Saturday, November 18, 2017
It's that time of year again…the Thanksgiving season. This year the fourth Thursday in November falls on November 23rd, the day of celebration in the U.S. Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys each year for that Thanksgiving dinner. So, in honor of the holiday, here are a dozen known and not so well known bits of trivia about turkeys.
1) All turkeys do not taste the same. The taste has to do with their age. An older male is preferable to a younger male (the younger tom is stringy). And the younger female hens are preferable to the older ones. Hmmm…that older man and younger woman thing again. I wonder if there's such a thing as a female cougar turkey. :)
2) A turkey less than 16 weeks old is called a fryer and a turkey 5 to 7 months of age is known as a roaster.
3) Turkeys are a type of pheasant and are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.
4) Wild turkeys are able to fly for short durations attaining speeds up to 55mph. Domesticated turkeys raised on farms for food are too fat and meaty to achieve flight.
5) We've all heard that Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey as the national symbol of America rather than the Bald Eagle (see last week's blog--Eagle Vs. Turkey).
6) The first turkeys to be domesticated were in Mexico and Central America.
7) The male turkey makes the gobble sound and the female clucks.
8) A mature turkey has about 3,500 feathers, which is a lot of plucking before it can be cooked.
9) The most turkeys produced annually come from Minnesota and North Carolina.
10) The skin that hangs from a turkey's neck is called a wattle. The fleshy growth on the base of the beak is the snood.
11) Each year 90 percent of Americans have turkey for Thanksgiving compared to 50 percent on Christmas.
12) The most turkey consumed per capita is not eaten by Americans. Israel holds that honor.
One thing that's marvelous about the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is all the terrific leftovers! Anyone out there having something other than the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?
Saturday, November 11, 2017
We all know that the bald eagle is America's National Symbol…a proud and majestic bird. And turkey is what we serve every year at Thanksgiving dinner…a tasty bird made all the more appetizing when accompanied by dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy.
But did you know that if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way, the turkey would have been our national symbol?
In 1776, right after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a special committee to select a design for an official national seal. This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. They each had their own ideas, none of which included the bald eagle. They finally came to agreement on a drawing of a woman holding a shield to represent the states. However, the design did nothing to inspire the members of Congress.
So Congress consulted a Philadelphia artist named William Barton who created a new design that included a golden eagle. At the time we were still at war with England and the fierce looking bird was deemed an appropriate symbol…with one small change. The golden eagle also flew over Europe so the federal lawmakers declared that the bird in the seal had to be an American bald eagle.
On June 20, 1782, they approved the design that we recognize today.
From the start, the eagle had been a controversial choice. Benjamin Franklin was quite vocal in his objection to the selection of the eagle. He considered it a bird of "bad moral character." A year after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war with Great Britain, Franklin argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol. "A much more respected bird and a true native of America."
Unfortunately for Franklin, Congress was not convinced and the bald eagle remained our national symbol.
Whereas both the bald eagle and the turkey are native to America, we can't lay exclusive claim to either species since both traditionally ranged in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S.
Saturday, November 4, 2017
November is a month with a couple of legal holidays in the U.S., specifically Veteran's Day on November 11 and Thanksgiving on November 23 this year (4th Thursday in November) There are other recognized days such as All Saint's Day (November 1) and All Soul's Day (November 2). And with a tip of the hat to our British cousins, Guy Fawkes Day (November 5).
The entire month of November is: Aviation History month, Child Safety Protection month, International Drum month, National Adoption Awareness month, National Epilepsy month, National Model Railroad month, National Novel Writing month, Native American Heritage month, Peanut Butter Lovers month, Real Jewelry month, and National Sleep Comfort month. There's also Chemistry Week (week 1) and Game & Puzzle week (week 3).
But that's only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. November, just like all the other months, is filled with bizarre and unique holidays. I hope you enjoy these November offerings.
All Saint's Day
All Soul's Day
Book Lovers Day—this is celebrated either August 9th or the first Saturday in November. Book Lovers Day, as the name implies, encourages us to find a place to relax with a good book. Not only is reading a great hobby, it's an important one. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing.
Deviled Egg Day
Look For Circles Day
King Tut Day—this celebrates the date of the discovery of King Tutankhamen's Tomb on November 4, 1922, in Egypt's Valley of Kings. King Tut became King of Egypt in 1333 B.C. at the age of 9 and ruled until 1324 B.C. when he died at age 19. The cause of his death is uncertain with murder and innocent accident being the two main theories.
