Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Candy Nightmares

I'd like to offer one last Halloween fright before we turn our attention to the next of the holiday season holidays—Thanksgiving.  And what is that one last fright?  It's all that Halloween candy!

Halloween aftermath usually means two things—putting the witch and goblin decorations away and fighting the battle of all that candy in the house.  First, there's the leftover candy from what you bought to hand out to trick-or-treaters.  There's two schools of thought about what type of candy to buy.  One theory says buy what you like so you can enjoy the leftovers.  The other theory says buy what you don't like so you won't be tempted.  And the second thing is all the candy the kids collected on their trick or treat rounds.  Sacks full of candy.  Enough potential tooth decay material to last until next Halloween.

And what kind of candy is it that we now have in abundance?  It seems that all the candy manufacturers, in addition to their regular size candy bars, make the little fun size candy—the mini candy bars or individual pieces.  Those little bite size morsels that give us just a taste.  Unfortunately, it's usually a taste for more.  :)

These little tidbits aren't as harmless as you'd like to believe.  Many of the small treats are worse for you than eating a normal size candy bar.  But that can't be, you tell yourself, because you're only going to eat one of those little things and that's certainly not the same as a regular size candy bar.  What's that you said?  Eat just one?  Well, you and I both know that's a lie!  :)

I recently saw a list of the ten worse choices of these mini candy snacks and I'd like to share it with you.

1)  Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins (1 piece):  You convince yourself that you're getting lots of protein from the peanut butter.  Think again.  One pumpkin has 180 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 17 grams of sugar.

2)  Dove Milk Chocolate Promises (5 pieces):  Chocolate is marvelous stuff, full of antioxidants that help decrease the risk of heart disease.  Think again.  It's DARK chocolate that has the antioxidants, not milk chocolate.  You're eating 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 22 grams of sugar.

3)  Twix Miniatures (3 pieces):  Like the Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins, another choice that might not seem so bad for you.  This gooey caramel and cookie crunch treat has 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar.

4)  Almond Joy Snack-Size Bars (3 pieces):  Coconut milk and coconut water might be popular in healthy eating circles, but that doesn't mean it's ok to cover it with chocolate and still consider it healthy.  With these, you're eating 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar.

5)  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniature (5 pieces):  Remember the comments about Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins?  Well, the same rules apply here only this time it's 220 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 23 grams of sugar.

6)  Hershey's Miniatures (5 pieces):  These are staples every year at Halloween time.  The mixed bag of treats begs you to try at least one of each kind.  You'll be consuming 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 19 grams of sugar.

7)  Hershey's Kisses Caramel-Filled (9 pieces): These seem safe, but don't be fooled.  You're looking at 190 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

8)  York Dark Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Patties (3 pieces):  The cool minty chocolate that melts in your mouth gives you 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 27 grams of sugar.

9)  Snickers Fun Size (2 bars):  The commercials say, "Hungry?  Grab a Snickers."  If you do, you'll be grabbing 144 calories, 7.4 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar.

10)  Kit Kat Snack Size (3  2-piece bars):  These little beauties are worth 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Halloween is the number of calories, grams of fat, and grams of sugar we consume under the guise of it's little, it won't hurt me.

And strictly for adults…having a glass of wine with our Halloween candy.  What type of wine could possibly go with Candy Corn?
Master Sommelier and Director of Wines at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants has put together some pairings of Halloween candy and wine for your pleasure.

Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars go nicely with a fruity, low-alcohol wine like Brachetto d'Aqui from Northern Italy.  It's bright pink and tastes like raspberries and roses.

Hot Tamales are intensely spicy and sweet.  That demands a high acid wine with low alcohol to cut the spice and high sugar content, something like a German Riesling.

Tootsie Rolls go very well with a Tawny Port.  A twenty year old Tawny Port will taste like nuts and orange peel.

Reese's Pieces go perfectly with Vin Santo from Italy.  This wine has a nutty flavor, a great match with the peanut buttery candy.

And finally…what wine goes with Candy Corn?  According to the expert, this super sugary candy pairs well with a very floral wine like Muscat de Beaumes de Venise which is a fortified Muscat from the South of France with a rich orange blossom flavor.

So…sort out your candy and don't over do it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Horror Movies For The Halloween Season...and the lessons we've learned

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.

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 or worse yet go it alone when searching the spooky old mansion for the source of the strange noises (are you listening to this advice Scooby Doo gang?).

2)  As a general rule, don't solve puzzles that open portals to hell.

And last, but not least…

1)  If you find a town that looks deserted, there's probably a good reason for it.  Take the hint and stay away!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

10 Halloween Superstitions

Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures.  Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how or why they came into being.  Friday the 13th always brings out superstitions and the rituals used to thwart them.

And then there's Halloween.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any superstitions that apply to Halloween?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Most Haunted Cities in America

With the approach of Halloween, it's natural for thoughts to occasionally dwell on ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.  This week I'm blogging about America's most haunted cities.

There are several lists of the most haunted cities in the United States, most of them basically naming the same cities in varying order.  Here's one list of 10 cities that recently came to my attention.

