Friday, October 27, 2017

Grandpa Loved Hallowe'en

Sharing these memories of Grandpa... and adding Alice's poem at the end...
Grandpa Davis
W.C. 'Red' Davis (1903-1978)

The first pumpkin I buy in the Fall is designated as Grandpa's Pumpkin in remembrance of my Grandpa on the maternal side who loved Hallowe'en and the Fall. I place it by the hearth and pin his photo to it. At the end of the season when the pumpkin is past its prime - it goes out under the bird feeder where the squirrels and other critters make a feast of it.

Grandpa was quiet spoken and good-natured. Every memory I have of him brings a smile.

Grandpa Davis told great "yarns" and spooky stories. Late one Fall, as we walked from his friend's house in the twilight of the evening, he showed me the official haunted ghost house of the small Texas town where he lived. The old abandoned house, complete with creaky porch and dilapidated shutters was a couple of blocks from Grandpa's house. We peered through cloudy windows at what I know now was a couple of saw horses and a carpenter's tool box, but at the time looked every bit like the coffin of the old, mean guy Grandpa told me it was. Being the oldest and a bit of a yarn-spinner myself, I couldn't wait to share the story with younger cousins and my little brother. I couldn't wait to lead them past the big old bare pecan tree with its limbs scratching the sky like claws, and up the creaky steps to show them the coffin of the meanest man who had ever lived. I imagine Grandpa got a big kick out of all of us (I believe the number was five or six)... who came screeching around the corner a short while later, full of wild ideas and big stories. Of course, the coffin lid had moved and of course a spooky face was seen in the window as we high-tailed it out of there... We were certain the mean man's ghost was chasing us... why would he chase good kids we wondered. (wink! wink!) I bet Grandpa is grinning still.

Another time near Hallowe'en Grandpa told us (myself, the brother and the cousins again, five or six of us) about the mean old boogey-man who had a bad leg. I don't quite remember how the man's leg went bad in the story, but it seems like he got it caught in the cellar door where his mean old step-mother locked him when he was bad. (That part of the story might have originated with Grandpa or I might have added that part in the re-telling.) According to Grandpa, this old man came to town on Hallowe'en night to carry off all the bad children. Grandpa himself swore he had seen the old cripple crabbing his way up the road beside the house at sundown.

My Grandma bedded us down all on one big bed beside the window one Fall evening. I remember curtains swaying to and fro in the slight breeze. Outside was the road the boogey-man traveled every year according to Grandpa. I and another cousin saw that old man out the window that night. First he was there, limping and dragging his bad leg through the dirt, scrabbling noisily through the gravel near the bar ditch, then, next glance… he was not there! After a few minutes, a face appeared at the window and booed us. Loudly. Kids and covers scattered everywhere. Our screams and cries gave Grandma quite a fright. Later, I overheard from the kitchen, Grandma giving Grandpa "what for" about riling us up at bedtime... mumbling it was gonna take forever to bed us down again. Soon, we were settled in again and whispering amongst ourselves under the covers about the boogey man. It was many years before the man in the road and the face at the window became one in the same with my Grandpa’s visage.

Mom tells a story about Grandpa seeing a ghost when she was a girl. They lived on a farm at the time. Grandma wore a long white nightgown. One night she visited the "out house". Grandpa happened to look out the window about the time the gown and her black hair billowed out in the wind... which gave him quite a start. He said that's about as scared as he'd ever been.

I guess it is no big surprise that I love the season well... the sights, the sounds, the spooky stories, and it is no big surprise that Hallowe'en is my favorite holiday. I learned to appreciate Hallowe'en and the things associated with it early in life. These days the stories would not resonate with children of the same age as we were when Grandpa told spooky stories and played make-believe at the window. Kids of this day and time are smarter, more grounded in reality and more worldly-wise. I cannot find fault with that I guess, but it also escapes me how much they might be missing of the wonder and the thrill of innocence lost, of times shared with old people and Grandparents, of Fall afternoons screeching through the dusty streets of little town Texas and of spooky stories fabricated and embellished under the covers.