Guy Fawkes Day (goes hand-in-hand with Gunpowder Day)
Marooned Without A Compass Day—do you often find yourself going around in circles? Do you feel hopelessly lost? Which direction will your life take? Being marooned without a compass for a day could be a good thing. Our busy lifestyles seldom leave us time to relax. We can enjoy being marooned…until tomorrow.
Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day
Cook Something Bold Day
Chaos Never Dies Day—this day recognizes the turmoil in everyday life. Just when your hectic surroundings seem to calm down at work and home, along comes something to disrupt your life. Disorder is everywhere. This holiday is designed for you. Pick one thing that is really disrupting your life and change it for the good.
Chicken Soup For The Soul Day
Young Readers Day
National Indian Pudding Day
Sadie Hawkins Day—originated from a 1930s comic strip, Al Capp's Lil Abner. In the strip, the mayor of Dogpatch desperately wants to marry off his ugly daughter, so he creates the Sadie Hawkins Day race where all the single men are given a short head start then all the single women chase them. If a girl catches a man, then he has to marry her. The Sadie Hawkins Day celebration basically ended 40 years later when Al Capp died and the comic strip was discontinued, however it can occasionally still be seen celebrated on some college campuses.
World Kindness Day—the day encourages us to be kind to others, helping to create a nicer, better world. The holiday is intended to build a kinder and more compassionate world. Kindness rubs off on others and generates even more kindness.
Operating Room Nurse Day
Clean Your Refrigerator Day
America Recycles Day
National Philanthropy Day
Have A Party With Your Bear Day—is your teddy bear a real party animal? Hopefully so because today is the day you get to party. Invite all your teddy bears and your friends and have them invite their teddy bears for a fun day.
Electronic Greeting Card Day
Homemade Bread Day
Take A Hike Day
World Peace Day—encourages us to be kind to others and teach others to be peaceful. The creator of this holiday believes world peace starts with individuals and if we all our part to promote peach we can make war and strife obsolete.
Occult Day—this is a mysterious day, something outside the realm of the normal and natural world. Lots of words can be used to describe the occult…concealed, secret, hidden, mysterious, unnatural. Astrology and alchemy also could belong. Many secret groups are occult. Celebrate this day by not sitting back and waiting for something to happen. Have fun with it.
Have A Bad Day Day
Absurdity Day—is…well…absurd! Some days are illogical and senseless which is exactly the definition of Absurdity Day. Celebrate this day in an absurd manner, have fun with it.
Universal Children's Day
False Confession Day
Great American Smokeout
World Hello Day
Go For A Ride Day
Eat A Cranberry Day
National Cashew Day
National Adoption Day
Black Friday—shopping day
National Parfait Day
Shopping Reminder Day
Pins And Needles Day
Make Your Own Head Day
Red Planet Day—honors the fourth planet from the sun…Mars. On this day, take a few minutes to look up into the sky and gaze at our celestial neighbor. This day commemorates the launch of the Spacecraft Mariner 4 on November 28, 1964.
Buy Nothing Day
Square Dance Day
You're Welcome Day
Stay At Home Because You Are Well Day—this is the day to stay home from work because you feel well, taking an unofficial day off to enjoy yourself. Warning…doing this might get you in trouble, possibly even costing you your job.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Hotel del Coronado
Are you looking for that Halloween thrill that's real rather than manufactured? A true haunted hotel for a night away from home? The U.S. has many haunted hotels and inns from which to choose. Here's a sampling (in no particular order) of 21 spooky destinations to spend the night. Or longer…if you're brave enough. Just make sure your stay doesn't become permanent.
The Myrtles Plantation—St. Francisville, Louisiana
Built approximately 1796, this former home is considered one of the most haunted homes in the U.S. with one murder and several natural deaths. The Plantation now has 11 guest rooms.
Hotel del Coronado—Coronado, California (San Diego)
Opened in 1888 and a National Historic Landmark since 1977, the Hotel del Coronado is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, who died there. This is one of my favorite hotels and has also been used as a location in many movies and television shows, probably the most well-known being SOME LIKE IT HOT starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.
Marrero's Guest Mansion—Key West, Florida
Built in 1889 by Francisco Marrero for his bride, the 13 guest room Victorian home is rumored to still be haunted by her ghost.
Stanley Hotel—Estes Park, Colorado
First opened in 1909, this hotel is most famous these days as the inspiration for Stephen King's horror novel, THE SHINING.
Queen Anne Hotel—San Francisco, California
This B&B in San Francisco's Pacific Heights area is said to be haunted by the spirit of Mary Lake who was the Head Mistress of the school that used to be located inside the building.
Manresa Castle—Port Townsend, Washington
A former 30 room private residence is haunted by 2 ghosts, including a former guest who was stood up by her lover and subsequently jumped to her death from the hotel.
