a refreshing foray. I'll probably edit those two words tomorrow when I re-read this.

To fill my hours in the car this week, I've been listening to a podcast that Lindsey turned me onto called Ghosts in the Burbs. It's created by a woman named Liz Sower. It's a fictional podcast where she plays a librarian in the real-life town of  Wellesley, Massachusetts (which is just west of Boston) who advertises on a community board that she wants to hear people's ghost stories, so each episode is her recounting a personal ghost story that a local resident has told her. The stories themselves are pretty strong individually, but what really makes this podcast special is that Sower is, story-by-story, creating a mythology for the town, both in the way she meets these people and in the details of the ghost story itself. In fact, I started listening to it thinking it was a nonfiction podcast, and it took me three episodes to realize it wasn't. That's how kind of detailed and layered it is. But realizing it was fiction didn't hurt the concept at all for me. Made it better, in fact.

Lindsey's still sick, so our Halloween evening has again been downplayed. I took the opportunity to play catch up on some tasks. I went to Target to pick up a few things, but spent most of the time in the Halloween aisle. I worked on the presentation for my talk next Saturday at the Dorset Village Library in Dorset, Vermont (come if you're near). And I also signed and addressed a bunch of Halloween cards, as shown above. They're for the top two tiers of the OTIS Club. So if you're one of those members expect that in the mail soon.

Depending on how Lindsey feels, we've got a really cool trip planned for either tomorrow or Sunday. Six hours roundtrip to a part of New York's Hudson Valley that I've never visited, and which I have a very specific reason for doing so. Stay tuned.

October 5, 2017

I get a distinct Christmas carolers vibe from this photo for some reason.

Tonight we took my eldest daughter to her horse-riding lesson. A horse farm is kind of a great place to be during the fall. The smell of hay, the red barns, the clop of horses looking for headless riders. But this horse farm upped their autumn ante. They lined the winding dirt road to the barn with inflatable monsters. Besides the above, there were multiple dragons, the Grim Reaper astride a horse, a giant spider.

Honestly, after all these years, I still don't know exactly where I stand on inflatable Halloween decorations. Part of me loves them to death and part of me thinks they're the worst thing to happen to holiday home decor. And, full disclosure, I actually have a Halloween inflatable on my lawn this year for the first time ever. And I like it. But I still don't know where I stand on it.

After the lesson, we kept things quiet. Lindsey's still sick, so we're lolling on the couch a lot. We ended up watching the first hour of the new Expedition Unknown: Hunt for Extraterrestrials special. I like that Josh Gates guy. And, yes, I fully believe aliens are Halloween-y. I mean, E.T. trick-or-treated. The Rocky Horror only happened because of aliens. And then there's Spaced Invaders. Some even opine, quite convincingly, that the Great Pumpkin itself is an alien. Just kidding. Wait, you're already Googling. Come back. I'm not being sincere.

Seriously, though, any kid that wears a big-eyed Gray costume to my door will get mad handfuls of candy. It doesn't matter if it's on Halloween or not.

October 4, 2017

I thought this was cool enough to break my
"horizontal photos only" rule for the Die-ary.

Today was a busy day for me work-wise. It's 11:30 pm, and I actually just got back from Boston and a last-minute client dinner. It was a semi-upscale place, but for some reason, the men's bathroom was Iron Maiden-themed. Upstairs, flowers and gold and white deer heads; downstairs '80s heavy metal albums painted onto the wall tiles. I didn't even have time to post today's OTIS Halloween Season article...but I sacrificed some sleep for this Die-ary, I did.

Anyway, although  my day wasn't too Halloween-y, Lindsey's apparently was. Despite being sick, she's apparently been hard at work on our exterior decorations (decorations, mind you, that I thought were finished). I pulled into the driveway to see that the front yard had sprouted a small Styrofoam graveyard full of headfoams and skeletons, and judging by everything I tripped over in the front hallway, she's not even close to done yet.

I did have one great Halloween moment, when I went to a friend's house around lunchtime. He's an artist, and he loves to make his own Halloween decorations. He's pretty amazing. He can buy the cheesiest, cheapest thing from Spirit and distress it, build it out, add to it and turn it into one-of-a-kind Halloween art. Like the above ghost. Cheesecloth,a hanger, spray starch and a $3.00 plastic skull. It might not look it in the photo, but this thing is big enough to wear as a costume. 

He also showed me a shrunken head that started as a chintzy plastic store-bought Halloween tchotchke that he transformed into a realistic shrunken head that he now displays under a glass dome like it's a priceless artifact. Its hair is made from a real human-hair toupee that he bought sometime back just because it disgusted/fascinated him and which he's had no use for since...until now. The "Ah-ha" moment in making it, he told me, was when he noticed the skin creases in photos of real shrunken heads. Usually, skin creases are dark, but in shrunken heads, they're often light, so he stole some powder from his wife's makeup and dusted it. If I had those skills, I would literally do nothing else in my life, even to the point of running out of money and my family leaving me. Check out the before and after.



Now that I think about it, I should have just taken photos of everything he had and posted a photo essay on the main page. 

All right. I've got to get up in six hours.

October 3, 2017

Holy cow, did I dig this movie.

I was out in the world for work today, and didn't get home today until 7:30 pm, full dark in this part of the country at this time of the year. The great thing about that is I got to experience our exterior Halloween decorations the way they were meant to be seen. But I don't want to talk too much about that because I want to post some official photos once we do one or two more touches to them. But it was a welcome sight, especially after passing through so many dark neighborhoods without any Halloween lights up.

Well, there was one house, across the street, in fact. The people there had projected an upward rushing stream of vague orange shapes on the house facade. Made the house seem like the whole thing was being sucked up into the bright moon hanging over the house. Like it was the final scene in a haunted house movie or something. I liked the effect. I'd get a photo for you, but I don't think I could do it justice with a camera lens. Plus, it would entail me standing in their front yard at night. I'm creepy, but not that kind of creepy.

So, suddenly, half my family is now sick, and they all went to bed early tonight. I still dutifully lit the inside decorations, though. Halloween must go on. And then I turned on Cult of Chucky, freshly released and freshly on Netflix.