Oh well! I have my stories and I still like to spin them. When a youngster in my neighborhood asked what the creatures on the shelf were (see photo – it’s a dam doll Hallowe’en collection) - I told him "oh those are last year's trick-or-treaters". I had him for a minute... He took a step back and gave first the dam doll collection a hard look and then gave me a hard look before he realized I was pulling his leg

I reckon Grandpa could have put quite a spin on that little bit of mischief... I know, if he were telling the tale, I would have bought it hook, line and sinker. And then, I would have borrowed it, embellished it and passed it on. That’s what story-tellers do. Ha!

A poem by and for Grandpa's youngest daughter Alice (written in collaboration with Octoberwych)...

My Daddy, he loved Hallowe’en…
This I and my sisters remember well.
How he delighted in the squeals of wide-eyed children
as they shivered through his spooky tales,
told rightly, just before bedtime,
much to our Mother’s dismay…
he said, such stories are better told in the dark of night
than by the cheerful, bright light of day.
In a voice as dry as the whisper
of dead leaves skittering down the road,
with somber eye and leering grin
he would thrill us with the folk tales of old.
With covers pulled up to our eyeballs we heard
of raven-haired, broom-riding witches,
of bats fluttering hungrily at dusk
and Trolls lurking under bridges.
From the far shadows of the bedroom he warned
of Pumpkin-head monsters prowling
through cornfields haunted by shimmering ghosts
and unlucky black cats howling.
He said he knew of haunted houses to visit
and where skeletons crawled out of the grave…
He promised we could go trick-or treating,
but we would have to be very, very brave.

My Daddy, he loved Hallowe’en…
This I and my sisters remember well.
If we could have but one Jack-O-Lantern wish
It would be to hear Daddy tell one more tale…
© All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Witch's Daughter - Wilkins


circa 1890
By Mary Eleanor Wilkins (Freeman) (1852-1930)

It was well for old Elma Franklin that Cotton Mather had passed to either the heaven or hell in which he believed; it was well that the Salem witchcraft days were over, although not so long ago, or it would have fared ill with her. As it was, she was shunned, and at the same time cringed to. People feared to fear her. Witches were no longer accused in court, and put to torture and death, but human superstitions die hard. The heads thereof may be cut off, but their noxious bodies of fear and suspicions writhe long. People in that little New England village, which was as stiff and unyielding as its own poplar-trees which sentinelled so many of its houses, knew nothing of that making of horns which averts the evil eye. They shuddered upon their orthodox heights at the idea of the sign of the cross, but many would have fain taken refuge therein for the easing of their unquiet imaginations when they dwelt upon old Elma Franklin. Many a woman whispered to another under promise of strict secrecy that she was sure that Elma bore upon her lean, withered body the witch-sign; many a man, when he told his neighbor of the death of his cow or horse, nodded furtively toward old Elma's dwelling. In truth, old Elma's appearance alone, had it been only a few years ago, would have condemned her. Lean was she, and withered in a hard brown fashion like old leather. Her eyes were of a blue so bright that people said they felt like swooning before their glance; and what right had a woman, so old and wrinkled, with a head of golden hair like a young girl's? Her own hair, too, and she would wear no wig like other decent women of less than her age. And what right had she with that flower-like daughter Daphne?

Young creatures like Daphne are not born of women like Elma Franklin, who must have been old sixteen years agone. Daphne was sixteen. Daphne had a Greek name and Greek beauty. She was very small, but very perfect, and finished like a ivory statue whose sculptor had toiled for his own immortality. Daphne had golden hair like her mother's, but it waved in a fashion past finding out over her little ears, whose tips showed below like the pointed petals of pink roses, and her chin and cheeks curved as clearly as a rose, and her nose made a rapture of her profile, and her neck was long and slowly turning, and her eyes were not blue like her mother's, but sweet and dark, and gently regardant, and her hands were as white and smooth as lilies, whereas hands had never been seen so knotted and wickedly veined as if with unholy clawing as her mother's.