10)  Portland, Oregon:  Portland has a reputation for being the most haunted city in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a city of many haunts, both seasonal tourist attractions and historical happenings where the participants refuse to leave.  One of the most famous…or more accurately, most infamous…historical haunts are the Shanghai Tunnels.  We've all heard the expression of someone being Shanghaied, meaning to be abducted.  This is where it originated.  In the Victorian era (around the 1870s), ship captains would put into Portland on the Columbia River looking for fresh crew members.  Local middlemen drugged pub goers, dropped the bodies through trapdoors into the tunnels below where they were held captive until they could be carted to the waterfront and sold to the captain for $50/each.  These ships were quite often headed for China and the port of Shanghai, thus the term being Shanghaied.  Many of these drugged unfortunates died while being held in the tunnels.  Today, the Shanghai Tunnels have several ghosts, some menacing and others apparently confused.

9)  San Francisco, California:  A city of many haunted locations and happenings.  One of the most interesting is Alcatraz.  The island has a long history, first as a military prison during the Civil War.  It was used off and on by many different groups to house various prisoners from that time until 1933 when it was officially turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and used as a maximum security prison for the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its prison doors for good.  Over the one hundred plus years that the island housed prisoners of all types, many died in cruel and terrible ways.  Those spirits still inhabit Alcatraz.  Even today as part of the National Park system, tourists taking one of the park ranger guided tours report seeing and hearing strange things that can't be explained.

8)  Chicago, Illinois:  Chicago was the center of gangland activity during Prohibition, including the famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Many gangsters of the era used Chicago as a body dumping ground.  There were also six thousand Confederate soldiers and sailors buried during the Civil War at Oak Woods Cemetery which has ongoing paranormal activity.  Chicago's most famous ghost is Resurrection Mary named for Resurrection Cemetery.  She was killed by a hit and run driver on the street in front of the cemetery and now is often seen hitch hiking along that street.

7)  Charleston, South Carolina:  The downtown area known as The Battery was an artillery installation during the Civil War.  The area is known for its ghost stories.  The Battery Carriage House Inn is the city's famous haunted hotel where visitors often see strange happenings.  The inn's two most famous ghosts are the gentleman ghost and the headless torso.  The gentleman ghost is thought to be a young man whose family owned the house in the early 1900s and, for reasons unknown, jumped off the roof and killed himself.  The headless torso is believed to be military from the Civil War.  There is no evidence that he intends any harm, but guests have felt threatened when he has suddenly materialized in their room.

6)  St. Augustine, Florida:  The nation's oldest city and the first permanently occupied European settlement on our shores, dating back to its founding in 1565.  Castillo de San Marcos is a star-shaped fort and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in a city filled with unexplained phenomenon.  The construction of The Old Fort began in 1672 and took twenty-three years to build.  Many strange sightings, including a Spanish soldier, have been reported.  It is not uncommon for individuals to capture on film strange lights, orbs, rods, spheres, and even distinct apparitions composed of strange mists.

5)  San Antonio, Texas:  The home of the Alamo is regarded as the most haunted city in Texas.  Prior to the Battle of the Alamo, the ground was a cemetery between 1724 and 1793.  It's estimated that about one thousand people were buried during those years.  On the morning of March 6, 1836, following the thirteen day Battle of the Alamo, one thousand six hundred Mexican shoulders lay dead along with the approximately one hundred forty-five defenders of the old mission.  The remaining buildings at the Alamo as well as the surrounding area is one of the most haunted places in the nation.  Tales of ghostly sightings have been reported for almost two centuries.

4)  New Orleans, Louisiana:  With a history of voodoo and slavery in its past, it's no wonder that New Orleans is considered a very haunted city.  Its most famous ghost is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #1, considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country.  New Orleans is well below sea level, so the dead are buried in above ground tombs or vaults resembling small architectural buildings.  Located on the edge of the haunted French Quarter, this oldest still in service cemetery has been the setting for many Haunted New Orleans movies such as Easy Rider, Interview With The Vampire, and Johnny Handsome.  But its biggest draw is the tomb of Marie Laveau.

3)  Salem, Massachusetts:  This site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s certainly makes the list of haunted cities.  Gallows Hill is believed to be haunted by the spirits of the nineteen women accused of being witches who were hanged there.  It also shouldn't be surprising that Salem has one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the country for people of all ages.

2)  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  The Civil War battle at Gettysburg resulted in fifty-one thousand casualties.  It is believed that nearly all forty miles of the Gettysburg battlefields have paranormal activity.  Many of the ghosts show up in photos, including the ghost of Robert E. Lee.  In July 1863, Gettysburg's living population was out numbered twenty to one by the dead.

1)  Savannah, Georgia:  Savannah was named "America's Most Haunted City" in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology.  The city was home to a Revolutionary War battleground as well as Civil Way actions.  Savannah offers several different haunted tours and is also famous as the location of the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that all of these cities offer ghost tours.  Have any of you ever had any first hand experience with hauntings?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

America's Haunted Hotels

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
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 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 fiancĂ© 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.

Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California 
There are, of course, many more reportedly haunted hotels and inns in the United States.  This is just a sampling.  Do you have any haunted hotels in your city?  I have been to seven of the hotels on this list and of those the Hotel del Coronado is definitely my favorite.  Actually, it's my favorite hotel in any season.