And, man, what a movie. I used to kind of think that Chucky was only invited to all the '80s slasher movies photo ops out of pity. And because nobody wanted the Leprechaun there. But this movie was, I don't know, surprising in every way, from the plot to the cinematography to the basic imagery it used to tell its story. And it did it in a way that not only didn't slough any previous film efforts, but encompassed every movie in the franchise. I mean, sure, the concept has evolved over the years, but that really just means that Scream influenced the series during the 1990s and 2000s like it did every other horror movie during that time period.

But this was more than an evolution. It was, I don't know, an evolution to a more impressive beast. I don't think any other slasher film franchise has maintained its continuity while upping its quality, and that's probably 100% because the franchise's creator has written every single script and, more importantly, that creator-writer is Don Mancini. This movie, I think, was my favorite out of all seven Chucky movies, a series which, honestly, never really stuck with me until now. Cult of Chucky took place at a snow-covered asylum, the most opposite setting you'd think of with this franchise, and managed to be both intriguing in its concepts and beautiful in its execution, all while being pretty vicious. Oh, and while being about a doll. It was almost an art horror pic, starring Chucky. 

Bravo, Manici. Don't ever put your toys away.

October 2, 2017

RIP, Dove chocolates.

Our evening tonight was the opposite of yesterday. Sedate. Still. Our Halloween moment almost completely confined to the above Dove caramel-filled chocolates that Lindsey picked up. Inside each wrapper was a different saying that ranged from the cheesy to the cheesily poetic: "Chocolate cures the frights." "Relax for a spell." "For now, falling leaves. Soon, falling snow."

I ate almost the whole bag while we finished up Creepshow from the previous night. At one point, our three-year-old came downstairs. She's a little sick and her sleep schedule is all messed up, so she was wide awake at 8:30 pm. We hit pause fast (we were still making our way through The Crate episode), and she looked up at the elderly academic frozen on the screen and said, "This is my favorite movie. I'll watch it with you." And she started clambering onto the couch.

"No, no. This is scary. It has monsters," we replied.

"I like monsters," she said. And then she followed it up with about four dozen syllables that we couldn't really parse. 

"Shhhh. You can watch as long as you are quiet."

She settled into the corner of the L-shaped couch, and we hit play. And three seconds later the sharp-toothed Baboon thing from the arctic expedition crate bit the neck of out of a man.

"Werewolf," she said. She calls any hairy creature a werewolf, up to and including me.

And then she regularly squeezed her eyes shut and placed her hands over her ears. But only during the build up scenes. Once the monster was on screen, she was back to watching delightfully.

Finally, she got up to go back upstairs and walked closer to the TV to get around the end of the couch. It was about that point that the monster burst from the crate again, and she took off like it was after her. Half a second after she left the room, she returned. "I keep watching it."

She eventually went to bed with sunglasses on so that the werewolf wouldn't eat her eyes. I don't know, either.

October 1, 2017

I had so many photos to choose from for today, that I could barely decide.  So you're getting Potato Man.
I'm pretty sure you'll see him again on OTIS.
I have no idea how we packed so much autumnalness into today. There must have been more than 24 hours in today. We must, must, must have experienced some sort of mutant Daylight Savings Time. See, we got up and languidly started the day. I even read, for the first time in years, the morning paper. As in the physical-print-and-ink-at-the-end-of-your-driveway version. Although, admittedly, it was only for this. After that, we headed off to a fair. And not just a tiny fair in a high school parking lot that would take us thirty minutes to experience tops. This was the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire. A massive fair. An almost century-and-a-half-old fair. That's where we met Potato Man.

That should have been enough to knock us out the rest of the day. But it didn't. Somehow we found the time and the energy to decorate the outside of our house. Like, I'm talking ladders and questionable electric practices and possibly piss off the neighbors decorated it.

And even with all that, two events that each by themselves would have been enough to count the day a Halloween win, we still found the time to watch one of those Halloween-themed cooking contest shows as well as just over half of the George Romero-Stephen King classic Creepshow. It would have been all of that movie, but Lindsey fell asleep right after the first kill in The Crate episode. I don't think she meant anything by it.

Halloween is as much a time for miracles as Christmas is, and today was Exhibit A. The only thing that sucked about today is that tomorrow is Monday. And even that ain't that bad. After all, Monday is October 2. I'll take October 2 over most any day of the year.

September 30, 2017

This simple display completely charmed me.

This morning I got up early and drove about two hours to Barre, Vermont. It was a beautiful drive, all gray and rainy. The only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been if we were in the full flush of the season. 

I was speaking at a meeting of the Vermont League of Writers, something I've never done before. Most of my talks are around my books to an audience of readers. Actually all of them have been, with the one exception of a talk I gave about Edgar Allan Poe to open up a Baltimore exhibit on the author. I was one of three guest speakers, the other two being the utterly engaging middle-grade author William Alexander, author of a series of books and, most lately, A Properly Unhaunted Place and epic fantasist Laurie Forest, whose debut novel The Black Witch has been massively successful.

It was a good time. Both the speakers were great, the attendees were a lot of fun to talk to. I walked away with a list of about half a dozen new oddities to check out. So much thanks to Shawn Anderson, who organized the event and invited me to it. All in all, I spent about six hours there before heading home. On the way I stopped (I always have to stop) in Andover, New Hampshire, to see the grave of Richard Potter, America's first natural-born, professional magician. He was also America's first black magician. He was also a hypnotist and a ventriloquist, although his grave only lists the latter for some reason. His is a story with plenty of levels.

I got home about three hours before Lindsey, and the kids were staying the night at their grandparents, so I had the place to myself for a bit. I raced through the dark house, lighting all the Halloween decorations, throwing my stuff in the closet, and picking a movie, all before my Taco Bell cooled off.

The movie I chose was The Houses October Built, from 2014. I had started this movie about a year ago, but stopped it a few minutes in after seeing it was found footage. However, a sequel came out this year, so I figured maybe I hadn't given the movie enough of a chance.

Turns out, I had.

It's the story of a group of friends who go off on a road trip to hit up a bunch of haunt attractions while trying to find an underground one with real scares. It's a great concept, full of potential. But like so many found footage movies, they use the angle to cover up both a lack of story and a lack of craft. I still might watch the sequel because, you know, I'm a horror movie fan.