Daphne led however, as lonely a life as her mother. People were afraid. Dark stories, vile stories, were whispered among that pitiless, bigoted people. Old Elma and Daphne lived alone in their poor little cottage, although in the midst of fertile fields, and they fed on the milk of their two cows, and the eggs of their chickens, and the vegetables of their garden, and the honey of their bees. Old Elma hived them when they swarmed with never any protection for that strange face and those hands of hers, and people said the bees were of an evil breed, and familiars of old Elma's, and durst not sting her. Young men sometimes cast eyes askance at Daphne, but turned away, and old Elma knew the reason why, and she hated them; for hatred prospered in her heart, coming as she did of a strong and fierce race. Elma combed her daughter's wonderful golden locks, and dressed her in fine stuff made of a store which she had in a great carved chest in the garret, and would have had the girl go to meeting where she could be seen and admired; but Daphne went once, and was ever after afraid to venture, because of the black looks cast upon her, which seemed to sear her gentle heart, for the girl was so gentle that she seemed to have no voice of insistence for her own rights. When her mother chid her, saying, with the disappointment of a great love, that she had with her own hands fashioned her wonderful gown of red shot with golden threads and embroidered with silver flowers, and had wrought with fine needlework her lace kerchief and her mitts and her scarf, and that it was a shame that she must needs, with all this goodly apparel, slink beside her own hearth and be seen of no one, the girl only kissed her mother on her leathery brown cheek, and smiled like an angel. Daphne was a maiden of few words, and that would have enticed lovers had it not been for her mother. However, at last came Harry Edgelake, and he was bolder than the rest, and the moment he set eyes upon the girl clad in green with a rose in her hair and a rose at her breast, spinning in a cool shadow at her mother's door, his heart melted, and he swore that he would wed her, came she of a whole witch-tribe. But Harry had more than he recked at first to deal with in the way of opposition. He came of a long line of eminent ministers of the Word, and his grandfather and father still survived, and were of the Cotton Mather strain. Although they talked none, they would, if the good old days had endured, have had old Elma up before the judges; for all the cattle in the precinct, and all the poor crops, and every thunder tempest and lightning stroke, and all strange noises they laid at her door, nodding at each other and whispering.

Therefore when it came to their ears that Harry, who had just come home from Harvard, and was to be, had he a call, a minister of the Word, like themselves, had been seen standing and chatting by the hour beside the witch's daughter as she spun in the shade with her golden head shining out in it like a star, he was sternly reasoned with. And when he heeded not the counsel of his elders, but was seen strolling down lovers' lane with the maid, great stress was laid to bear upon him, and he was sent away to Boston town, and Daphne watched and he came not, and old Elma watched the girl watch in vain, and her evil passions grew; for evil surely dwelt in her heart, as in most human hearts, and she had been sorely dealt with and badgered, and the girl was her one delight of life, and the girls' sorrow was her own magnified into the most cruel torture that a heart can bear and live.

And whether she were a witch or not, much brooding upon the suspicion with which people regarded her had made her uncertain of herself, and she owned a strange book of magic, over which she loved to pore when the cry of the hounds of her kind was in her ears, and she resolved one night, when a month had passed and she knew her daughter to be pining for her lover, that if she were indeed witch as they said, she would use witchcraft.

The moon was at the full, and the wide field behind her cottage, which had been shorn for hay for the cows, glittered like a silver shield, and upon the silver shield were little wheels also like silver woven by spiders for their prey, and strange lights of dew blazed out here and there like stars. And old Elma led her daughter out into the field, and Elma wore a sad-colored gown which made her passing like the passing of a shadow, and Daphne was all in white, which made her passing like that of a moonbeam; and the mother took her daughter by the arm, and she so loved her that she hurt her.