Driskill Hotel—Austin, Texas
Originally built in 1886 for cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the Austin landmark hosts travelers today in addition to the spirit of Jesse Driskill.
The Lemp Mansion—St. Louis, Missouri
This hotel offers paranormal tours complete with appetizers and a drink. Several members of the Lemp family died under various circumstances including more than one suicide.
Hawthorne Hotel—Salem, Massachusetts
The town that was the site of the Salem Witch Trials would certainly lend itself to hauntings and Halloween visitors. Guests of the hotel have reported hearing eerie sounds in the stairwells and feeling ill at ease while staying there.
Green Mountain Inn—Stowe, Vermont
Boots Berry died in a fall from the roof. His ghost has been seen standing in room 1840, where he was born.
Buxton Inn—Granville, Ohio
The ghost of Orrin Granger, who built the Buxton Inn, has been seen wandering the halls. The ghost of Bonnie Bounell, a former innkeeper, is said to hang out in room 9.
1866 Crescent Hotel & Spa—Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The deceased who are still residing at the hotel include a stonemason, a cancer patient, a cat, and a man in a white suit. A new ghost, a dancer, was recently spotted at the hotel.
Beverly Hills Inn—Atlanta, Georgia
This property is said to be haunted by the souls of 3 women. An investigation in 2007 recorded voices whispering "Get out."
Hotel Queen Mary—Long Beach, California
With its history as both a luxury cruise ship and a troop transport ship during World War II, the Queen Mary is reportedly haunted by many spirits. One of them is a young girl who broke her neck sliding down one of the ship's banisters. She can be seen today hanging out by the swimming pool.
Gettysburg Hotel—Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Ghosts dance in the ballroom and the ghost of a Union soldier strolls through the halls. The nearby Gettysburg Civil War battle field is considered by many to be the most haunted place in the U.S. When the battle ended on July 3, 1863, there had been 51,000 casualties Union and Confederate.
Congress Plaza Hotel—Chicago, Illinois
Built in 1893 for visitors to the Chicago World's Fair, the hotel is reputedly one of Al Capone's hideouts. Members of a rival gang did a drive by shooting attempt on his life while he was staying there. The hotel is said to be haunted by a young boy, possibly an innocent victim of that shooting.
The Battery Carriage House Inn—Charleston, South Carolina
Many guests have reported seeing the torso of a decapitated confederate soldier floating through the Inn.
1859 Historic National Hotel—Jamestown, California
Located in the Sierra foothills in the heart of the California gold rush country, the hotel is said to be haunted by a woman whose fiancé was shot by a drunk on the hotel premises. She is said to have died of a broken heart while wearing her wedding dress and has been giving hotel guests an uncomfortable feeling ever since.
Burn Brae Mansion—Glen Spy, New York
The former home of the third president of the Singer Sewing Machine company offers ghost tours.
Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn—Mountain City, Tennessee
The haunting spirit at this Inn apparently has a sweet tooth. The smell of baking cookies wafts through the Inn in the wee hours of the morning.
The Colonial Inn—Concord, Massachusetts
This 24 room Inn was established in 1716. Room 24, located in the oldest part of the Inn, was reportedly used as an emergency hospital during the Revolutionary War and that is where guests have reported odd happenings.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Last week I talked about the history of haunted houses as staged events and ended with some Halloween facts. This week I'm talking about the big business of professional haunted house attractions.
In the U.S., there are approximately 4,500 professional haunted house attractions opened to the public during the Halloween season—300 theme parks that operate a seasonal haunted house venue, 1200 large-scale haunted houses, and 3000 such attractions operated by and/or for charity organizations as fund raisers. And, of course, Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida have the year round Haunted Mansion ride.
What is America's oldest and largest commercial Halloween haunt? That honor belongs to the Knott's Berry Farm theme park in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, California. Or as it's known this time of year—Knott's Scary Farm. It's the world's first Halloween theme park event, the largest Halloween theme park event, and the largest special event in the amusement park industry. The park makes it clear that the event is not recommended for children under thirteen years old.
It should be no surprise that many of the professional haunted houses/scare attractions have an organization of their own. Many of the most famous haunted house attractions in the U.S. have formed America Haunts. They even hold a national convention every summer. The attractions that belong to America Haunts are as diverse as the people who operate them. These attractions have been consistently reviewed and are rated as excellent by scores of media sources and considered safe, fun, and an extremely scary show for horror and haunted house fans. These are amazingly detailed, cutting edge attractions that rival many Hollywood horror movie effects. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
The many America Haunts attractions [located across the country from San Diego, California, on the Pacific coast, to Baltimore, Maryland, on the Atlantic coast], annually draw in millions of brave souls during the Halloween season. The haunted house industry, like most other industries, has its own tradeshows, experts, consultants, suppliers, magazines, associations, education seminars, gatherings, and events. Haunted attraction owners annually spend millions of dollars with haunted house vendors for supplies such as fog machines, animatronic monsters, lighting equipment, and costumes and masks. In recent years, the overseas market has provided the biggest growth in business for the haunted house vendors of supplies.