Tomorrow our plan is to hit up the Deerfield Fair. To possibly decorate the exterior of our house. And to definitely luxuriate in the fact that it's finally October 1. Actually, it just hit midnight as I finished this entry up, so happy October 1!

September 29, 2017

This is going to be a favorite photo of mine someday.

Tonight was one of those nights. Those classic Halloween Season nights. The ones that draw and bind you to the season in the first place, the ones that make you think about the season in the middle of summer and in the middle of spring and in the middle of winter. For all that, it was a simple night. Actually, those nights are always the most simple nights.

The evening was so cool, we had to shut the windows, to keep from getting too cold. We all jumped onto the couch, blankets and pillows everywhere. All six of us--Lindsey, me, our two daughters, our dog, our cat. And we watched A Nightmare Before Christmas. One of those movies you don't just casually watch during the season, you plan for it, schedule it, pair it with just the right food and drink. Even if it is really a Christmas movie (it takes place from November 1 to December 25, it's a Christmas movie).

At some point, deep into the movie, we paused it--Jack frozen behind his podium as he tries to explain Christmas--and we went to the kitchen together and made popcorn balls and danced to Thriller. At least the girls danced to Thriller. I stayed focused on the popcorn balls. Damn me if I was going to let a single kernel intrude into one of those gooey spheres on my watch. And then we went back to the couch and got sick off of them together as we finished the movie. Or didn't finish, actually, as the girls started nodding off right when Sally fogs up Halloween Town to keep Jack from ruining Christmas. We'll finish it on another perfect Halloween Season night.

Tomorrow morning, we all go our separate ways for the day. Lindsey is shooting a wedding in Rhode Island. I'm giving a talk at a writer's conference in Vermont, the kids are headed to the grandparents here in town. So it was a good way to kick off the weekend together. 

A great way to spent a Halloween Season night.

September 28, 2017

Great bag art. Great candy design. Somewhat bitter taste.

Today, the heat wave finally broke. When I got up early this morning and headed into the office, it was hot. Depressing. But, but the time I was driving home about ten hours later, it had suddenly become autumn again. I felt rejuvenated, despite the long work day.

As I walked  into my living room, all the orange Halloween lights were glowing and reflecting against the warm wood of the walls, and chill night breezes blew ghostly through the screened windows. There's no place like home for the holidays.

And, of course, my wife and seven-year-old were sitting on the couch under a mound of blankets watching an old Christmas episode of America's Funniest Home Videos, laughing themselves to tears at a drumming dog. Weirdos.

On the coffee table in front of them was a bag of opened Cookies & Screeem M&M's. This was one of the bigger Halloween food releases this year, up there with the Ghost White Gummi Slurpees and the Halloween Edition Frosted Chocolate Fudge Printed Fun Pop-Tarts. The Halloween M&M's had great bag art. Great candy design. I grabbed a handful without even dropping my keys or my bag and popped them into my mouth. I found them...not too much to my liking. I thought I was getting hints of dark chocolate or coffee, both flavors I abhor to varying degrees, but then I realized what I was tasting. It was like a regular Oreo, and by that I mean a non-Double Stuf Oreo. The only real Oreos to me anymore are the Double Stufs. I need that high creme-to-cookie ratio. And so do these M&M's, in my opinion. 

I finished the night screencapping a television show episode for a future OTIS Halloween Season post and organizing this year's other posts. They're starting to drop off the front page, so they needed to be archived in all the sections on the nav bar. So, now, if you want to see all the 2017 OTIS Halloween articles so far in one place, just head here. I, on the other hand, am headed off to bed for the first nice, cool sleep in too many days.

September 27, 2017

We turned down the temptation to base our drinks around this bottle art.

New Hampshire liquor stores are legendary. They're massive, tax-free, and run by the state, a state whose motto is "Live Free or Die." Here's proof from The New York Times. Sorry about the pun. Also, at 33,000 square feet, the biggest liquor store in the state is mere miles from my house. I used to buy pool supplies there in its previous life. And in my previous life. I don't have a pool anymore. It was a dumb thing to have in the first place. I mean, New England. There was like one week a year where it felt comfortable to get in.

Having the largest boozery in the state near my house is not at all good for my alcoholism. But it is great when I want to turn booze into an event.

Like trying to concoct fall cocktails.

Lindsey and I were driving home from Boston today, when we decided to get adventurous with our seasonal insobriety. Except that we're sort of bad at fall cocktails. When we try them in restaurants, they're amazing and transportive. When we try to make them at home, they become, well, less so. Not because we can't mix  a drink. But because our drinking is usually spontaneous and we don't have a carefully curated liquor cabinet we can draw from. So the moment we decide to create a fall concoction, we have to hit the liquor store and the grocery store and hope the ingredients aren't too exotic to not be carried by either. It's a big rigmarole, and we just want to get to the drinking part.

The other thing to be careful of is to differentiate between autumn cocktails and Halloween cocktails. The former are based on taste, the latter on looks. Like, when you're throwing a Halloween party, sure, you want black vodka and gummy eyeball garnishes and blood-colored sugar rims and dashes of dry ice. But when you're just crashing at home one evening with a horror movie, you just want something that tastes like the season. We weren't shooting Martha Stewart spreads after all.

We couldn't really find anything on our phones in the ten minutes between our decision and arriving at the gargantuan liquor store that didn't take multiple stops for the ingredients, so we gave up and decided to wing it. Inside, we passed pumpkin spice Baileys and pumpkin spice vodka, but kept going. I mean, sure, we could easily have made caramel appletinis. They are demonically easy to drink, and hit the right taste and color scale for the season. But we wanted to stretch ourselves.

Eventually we settled on a bourbon and amaretto drink garnished with maraschino cherries. Again, something that felt more fall than looked Halloween. Unfortunately, it was called The Godfather. But we ignored that incongruity.

The same semi-laziness we have toward creating seasonal cocktails is the same semi-laziness we have toward picking our movie for the night. Really, we should be planning days in advance and picking the perfect obscure movies. But, in the end, we just jump on the streaming sites ten minutes after the girls go to bed and randomly pick something there. Tonight it was Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Obviously, this choice was inspired by us watching Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow two nights ago.