"Mother, you hurt me, you hurt me!" moaned Daphne, and directly the mother's grasp of the little fair arm was as if she touched a new-born babe.

"What aileth thee, sweetheart?" she whispered, but the girl only sobbed gently.

"It is for thy lover, and not a maid in the precinct so fair and good," said the mother, in her fierce old voice.

And Daphne sobbed again, and the mother gathered her in her arms.

"Sweetheart, thy mother will compel love for thee," she whispered, and the girl shrank away in fear, for there was something strange in her mother's voice.

"I want no witchery," she whispered.

"Nay, but this is good witchery, to call true love to true love."

"If love cannot be called else, I want not love at all."

"But, sweetheart, this is not black but white witchery."

"I want none, and besides —"


The girl said no more, but the mother knew that it was because of her that the lover had fled, and not because of lack of love.

"See, sweetheart," said old Elma, "I know a charm."

"I will have no charm, mother; I tell thee I will have no charm."

"Sweetheart, watch thy mother cross the field from east to west and from north to south, and criss-cross like the spiders' webs, and see if thou thinkest it harmful witchcraft."

"I will not, mother," said the girl, but she watched.

And old Elma crossed the field from east to west and from north to south, and crisscrossed like the spiders' webs, and ever after her trailed lines of brighter silver than the dew which lay up the field, until the whole was like a wonderful web, and in the midst shone a great silver light as if the moon had fallen there, although still in the sky.

Then came old Elma to her daughter, and her face in the strange light was fair and young. "Daughter, daughter," said the mother, "but follow the lines of light thy mother's feet have made and come to the central light, and thy lover shall be there."

But the daughter stood in her place, like a white lily whose roots none could stir save to her death. "I follow not, mother," she said. "It would be to his soul's undoing, and better I love his soul and its fair salvation than his body and his heart in this world."

And the mother was silent, for she truly knew not as to the spell whether it concerned the soul's salvation.

But she had still another spell, which she had learned from her strange book. "Then stay, daughter," said old Elma, and straightway she crossed the paths of light which she made, and they vanished, and the meadow became as before, but in the midst old Elma stood, and said strange words under her breath, and waved her arms, while her daughter watched her fearfully. And as she watched, Daphne saw spring up, in the meadow in the space over which her mother's long arms waved, a patch of white lilies, which gave out lights like no lilies of earth, and their wonderful scent came in her face. And her mother hurried back, and in her hurrying was like a black shadow passing over the meadow.

"And go to the patch of lilies, sweetheart," she said, "and in the time which it takes thee to reach them thy lover will have gone over the forests and the waters, and he will meet thee in the lilies."

But Daphne stood firm in her place. "I go not, mother," she said. "It would be to his dear soul's undoing, and better I love his soul and his soul's heaven than I love him and myself."

Then down lay old Elma upon the silver shield of the meadow like a black shadow at her daughter's feet.

"Then is there but one way left, sweetheart," came her voice from among the meadow grasses like the love-song of a stricken mother-bird. "There is but one way, sweet daughter of mine. Step thou over thy mother's body, darling, and cross to the patch of lilies, and I swear to thee, by the Christ and the Cross and all that the meeting-folk hold sacred, that thou shalt have thy lover, and his soul shall not miss heaven, neither his soul nor thine."

"And thine?"

"I am thy mother."

And Daphne stood firm. "Better I love thee, mother," she said, "than heaven on earth with my lover; better I love thee than his weal or mine in this world, better than all save his dear soul."

"I tell thee, sweet, cross my body, and his soul and thy soul shall be safe."

"But thy life on earth, and thy soul?"

"I am thy mother."

"I will not go."

Then came a wail of despair from old Elma at her daughter's feet upon the silver shield of the meadow, and then she was raised up by young Harry Edgelake, and she stood with her leathern old face like an angel's for pure joy and forgetfulness of self. For her daughter stood in her lover's arms and his voice sounded like a song.