The Otis Elevator Company estimates that 85% of the buildings with their elevators do not have a named 13th floor, with that actual floor being given the number 14. Some businesses don't want to be associated with the stigma attached to the number 13 as being unlucky. Some don't want to take a chance on losing customers/clients due to them having an aversion to the number 13. And that probably explains the basic reason for the name of one of the largest haunted house attractions in the U.S.—The 13th Floor Haunted House in Denver, Colorado.
In the 1940s, the building that houses The 13th Floor Haunted House operated briefly as a hotel located across the street from the Sunset train station. A group of children arrived at the station on their way to their destination south of Denver. The weather had turned bad, so the bus driver taking them from the station to their final destination decided it would be better to wait until morning to complete their journey. They checked into the hotel across the street and in the morning continued on their way. The school bus became stalled on the tracks just south of town and was struck by a train, killing 10 of the children. Legend has it that those children continue to haunt the hotel, protecting others from a similar fate.
Several of the large, professional attractions, such as The 13th Floor Haunted House, offer more than one venue as part of a specific location. Each of the venues has a different theme. And some of the attractions have both indoor and outdoor fright areas.
One such outdoor attraction is Hundred Acres Manor in Pittsburgh. The attraction boasts 6 haunted attractions for 1 price.
Another outside offering is The Haunted Trail in Balboa Park, in San Diego, California. It's a mile long trail through a twisted grove of pines and gnarled oaks. Last year they initiated a creepy stroll down a reproduction of New Orleans famous Bourbon Street complete with vampires and other creatures of the night. The Haunted Trail also offers the return of the 3500 sq. ft. haunted maze
And this barely scratches the surface of what the large, professional Haunted House attractions have to offer those looking for the ultimate scare. So…have a happy, sane, and safe Halloween.
Friday, October 13, 2017
This week and next week in my Halloween season series of blogs, I'm doing a two-part blog about haunted houses.
I remember when I was a child in West Los Angeles. We had a very large garage and one year my mother and father fixed it up like a haunted house for my Halloween party—a winding, twisty route through all kinds of scary things. It was a lot of fun and totally different from anything anyone else in the neighborhood did for Halloween. Of course, back in those days, scary things were not at all the same type of bloody gruesome attractions that are the main features of today's professional Halloween attractions.
Halloween attractions have moved far beyond the neighborhood scare as a fun encounter for the trick-or-treaters. Today they are big business—very big business. Operators of the large attractions spend most of the year coming up with new and better ideas for frightening attractions and implementing them. They take pleasure in dreaming up even more diabolical ways of giving us the seasonal nightmares.
This week, let's talk about the history of haunted houses and some Halloween facts. Just in the United States, there are over 1200 professional haunted houses, 300 theme parks that operate horror-themed annual Halloween events and over 3000 charity-run spooky Halloween attractions. Haunted attractions have a long history dating back to early civilizations.
The Egyptians knew that the best way to keep body snatchers away from a pyramid was to really scare them away. The commonly used mazes, moving walls, self-opening doors, and traps as well as snakes and insects to protect treasure and the bodies of royalty. True, they weren't charging admission and the public wasn't lined up waiting to get inside, but it is an early example of creating a setting to produce fear.
The Greeks and Romans have a folklore complete with mazes and labyrinths filled with monsters. With theater being a vital part of their culture, we can assume they created numerous special effects devices to enhance the scare factor that would evolve into today's haunted house elements.
The Dark Ages:
This period in history saw the Christians continue the evolution toward today's haunted house attraction. During the 1300s through the 1500s, Europe had been converted from Celtic and pagan religions to the practice of Christianity. Many of today's Halloween activities—carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples, dressing up in costumes and even trick-or-treating—were pagan practices that stayed with us.
Theater became increasingly popular and catered to society's love of horror which resulted in the development of more special effects. Ghosts, demons, the devil, and other monsters appeared regularly in plays including those of William Shakespeare.
This was a time when the general population became fascinated with ghosts and the possibility of other realms. Self-proclaimed mediums, fortune tellers, clairvoyants, and spiritualists engaged in conjuring sessions in an attempt to communicate with the dead which became a form of entertainment for the elite. The theme of hauntings continued in the theater and the century provided the first wax museum, the forerunner of future walk-through attractions that played on people's sense of reality.