I originally saw Sweeney Todd in the theater, and was jazzed by it. After a dearth of good Tim Burton movies, I thought maybe he'd found his unique, creepy footing again. Alas, the movies that followed it proved the hope to be unfounded. And, in rewatching Sweeney Todd tonight, I found the movie to be not that great. I mean, the story is great, Johnny Depp is great, but...I don't know. It lacked something. Maybe it was the fact that the movie was one long song all the way through that distanced me too far from the story and characters. I mean, I'm not anti-musical at all, but I cringed a lot tonight. Even after a couple Godfathers radically relaxed by cringe muscles.

Oh, well.

Between this and Poltergeist earlier this year, I need to stop rewatching movies. 

September 26, 2017

I really like our mantelpiece this year. Black and Bones, is what I'm calling the style.

Lindsey has a photo gig tomorrow and wanted to experiment with her lighting set up. So we decided to take advantage of her gear being spread all over the floor and take photos of our living room decorations. I do a post about our decorations every year that's little more than an excuse to do a photo essay with Lindsey pics. This year, there's a twist to the tradition, since it's our first Halloween in this house.

So we had a lot of fun doing that for our Halloween activity for the day. We even got our dog Clove into the act. It's our first Halloween with her, too. It reminds me of a question I was asked by a reader a few years back, who was wondering if all the content we produced for the OTIS Halloween Season got in the way of us actually enjoying the Halloween Season. Short answer: I'm sure in some ways it does. But it bigger ways, it enhances it, encourages us to enjoy it more. Like spending an hour with my wife figuring out how to take photos and listening to Halloween music was a lot of fun that we probably wouldn't have done if I hadn't want to post a piece about them. Actually, I think I'm mis-remembering the Halloween music. But it was at least playing in my head. I remember Rockwell.

Anyway, it was also a pretty productive evening on the OTIS front. I finished my article on the It's Alive! horror movie memorabilia exhibit in Salem that we visited on Sunday, and I will post at some point this week. I also threw some words around the abovementioned photos of our decorations, so that'll go live at some point. That's two more days of the blog taken care of. And now I have today's die-ary entry checked off the list. I don't think I'll ever be able to spell "diary" any other way after this season.

I've got one more thing to do before I hit the pillowcase. I need to practice my talk for Saturday. Down in the basement. Where I won't wake anybody. Or embarrass myself. I'll save that for Saturday

September 25, 2017

It's Sleepy Hollow vs. Summer.

We're breaking heat records up here in southern New Hampshire. Summer really wants to ruin my Halloween Season. When this happens, I have two options. One is to give in. To put off autumn activities  and roll in beach sand and polish watermelons and drink mint juleps and organize my roof shingles...all right, I don't know what people really do in the summer. But my other option is to push through, to double down on Halloween.

I chose the latter.

For lunch, I met a writer at a nearby Barnes & Noble who wanted to interview me for the local paper. How did I double down here? I walked straight out of the blasting noon sun and up to the Starbucks counter inside the book store and ordered a caramel apple cider. "You want that iced?" the barista asked. "Not on your life," I answered. And then I had a fun interview discussing spooky stuff as that drink sweated my face off. I'll share the interview around when the paper prints it.

My next move for double-downing on the season was to create a video for the OTIS Halloween Season Blog. I'll be posting that soon. But notice when you watch it that I'm wearing a cardigan. In like 85 degree heat. Doubling down, man.

Next I purposefully started reading a new Halloween book just out of spite: Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest. Between this and David J. Skal's Halloween: A History of America's Darkest Holiday, I think I'm only reading books with jack-o-lantern creatures on the cover.

Finally, Lindsey and I lit candles and turned on every single Halloween decoration, pulled out a bottle of Chaucer's mead and a bag of Reese's Halloween printed cup (ours all said, "BOO!"), and watched Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Take that summer temps.

Watching Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow is such a weird experience. It's one of the greatest movies visually that I've ever seen (considering my seasonal biases, of course, as well as my biases toward the original subject matter). But the writing and story of that movie are absolutely atrocious. The plot should have been simplified by at least half and it should have gone through ten more drafts that focused on dialogue and structure. I still think Burton should have gotten Caroline Thompson to write it instead of the guy who wrote Se7en and 8MM.

Still, this is how good those visuals are. Even bad writing cannot stop this movie from being a must-watch for us every Halloween Season. And, this year, it was so powerful I swear it was pulling in cool breezes through the windows by the end of the film.

We've got a few more hot days ahead of us, but I will not break before this heat does. You know, unless I do.

September 24, 2017

Me and Bela. Bela and Me.

I went to Salem today. End of Die-ary entry. Possibly, end of all entries. Saw some stuff today that'll be really hard to top the rest of the season.

I wasn't planning on seeing Witch City this early in the season, but my wife bought a kitchen island off of Close5 or some such app, and the owner just happened to live in Salem. We didn't want to make this our official Halloween Season trip as it was too early (they don't even have the Haunted Happenings banners up yet), plus today was hot as summer. But we still couldn't resist going downtown while we were in the area. So we got our island, and went downtown with two missions: A Hot and Dirty Pickle Martini and an exhibition of horror movie posters and props. We were 50% successful.

The drink can be found at the Lobster Shanty, and I have, in my day, found a lot of those drinks at the Lobster Shanty. Unfortunately, I was devastated to discover that they'd run out of the special pickle juice necessary for the terrifically tangy concoction. I settled on a Diet Coke. 

Then I went to the Peabody Essex Museum to see the exhibit of Kirk Hammett's horror poster collection. He's the lead guitarist of Metallica, and his horror collection is legendary. I've been waiting to see this for a long time. And it did not disappoint. It was mostly posters, but there were also props and costumes from classic horror cinema. Photography was actively encouraged, so I will do a write-up and show you some pictures on OTIS this week. 

My other big Halloween accomplishment today was getting sick off of Reese's Pumpkins and Hershey's tombstones while watching a Halloween episode of Frazier. I really need a search engine on my TV to find Halloween episodes of random shows. Would make my seasons so much easier.

All right. End of Sunday night. Time to stress about work tomorrow.