"Nothing on earth and nothing in heaven shall part me from thee, who hold my soul dearer than myself, and thy mother dearer than thyself, for, witch or no witch, thy mother has shown me thy angel in the meadow to-night," he said.

Old Elma stood watching them with her face of pure joy, and all the fierceness and the bitter grief of injury received from those whom she had not injured faded from her heart. She forgot the strange book which she had studied, she forgot her power of strange deeds, she forgot herself, and remembered nothing, nothing save her daughter and her love, and such bliss possessed her that she could stand no longer upon the silver shield of the meadow. She sank down slowly as a flower sinks when its time has come before the sun and the wind which have given it life, and she lay still at the feet of her daughter and the youth, and they stooped over her and they knew that she had been no witch, but a great lover.

From The Uncollected Stories of Mary Wilkins Freeman
(University Press of Mississippi: 1992)
Harper's Weekly 54 (10 Dec. 1920)
© Mary E Wilkins

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Witch Trial at Mount Holly - Franklin

A Witch Trial at Mount Holly

circa October 1730
By Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 22, 1730
Burlington, Oct. 12.

Saturday last at Mount-Holly, about 8 Miles from this Place, near 300 People were gathered together to see an Experiment or two tried on some Persons accused of Witchcraft.

It seems the Accused had been charged with making their Neighbours Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great Terror and Amazement of the King's good and peaceable Subjects in this Province; and the Accusers being very positive that if the Accused were weighed in Scales against a Bible, the Bible would prove too heavy for them; or that, if they were bound and put into the River, they would swim; the said Accused desirous to make their Innocence appear, voluntarily offered to undergo the said Trials, if 2 of the most violent of their Accusers would be tried with them. Accordingly the Time and Place was agreed on, and advertised about the Country; The Accusers were 1 Man and 1 Woman; and the Accused the same.

The Parties being met, and the People got together, a grand Consultation was held, before they proceeded to Trial; in which it was agreed to use the Scales first; and a Committee of Men were appointed to search the Men, and a Committee of Women to search the Women, to see if they had any Thing of Weight about them, particularly Pins. After the Scrutiny was over, a huge great Bible belonging to the Justice of the Place was provided, and a Lane through the Populace was made from the Justices House to the Scales, which were fixed on a Gallows erected for that Purpose opposite to the House, that the Justice's Wife and the rest of the Ladies might see the Trial, without coming amongst the Mob; and after the Manner of Moorfields, a large Ring was also made.

Then came out of the House a grave tall Man carrying the Holy Writ before the supposed Wizard, &c. (as solemnly as the Sword-bearer of London before the Lord Mayor) the Wizard was first put in the Scale, and over him was read a Chapter out of the Books of Moses, and then the Bible was put in the other Scale, (which being kept down before) was immediately let go; but to the great Surprize of the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down plump, and outweighed that great good Book by abundance. After the same Manner, the others were served, and their Lumps of Mortality severally were too heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles.

This being over, the Accusers and the rest of the Mob, not satisfied with this Experiment, would have the Trial by Water; accordingly a most solemn Procession was made to the Mill-pond; where both Accused and Accusers being stripp'd (saving only to the Women their Shifts) were bound Hand and Foot, and severally placed in the Water, lengthways, from the Side of a Barge or Flat, having for Security only a Rope about the Middle of each, which was held by some in the Flat. The Accuser Man being thin and spare, with some Difficulty began to sink at last; but the rest every one of them swam very light upon the Water. A Sailor in the Flat jump'd out upon the Back of the Man accused, thinking to drive him down to the Bottom; but the Person bound, without any Help, came up some time before the other. The Woman Accuser, being told that she did not sink, would be duck'd a second Time; when she swam again as light as before. Upon which she declared, That she believed the Accused had bewitched her to make her so light, and that she would be duck'd again a Hundred Times, but she would duck the Devil out of her. The accused Man, being surpriz'd at his own Swimming, was not so confident of his Innocence as before, but said, If I am a Witch, it is more than I know.