The start of the 20th century saw the increased popularity of the traveling carnival and the rise of the what was referred to as a freak show. Dark rides also became popular amusements. The patrons sat in a boat or on a train and were automatically moved through numerous scenes. Amusement parks came into popularity during this time. Those that could not afford a big roller coaster offered cheap fun houses and haunted house attractions to pull in customers.
Also during this time, many of the residential houses built during the early 1800s had become dilapidated and worn down. Adults would tell their children that ghosts filled the neglected homes in an attempt to keep them from exploring those structures. This further fueled the mystique of haunted houses.
1969 was the opening of Disneyland's (Anaheim, California) Haunted Mansion attraction. Rather than putting a genuine decrepit-looking structure in the middle of Disneyland, he created a lavish mansion with a pristine exterior based on the appearance of the San Jose, California, Winchester House. It was originally a walk-through attraction but was soon changed over to a ride.
Non-profit organizations began to use abandoned buildings and fields to put up haunted houses to raise money for charity.
This was the decade when horror movies grew in popularity and so did haunted houses. Most amusement parks had a scary attraction of some sort.
The 1990s to present:
Haunts are everywhere—haunted hayrides, mazes, and scavenger hunts. They've become so popular that haunts are here to stay with the industry constantly evolving with new and more terrifying attractions.
Halloween Frightening and Fun Facts:
Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the U.S.
Approximately 100 countries celebrate Halloween.
Over 7 billion dollars are spent annually on candy, costumes and activities in just the U.S.
Approximately 90% of all households with children will participate in some sort of Halloween activity.
Over 80% of all haunted attractions in the U.S. are operated by a charity or help to benefit a charity of some sort.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
What has happened to the scary horror movies from the past that traded on the atmosphere of fear rather than the visual of spurting blood and flying body parts? The tingling sensation that made the hair stand on the back of our necks and goose bumps on our arms as our imaginations ran wild. The spooky ground fog that slithered over and around the tombstones, cloaking the cemetery in an eerie silence and spectral glow.
I'm talking about the traditional horror classics from decades gone by such as Frankenstein from 1931 with Boris Karloff's brilliant performance as the monster. Also from 1931, Dracula with Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the vampire as both elegant and mesmerizing which left the horror to the imagination of the viewer. The next year gave us 1932's The Mummy with Boris Karloff once again turning in a stellar performance, this time as the two thousand year old mummy in search of the reincarnation of his mate. Then came 1941's The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the stricken and cursed Larry Talbot.
True to Hollywood tradition, these classic horror movies spawned numerous sequels—Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter. And as long as Hollywood was on a roll, they added to the profit factor by capitalizing on the popularity of the characters by having them co-star in such movies as Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Then there were the myriad remakes that came over the ensuing years, some serious attempts and others totally ludicrous. Each one pushed the envelope in its own way in order to hopefully make it better (as in more box office dollars) than its predecessor.
And the award for the most remakes over the years goes to Dracula. Some were serious films and others were more on the ridiculous side with titles such as Dracula's Dog.
With all four of the above mentioned original movies, the remakes never really captured the essence of the originals…in my humble opinion.
And this month, as with every October, Turner Classic Movies cable channel is bringing out the spooky/scary best for Halloween. Every Friday evening for the month they are presenting a lineup of seasonal movies with each Friday having a theme (i.e. haunted houses, etc.). And every Tuesday is classic horror movies. They conclude the month with a spooky October 31st marathon.
But these classic horror movies have done more than provide us with entertainment. They have given us some valuable lessons for handling real life as well as those evil things lurking in the shadows.
Here are 9 important lessons Halloween season horror movies have taught us.
9) When it appears that you have killed the monster, NEVER check to see if it's really dead.
8) If your companions suddenly begin to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior such as hissing, fascination with blood, glowing eyes, or increasing hairiness, get away from them as fast as possible.
7) Do not search the basement when the power has just gone out (especially if it was NOT knocked out as the result of a storm or if yours is the only house on the block without power).
6) If appliances start operating by themselves, move out.
5) Stay away from certain geographic locations such as: Amityville, Elm Street, Transylvania, Nilbog, the Bermuda Triangle…or any small town in Maine.
4) If your children speak to you in any language which they should not know or if they speak to you using a voice which is not their own, be afraid…be very afraid.
3) When you have the benefit of numbers, NEVER pair off (are you listening to this advice Scooby Doo gang?) or worse yet go it alone when searching the spooky old mansion for the source of the strange noises.
2) As a general rule, don't solve puzzles that open portals to hell.
And last, but not least…