September 23, 2017

Standard defensive tactic against haunters. Take their picture and they'll pose instead of coming at you.

I offered Lindsey two ideas for plans today. One was a fall road trip that I'd put together at some point in the past. The other was Nightmare New England, a clutch of five haunted attractions in Litchfield, New Hampshire. I offered the latter in jest. Lindsey hates haunted attractions, and will only rarely do one with me and usually only after a martini. "The only thing about the road trip, though, is that we need to watch a David Hasselhoff movie first as background research for one of the sites," I said. She chose Nightmare New England. 

So that's what we did tonight, despite it being T-shirt weather. We ran through mazes and fended off ghouls. It was a blast. I even think that Lindsey had fun. Nightmare New England will be a whole post. As will the David Hasselhoff thing if I can pull it off.

Most of the day leading up the the haunt excursion was just relaxing. We hit up Walmart to see their Halloween stuff and to buy slime ingredients for the girls. I don't know how this make-your-own slime trend kicked off, but it's pretty awesome. I finished David J. Skal's Halloween: The History of America's Darkest Holiday (I'll do a short review of it in Sunday's OTIS Club Newsletter) and watched Scooby Doo and the Goblin King and about 20 minutes of Child's Play 3. All pretty leisurely. You know. Except the running from our lives that night from chainsaw-wielding madmen.

And tomorrow, we do Salem.

I want fall weekends to be all my weekends.

September 22, 2017

This picture is a lot sadder than the moment felt.

A pumpkin doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts in a rest area somewhere in Connecticut. That was my moment of Halloween on the long haul back from New Jersey. We hit the road around 1:30 pm, and I didn't make it home until about 8:30 pm. It was a rough road, for sure. I tried to find Halloween candy at some of the places we stopped to stretch our legs, but only came across Cauldron Skittles, which, even though the packaging is orange and has a cauldron on it, doesn't at all come off Halloweeny. Halloween is more than the sum of its parts, I guess. But I did get a pumpkin doughnut. And the long drive was kind of a trek down memory lane. All from the highway, I saw the top of the Barnum Museum, an advertisement for the Peabody Museum, and a highway sign for Willimantic, the land of giant bridge frogs.

I tumbled inside my house to the many barks of our dog Clove and into a living room orange with Halloween glow. I was home. I got a gin and tonic and a sandwich and we sat on our couch in our Halloween bubble and I picked a horror movie at random: The 1999 version of The Haunting. I remember this movie as being pretty bad, and it seemed to still come off that way to me. Sure, it has to compete with Robert Wise's amazing 1963 version to some extent. But its major problem is that it's just too over the top without any self-realization of that fact. The sets were over the top, the CGI was over the top, the characterizations were over the top. It's just really hard to take it seriously, and it wants the audience to. We made it half way through before Lindsey fell asleep on the couch. Since it wasn't the type of movie I was going to watch intently by myself, I shut it off and went up to my study to do some writing.

In my email box I found a spooky email from a friend in Southern California who lives in an almost century-old house in the Hollywood Hills. It involved a night alone in said house, some strange noises, and a book of Ray Bradbury stories that seemed to have jumped from the shelf of its own or some otherworldly volition. Really hit the spot in an inbox full of utilities bill notifications, Apple Watch Series 3 spam from my phone company, and a bunch of emails that I've been putting off responding to for days.

Unfortunately, today's the first time this season that I missed posting on the OTIS Halloween Season blog. I have a piece written and loaded, but I'm just too beat to get it all set up and live on the site. I'll put it up first thing tomorrow. It involves Salem.

Most important for today, thanks to everyone for the encouragement on the OTIS Facebook Page to continue this DIE-ARY. It feels slightly indulgent, so I wasn't sure if that was annoying to everyone. If you guys keep reading, I'll keep writing. I promise the next two days will have much more solid Halloween experiences in it.

September 21, 2017

Halloween was there, right on the periphery, the whole day.

I'm writing this at midnight in a hotel in New Jersey. The inevitable has happened. I've had my least Halloween day of the season. Today was an office day, so I woke up, drove into the office, spent the day there, and then right after, I and two of my colleagues jumped into a car and drove almost six hours to Princeton, in the Springsteen State. We have a meeting hereabouts in the morning.

Nothing Halloween happened the entire time.

But there were hints.

I passed a banner for a haunted hayride. It was stretched onto the side of a trailer on a rise above the highway in Massachusetts. It's there all year-round. I've posted about it before. It was one bookend

The other bookend was in New Jersey, a sign for a Spirit store, bright orange with the cowled skeleton mascot on it that by this time in the Halloween timeline should have his own Halloween special.

We passed about ten miles from Sleepy Hollow. I saw a highway sign for the Tappan Zee Bridge. I could feel my usual draw to place. I'm hoping to get down there for a day or two this season. 

I'm also, right now as I write this, only four miles from Grover's Mill, site of a monument dedicated to Orson Welles and his 1938 Halloween radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Welles chose Grover's Mill as the site of the alien landing in his Americanized version, and the town has memorialized their place in pop culture. The memorial was one of the first oddities I visited for OTIS. Unfortunately, my schedule won't allow me to revisit on this trip. We're headed back to New England right after the meeting.

No Halloween today, but I could feel it at the edges of my vision, trying its hardest to ooze its way in. It'll be there, ready, tomorrow, springloaded in a closet or wafting from the mouth of one of our plastic Jack-o-lanterns when I return.

September 20, 2017

I love what happens to grocery store entrances this time of year.

Pumpkin bread and Party City. That was the Halloween side of my day today. My wife made the bread. I never know where I stand on pumpkin or pumpkin spice or whatever. I don't dislike it, but I also don't go out of my way for it. All I really crave about that stuff is the word "pumpkin" itself and images of bright orange globes on packaging. I want every product to have those on it this time of year. But her pumpkin bread was pretty fantastic. After work, I took the girls to check out the Halloween Annex in town. It's a Spirit-like store that, I'm hoping, has stuff that I haven't seen anywhere else. Surprisingly, it wasn't opening until next week. That felt kind of...refreshing.