The more thinking Part of the Spectators were of Opinion, that any Person so bound and plac'd in the Water (unless they were mere Skin and Bones) would swim till their Breath was gone, and their Lungs fill'd with Water. But it being the general Belief of the Populace, that the Womens Shifts, and the Garters with which they were bound help'd to support them; it is said they are to be tried again the next warm Weather, naked.
© Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird - Stevens

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

circa October 1917
By Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

© Wallace Stevens

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hallowe'en Night

Hallowe'en Night

Hallowe'en night
on hallows eve
when the moon is out
when the sky is pitch black
and the Goblins come out

when ghosts are set free
to taunt all the children
when the witches fly high
into the sky
to get to their cauldron

when vampires seek out
for someone to bite
when trick-or-treaters
are in a big fright
but it's all just a myth

Author unknown

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday the 13th - So What!


By Octoberwych

Paraskevidekatriaphobia - fear of Friday the Thirteenth

Paraskevidekatriaphobics - those afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the Thirteenth

Paraskevi is the Greek word for Friday - dekatria is the Greek word for thirteen

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the Thirteenth. The term was coined by therapist Dr. Donald Dossey, whose specialty is treating people with irrational fears. He claims that when you can pronounce the word you are cured. Dr. Dossy is the author of the book, Holiday Folklore, Phobia and Fun , Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments and Superstitious Cures (circa 1992). How many people at the turn of the millennium still suffer from this phobia? According to Dr. Donald Dossey, as many as 21 million do in the United States alone. That amounts to something like eight percent of the population.

Why then, is there such suspicion surrounding Friday and the numeral thirteen?

About Friday - Did you know?

In the USA and the British Isles Friday was known as Hangman's Day or Hanging Day as this was the day that most executions were performed.

In the UK folklore says that if it rains on a Friday the forecast for Sunday is bright.

Friday is Frigga's Day. Frigga (Frigg) was an ancient Celtic (Norse) fertility and love goddess, equivalent to the Roman Venus who had been worshipped on the sixth day of the week. The Celts (Norse) worshipped Frigga (Frigg) on Friday.

September 24, 1869 is labeled as Black Friday in the USA - the day the government flooded the market with gold to bring down prices ruined many speculators.

Christians called Frigga a Witch and Friday the Witches Sabbath.

Norse men considered Friday, named after the Norse deity, Freya, as the luckiest day of the week.

The Romans worshipped Venus, the goddess of love on the sixth day of the week, Friday.

Within the Roman Catholic Faith, Friday is the traditionally a day of abstinence.

In Hungarian folklore it was considered bad luck to be born on a Friday but misfortune could be averted by placing some blood of the misfortunate on some old clothing and burning it.

Both Buddhists and Brahmins consider Friday to be a day of misfortune. According to Christians, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. It is said that Adam was created on a Friday and it was allegedly a Friday when Adam and Eve tasted of the forbidden fruit and a Friday when they died. The murder of Abel, the stoning of Stephen, the massacre of the innocents by Herod, the flight of the children of Israel through the Red Sea (the Deluge) and the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel are all said to have happened on a Friday,

Even the tale of William Tell and the apple was said to have happened on a Friday.

Friday is traditionally considered to be the sixth day of the week. Six is the number that is biblically associated with man. Three is the number of the Holy Trinity. The trinity (God of Man, Satan) of six associated with man 666 = the number of the Beast.

For followers of Mohammed, Friday after sunset is also the Sabbath.

Scandinavians, Hindus and Scots consider Friday a good to wed.

Fishermen say, Friday's sail, always fail.

In 1492 it is said that Columbus set sail on a Friday and eventually sighted land on a Friday.

An English proverb says, A Friday moon brings foul weather.

A children's poem says 'Friday's child is lucky and giving'.