To salvage the trip, though, we pretty much did the same thing my youngest and I did yesterday in that we just continued to the adjacent stores. First, we hit up Party City next door. Just to casually browse, although my eldest does need werewolf hands to go with her werewolf mask. That's going to be her Halloween costume this year. After that we hit up a grocery store called Market Basket. Market Basket never has a holiday section, but they always have a wide variety of seasonal stuff. They just works those items in throughout the store, which makes it a lot of fun to find and inspired the Grocery Store Scavenger Haunt I did five seasons back.

I meant to mention yesterday that I received in the mail the auction catalog for Debbie Reynolds' estate sale. She had quite a collection of movie memorabilia, both from her career and just in general. But you know what I didn't see in there? Anything from her Halloween Town movies. Ha.

The past few days have been gray and overcast and rainy. My yard is covered in mushrooms. The season feels right. I'm just waiting now for the forest around my house to start changing colors.

September 19, 2017

This doesn't need a caption, right?

Honestly, today, I didn't think I'd get more Halloween out of the day than the T-shirt I threw on in the morning. The above "I'm with Creepy" T-shirt. I'm not a big fan of this T-shirt. In fact, I usually like my T-shirts plain or, at the very least, unobtrusive, but this was a drunk purchase. Half of my wardrobe is a drunk purchase. But I still wear it all because it pushes laundry day that much further down the line.

The payoff for this shirt came later in the evening. Lindsey and my eldest took off for most of the evening, leaving myself and my youngest. My youngest is a hellion. She's three years old. Just yesterday, she hid in the kitchen closet for a good ten minutes waiting for someone to open it. That someone was Lindsey, who was treated to a tiny child with her eyes squeezed shut holding a rubber spider in the air bigger than her two hands combined. Lindsey panicked appropriately, much to the delight of my three-year-old, and ensuring that we would need to check closets for the rest of the season. I mean, scaring people makes sense. But being so dedicated to it, you'll hide in a closet for ten minutes...at three years old? I'm like Casey Jones. Total trouble ahead.

Anyway, the payoff was that I needed to run a quick errand to Staples, so I took my youngest with me. It was in a strip mall. On a whim, we went to the adjacent stores in the strip mall. The first was an A.C. Moore. Tragically, the Halloween stuff had been constricted to one aisle, and a staff member was putting up Christmas in the other aisles that for the past few weeks had been dedicated to Halloween. This is our fault, people. Getting interested in Halloween in August. Our fault. 

After that store, we meandered to the next store, a Whole Foods--a grocery store I rarely visit because it doesn't stock any of my comfort brands.

But there I came upon Pumpkin Pie Soda, which I haven't seen since a 2011 trip to Salem. I picked up a pack after ogling all the cool pumpkin beers that will just never be a part of my season because I can't drink beer. Wine? Bring it on. Cocktails? I'll ruin my life over those. But beer just tastes wretched to me.

After a while, I realized that the strange looks I was noticing from the people around me weren't the usual "Aw shucks, a father and his daughter" looks that I'm used to when I take one of my kids out. This time, it was because my youngest was holding my left hand the entire time, meaning the "I'm with Creepy" shirt was aimed right at her.

Later, we ran into the neighbors when we went to get our trash bin at the base of our driveway. The only relevant bon mot here is that I warned them about the 12-foot-tall inflatable ghost we'd be erecting soon. They seemed fine with it.

After I put my three-year-old to bed, I basically tied loose ends. I packed up the ARCs to mail for the recent Death and Douglas giveaway, took photos of a book for a future OTIS Halloween Season post, practiced one of my upcoming talks, and just made tonight as productive as possible.

Sometimes it feels good to break the "Halloween candy and a horror movie" routine we often find ourselves trapped in on week nights during the Halloween Season.

September 18, 2017

Come hang out with me in my living room, guys.

All right. A satisfying day, ya'll. A satisfying day. Nothing too big. After work, we finally got our decorations 100% up...at least on the interior of the house. We also plan on doing some exterior decorations, really for the first time ever. We'll wait for October for that...or at least until the neighbors start.

Speaking of Halloween decorating, we also set up the AtmosFX for the last few photos I need to tell you about that Halloween machine. We've had a lot of fun with that thing. Almost sad to have to post the article.

Finally, we were ready to watch a movie...last year's Tales of Halloween.

But first, the ritual.

See, all the decorations being up meant that now we had to flip switches, light candles, and turn on power strips until everything that could possibly do so glowed in our murky living room. We actually have half of the lights on a remote this year, so it cuts down on the work (it's not really a ritual I need that bad). Makes me really want smart homes to happen so that I can program one voice command to do it all for me: "Alexa, hit the Halloween."

With everything flaming and flickering and twinkling, we settled into the couch, and turned on the movie. Tales of Halloween is an anthology movie. I didn't catch it last year, but, man, I'll probably catch it every year from here on out. Such a lot of fun, that movie was. I wasn't expecting it to be, honestly. The segments were more numerous and shorter than your average horror anthology flick, so they never wore out their welcome and, in many cases, left us wanting more. A lot of Halloween creativity in this movie. Some really good gags. Some really good twists. Some really good ambiance.

Now, I'm ending the night taking screencaps of Boris Karloff movies, listening to Weird Al's Nature Trail to Hell, and in general just winding myself down to see what the season holds for us tomorrow.

Hopefully, it'll be a severed head or a handful of candy corn. Either one works.

September 17, 2017

The opening shot of the horror movie.

As prophesied, today started out hot and summery. We fought this by staying indoors as much as we could. We worked on our interior Halloween decorations (we're like 75% of the way there), and then we went to play Monster Mini-Golf, an indoor, black-lit putt-putt course full of monsters. It's a year-round thing, and they have 'em in 13 states (plus Alberta, Canada). I've never played one before. Always meant to, and always knew I'd time it for a Halloween Season. We had a blast, but possibly under the only conditions we could have had a blast at a putt-putt course. But I'll reserve that explanation for the OTIS Halloween Season article.

Later in the day, we kind of just gave in to summer. My wife had a family photo shoot on a beach in Kittery, Maine. That's about an hour or so from our house. So we decided to go with her. Let the kids play on the beach while she did her clickety index-finger thing. The kids love the beach, and the only reason we feel bad for raising them in New England is that the beaches are too cold and rocky for them to have real beach-type fun. Which just happens to be the way me and Lindsey love beaches.

But then we got to Kittery, and we found ourselves in a Scooby Doo episode. The temps had dropped to the mid-60s. There was a thick fog that almost completely hid the ocean. A crumbling fort perched on a bluff and overlooked an old pier and the pieces of an older one. It was low tide, so the shoreline was bumpy and ragged with monstrous-looking rocks and seaweed. And we did find a monster. But I'll reserve those words for an OTIS Halloween Season article, as well. 

The best way to sum up today is that it was a two-poster for OTIS. And that means a good day. Like an Ice Cube-level good day. 

September 16, 2017

Sorry. I know this is an awful photo to look at, but it seemed repetitive to have two days in a row of Boris.

Today was the one year anniversary of the death of my mother. I only say that because it becomes relevant later in this entry, and I feel like it's a statement that should be said up front instead of inserted later on.

I woke up this morning to an awful summer day. Like ninety degrees, sticky, a real Halloween Season mood killer. Lindsey was away most of the day on a shoot, so it was just me and the girls. I had some good options for autumning the day up. There was a small carnival one town over. I also had a nice, short route that incorporated two graveyards that I'd been meaning to get to. Even had a short hike into carnivorous plant territory on the potential docket. But the heat just really beat me up, and I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to muster the enthusiasm in the kids. Eventually we did get out of the house, but we only went a few miles away, to a park repurposed out of an old zoo. It's a way cool place, and I've written about it before on OTIS.

On the way back, Thriller came on my Halloween CD mix, and it perked up my daughters' interest, so I promised to show them the video when we got back. And I did. I pulled up YouTube on the TV, got as far as Michael Jackson Were-catting out, and then just dropped deep into Sandman territory. By the time I woke up, one of my daughters was sitting on top of me and the other was covered in fruit snack wrappers, and they were finishing up The Book of Life. At least they stayed in brand for my family.

Lindsey returned later that night and, once the kids were asnooze, she pulled out the bottle of gin that she'd picked up on the way home. We then settled into the couch amidst our still-unfinished Halloween decorations and had a sequel night to last season's Gin and Boris. I don't know if I'll do this every year to commemorate mom's death, but it seemed right this time. I'll be writing about it soon.

Tomorrow's supposed to be another summer day. Maybe if I can pretend I'm melting in the center of a giant jack-o-lantern, I'll be able to take it better. Doubtful, though. Tomorrow's entry will probably be about watching Summer School in swim trunks with a giant green and pink wedge of watermelon in my hands.

September 15, 2017

Two Boris heads are better than one.

Man, great night tonight. Right after work, we took off, got some food, and headed to Target and Michael's to pick up some Halloween decorations. Like I've mentioned, this is our first Halloween in this house, and our decorations from my previous house just don't quite fit. Basically, we've got some jack-o-lantern-shaped holes to fill.

Target's stock was pretty much as expected, except they have a line this year called Monsterville that includes decor and costumes based on classic Universal Studios monsters. It was a complete time warp (to a time I've never lived through) to see kid's costumes of the Wolfman and the Gill-man and decorations featuring Boris Karloff's face in a modern department store aisle. We picked up some plastic jack-o's and a black serving tray made from a Ouija board. 

No surprises really at Micheal's. Here we were looking for candles and cheesecloth and a few other mood makers, although we had to avert our eyes from the burgeoning Christmas stock. The best thing we bought here, I think, was a set of cardboard bats with LEDs affixed to them. You stick them to your wall, and then the lights are reflected off the wall and surrounded the bat, kind of like a back-lit sconce. That wording probably didn't at all give you any visual picture. Sorry.

Usually, we just kind of window-shop Halloween decorations. It's more the activity of seeing what's out than a purposeful act of consumerism. As a result, when we see things we kind like, we never know whether we should buy it or not. And that's because we kind of like every Halloween decoration and are never sure if we need yet another thing. 

This time, we knew exactly what we needed and were invigorated by how full our shopping carts were.

This weekend, we'll finish up the decorations, and then I'll post some photos to the blog. 

When we got home, we re-watched Idle Hands from 1999, an entertaining little Halloween flick that's almost a time capsule of the 1990s. For some reason, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 16% on the Tomatometer. I mean, it has its issues, but no way should it be that low. It's a fun movie that doesn't have a single scene in it that isn't Halloween-y.

I have a few options for wrapping up tonight. Maybe I'll put together a new post. Or work on a presentation for an upcoming talk. Maybe I'll descend into the basement to construct a little set for the next OTIS Halloween video (a Strange Stuff from My Study one). If you never hear from me again, know I died doing what I loved.

September 14, 2017

I should draw red vein lines on these things and really theme these suckers.

Today I drove into the office. It's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Depending on traffic, that could be between two and four hours of commute time, round trip. But that's fine. I only have to do it like once a week. And this time of year, I have the antiques pictured above sitting on my dashboard ready to go to murder that commute. They're called Compact Discs. Sometimes CDs. They hold music. And they can be played in 12-year-old cars with 205,000 miles on them, especially if the owner splurged back in 2005 and bought one with a six-CD changer in it to impress the babes.

This is my Halloween music collection. Well, half of it. I think Discs II and III are under the floor mats somewhere. Except that today, I didn't listen to them. It was kind of hot outside and miles away from the Halloween nest that is my house, so I wasn't really in the right mood. Plus I had some horror movie podcasts to catch up on. Post Mortem with Mick Garris and Shockwaves from Blumhouse.

But next time, I'm sure these shiny flat things will do their thing for me. And when they do, I'll be treated to hours and hours of Halloween music culled from websites and YouTube and my own stash of music. Sure, these days, you can call up a Halloween playlist on any streaming site just by speaking into the air. But you'll miss out on a lot. I mean, they'll give you the important stuff--Thriller, Werewolves of London, This is Halloween, Monster Mash, Rocky Horror, but there's so much more to slide down the spirals of your ear canal during this time of year.

My Halloween music falls into three categories:

1) Horror Movie Theme Songs. Everything from Little Shop of Horrors to Killer Klowns from Outer Space to Alice Cooper's The Man Behind the Mask from Friday the 13th Part VI and Pet Sematary by The Ramones.