He who laughs on Friday will weep on Sunday. -- Les Plaideurs, Racine

Whoever be born on a Friday, or it's night

He shall be accursed of men.

About Thirteen - Did you know?

Most Americans carry a symbol of the mystery of the number thirteen in their pocket in the form of an American dollar -- at least since 1935. The design on the back of this bill bridges ancient Egyptian allegorical motifs to our own times, as symbolic uses of the number thirteen have been arranged around each of the two sides of the Great Seal of the United States. Among them, for example, is an incomplete or truncated pyramid of thirteen steps. There are thirteen leaves and berries on an olive branch, and in the left talon of the American bald eagle are thirteen arrows. As all American know (or should know) the design refers to the thirteen original colonies.

Most Hotels in the states do not have a thirteenth floor (at least a floor that designated by the number thirteen). Most hotels, motels and even hospitals do not have a room designated by thirteen. Some cities do not have streets designated as thirteenth avenue, thirteenth street and so on. The belief is that it is not the room or the floor or the street that bears misfortune - but the number itself.

In Italy, however, thirteen is not considered unlucky. Italian infants are given a gold charm of the number to insure good luck and prosperity in the future.

The state lotteries of France, Italy, and elsewhere never sell tickets with the number thirteen.

The thirteenth moon in a lunar calendar is labeled a blue moon.

The number thirteen according to Hindus who assign gender to numbers is feminine.

The number thirteen according to the Chinese and Egyptians who also assign gender to numbers is masculine.

In Belgium the numeral thirteen is worn as a good luck charm.

Romans considered that fatality followed the number whenever and for whatever purpose thirteen people gathered together.

Thirteen was considered a lucky number in ancient Egypt and China.

The ancient Egyptians considered the thirteenth stage of life to be death, i.e., the afterlife, which they thought was a good thing.

The Death card in a Tarot deck is numbered thirteen and represents transformation.

All over the world there are houses numbered 12 ½ rather than thirteen.

Thirteen is known as THE DEVIL'S DOZEN in Scotland.

Thirteen donuts, cookies, etc is known as a Baker's Dozen.

The compound Three-Ten for thirteen is commonly used.

Most teachers stop at Twelve Times Twelve with multiplication tables

Thirteen is believed to be an unlucky number for dinner parties. The old belief is that the first person to rise from the table will meet misfortune, possibly even die within a year. Slight protection against this fate is supposed by some to be afforded if all the company rise together.

It is said that Judas was the first to arise from thirteen who attended the Last Supper and the first to die.

Christians believe there were thirteen guests at the Last Supper which allegedly occurred on a Friday. The quandary develops when one tries to determine who exactly was the thirteenth guest. Unfortunately, many use the artist rendering of the Last Supper to determine that either Christ at one end of the table or Judas at the other end of the table was the thirteenth guest. Let's keep in mind folks that da Vinci was not present at the Last Supper - the painting is his glorious interpretation of the biblical scene.

Is there a thirteenth tribe of Israel? The bible proclaims only twelve. Both Christians and Jews deny that a thirteenth tribe ever existed. A few acknowledge that there may have been a group who falsely identified themselves as the thirteenth tribe. These unfortunate folk were likely labeled as Witches and sorcerers, or worse - heretics - and probably met a very bad end.

Any month with a Friday the thirteenth must begin with a Sunday the first.

In Norse mythology Loki. God of Deceit intrudes upon a banquet of twelve guests becoming the thirteenth. Balder, God of light and beauty, son of Odin, is killed by Loki at the feast.

A Wiccan/Pagan Coven requires thirteen members to cast the Circle. The number thirteen in this respect represents the number of lunar months in a year. thirteen Full Moons. Those cultures with lunar calendars and thirteen months don't associate thirteen with anything sinister.

We are told that the registration of Princess Margaret's birth was delayed so that she would not be entered as number thirteen.

Thirteenpence-halfpenny is called a hangman. So called because thirteen pence-halfpenny was at one time his [the hangman] wages for hanging a man.