2) Novelty Stuff: This could be anything from Elvira's oeuvre to that one album Freddy Krueger put out or songs from Halloween specials like Garfield's Halloween Adventure.

3) Pop Music: Examples here include Rockwell's Somebody's Watching Me, Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party, Rob Zombie's Halloween (That's When She Gets so Mean), and most anything by the Misfits or Screamin' Jay Hawkins or Screaming Lord Sutch.

A fourth category that I haven't quite gotten into yet is that dark mood music-type stuff with instrumentals and synth and electronica...unless it's in on a horror movie soundtrack. No reason, I don't think. Possibly because I like my Halloween music on the fun and/or embarrassing side.

Anyway, spending so much time in my car, my evening at home was foreshortened as a result. We did squeeze in another spooky Murder, She Wrote. This time one where a man who runs a haunted attraction tries to talk Jessica into lending her name to a murder mansion idea he has before getting murdered himself in a locked room mystery.

Now I'm writing a future Halloween post while burning a Forbidden Apple Yankee candle that I found only half-spent in the Halloween decorations that we pulled from the basement.

It's kind of like a dead man's party.

September 13, 2017

The kid who shows up in this costume on Halloween goes in my will.

Tonight, Lindsey had dinner plans with a friend. That meant I was left to my own devious devices once the kids were abed. And that meant one of two paths: One, watch a horror movie I'd be embarrassed to watch with her due its silliness, its potential to disturb, or its general unknowness. Two, turn it into a productive night of writing Halloween posts, planning Halloween activities, and prepping for my upcoming public appearances. Either option is equally enjoyable and totally Halloween-y, especially when you add in scented candles and autumn booze. So it was a toss up.

I know. You're like that girl in the taco commercial, "Why not both?" I'm just not that disciplined. I'm either passive or active. Not both in sequence. But to prep for either path, I ran out before she left and picked up some hard cider, a box of Little Debbie Bat Brownies, and some whipped cream vodka. The latter because hard cider and cupcake vodka is one of the best fall concoctions out there, and whipped cream vodka was the closest substitute that my liquor store stocked. It's not a great substitute.

Once I'd settled in, I settled on the movie option. I picked the 1973 film Sssssss, which is the story of a man, played by Dirk Benedict, who gets transformed into a snake by a mad herpetology-obsessed scientist. I picked this flick for two reasons. One, I'd always wanted to watch it, but never had the chance. Two, I wanted to test the limits of my voice-activated remote. Turns out, when I hissed into the remote, it didn't understand what I wanted. But when I said "S" seven times, it pulled the movie right up like it was hoping I'd watch it. Voice recognition software has officially surpassed the human ear as of this experiment. Tell the world.

Sidebar Dirk Benedict story. I met him once in Florida at the only science fiction convention I've ever attended. It was either in St. Pete or Tampa. He was hawking a book on some organic diet he'd developed. And when I showed up at his table with my black-and-white photo of him as Starbuck in the original (and then only) Battlestar Galactica to get autographed, he asked me, "Do you want to buy a book?" I responded (and this is a direct quote), "I don't really read books." I was at the time pursuing an English degree and wanted to be a writer. But that's all I could come up with in the face of Face. I'll forget various important moments of my life, but I'll always remember that. I still have the autograph.

My wife and her friend got back earlier than I expected, so I paused the movie in horror (and finished it later in the night, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it), and we all just hung out together in the light of the still-unfinished Halloween decorations, drinking hard cider laced with the wrong vodka, and chatting. We made her try the pumpkin wine. She hated it.

I'm not a gregarious person, but hanging out in a warm orange glow with cider lips and friends...that's the goal of everything.

September 12, 2017

It's not easy bein' Halloweeny.

I'm only on Day 2 of this die-ary, and I can already feel some of the disconnect between it and my life. For the week days, at least. Those are always going to be Jekyll and Hyde. I spend more than half the day working for my day job, so things don't get Halloweeny until the eagle screams around 5:00 or so. Well, except for today when colleagues noticed the human skeleton behind me on a video call. I work from home a lot.

Tonight we messed around a little with at AtmosFX digital decorating kit. The company sent me one a couple of weeks back to see if I'd be interested in reviewing it on the Halloween Blog. After playing around with it, I totally am going to review it. This thing is way cool. I'll write about it soon.

After projecting serial killers and monsters on our windows, we grabbed some Halloween-packaged Cheetos, and settled in to watch...a spooky episode of Murder, She Wrote. Lindsey and I are on a kick of watching Halloween-flavored eps of old series. I think I like to do that more than watch Halloween or horror movies, honestly. Seeing regular shows transform into Halloween eps is the magic of the season. Feels like more of an event than just a movie made for the season is. And, believe it or not, Jessica Fletcher has had to solve quite a few mysteries involving witches and ghosts and things that go murder in the night. I'd go more into the ep we watched tonight, but I'm half-considering doing an OTIS post on all of them.

I also did some writing. I finished up a upcoming OTIS Halloween post and created a page for my public appearances this season. So, productive in addition to festive (and, yes, Cheetos, Angela Lansbury, and a projector are festive when they all come costumed for Halloween).

Another spooky night over. They go fast, man.

September 11, 2017

Our in-progress living room fireplace.

So I hit post on the inaugural 2017 OTIS Halloween Season, grabbed a bottle of Harpoon pumpkin cider, and headed downstairs to watch the last fifteen minutes of 976-EVIL because by then everybody in my house was in bed and I suddenly realized that I started that movie five months ago and never got around to finishing it. Actually, I first probably started it in 1997, but whatever. 

That whole scene is my version of me walking off into the sunset after I saved the town from the bandits who killed my father.

Of course, going live wasn't as smooth as all that. I thought I'd set up everything to be four keystrokes from done, but I'd forgotten a bunch of stuff and messed a bunch of other stuff up, so it was more like 400 keystrokes. Still, I ended the night calmly, the open windows inviting a cool breeze from the black night, while I sat surrounded by our unfinished Halloween decorations and a demon Stephen Geoffries leering at me from my television screen while making a joke about hell freezing over.

I really do love this time of year.