The names of some murderers bear a chilling relationship to the number thirteen:

Jack the Ripper- 13 letters
John Wayne Gacy- 13 letters
Charles Manson- 13 letters
Jeffrey Dahmer- 13 letters
Theodore ( Ted ) Bundy- 13 letters
In the fall of 1307, the King of France, Philip de Bel, known as the Beautiful executed a horrific crime against the Knight's Templar. It seems he and Pope Boniface VIII were at odds over how the Beautiful financed his kingdom. The Beautiful stole property from his people, arrested Jews, devalued his currency and tried to tax the Church. Then, the King applied for membership to the Knights Templar and was rejected. He tripled the price of everything in France overnight. When rebellion broke out the King realized his life was in peril. He had to beg the Knights Templar for protection. Humiliated, on September 14 he mass-mailed a set of sealed orders to every bailiff, seneschal, deputy and officer in his kingdom. The functionaries were forbidden under penalty of death to open the papers before Thursday night, October 12. The following Friday (the thirteenth) morning, alert to their secret instructions, armies of officials slipped out of their barracks. By sundown nearly all the Knights Templar throughout France were in jails. One estimate puts the arrests at two thousand, another as high as five thousand. What followed was so foul, according to folklore, only twenty escaped, that Templar sympathizers cursed the day itself, condemning the day as evil.

So is Friday the thirteenth really evil? Unlucky? Or are both the day and the numeral merely the victim of coincidence and contrivance, manipulated by politicians and clergy to serve their own purposes? Thirteen, it seems is not really an unlucky number, but a fateful one -- a number destined to always be full of vague and unimaginable possibilities...
© All Rights Reserved

3) Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route Into Spain by Jack Hitt (copyright 1994, published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-75818-7)
4) Narrow Houses Copyright:1994 Douglas E. Winter.
5) Magic and Superstition copyright 1968 Douglas Hill by the Hamlyn Publishing Group
6) Every Man's Book of Superstitions by Christine Chaundler 1970 Philosophical Library
7) Popular Superstitions Copyright: Charles Platt Book Tower, Detroit, 1973
10) A Treasury of Superstitions by Claudia DeLys Gramercy Books NY 1996
11) Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable Centenary Edition, Revised Harper & Row 1981

A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor - Nash

A Tale Of The Thirteenth Floor

circa 1955
By Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

The hands of the clock were reaching high
In an old midtown hotel;
I name no name, but its sordid fame
Is table talk in hell.
I name no name, but hell's own flame
Illumes the lobby garish,
A gilded snare just off Times Square
For the maidens of the parish.

The revolving door swept the grimy floor
Like a crinoline grotesque,
And a lowly bum from an ancient slum
Crept furtively past the desk.
His footsteps sift into the lift
As a knife in the sheath is slipped,
Stealthy and swift into the lift
As a vampire into a crypt.

Old Maxie, the elevator boy,
Was reading an ode by Shelley,
But he dropped the ode as it were a toad
When the gun jammed into his belly.
There came a whisper as soft as mud
In the bed of an old canal:
"Take me up to the suite of Pinball Pete,
The rat who betrayed my gal."

The lift doth rise with groans and sighs
Like a duchess for the waltz,
Then in middle shaft, like a duchess daft,
It changes its mind and halts.
The bum bites lip as the landlocked ship
Doth neither fall nor rise,
But Maxie the elevator boy
Regards him with burning eyes.
"First, to explore the thirteenth floor,"
Says Maxie, "would be wise."

Quoth the bum, "There is moss on your double cross,
I have been this way before,
I have cased the joint at every point,
And there is no thirteenth floor.
The architect he skipped direct
From twelve unto fourteen,
There is twelve below and fourteen above,
And nothing in between,
For the vermin who dwell in this hotel
Could never abide thirteen."

Said Max, "Thirteen, that floor obscene,
Is hidden from human sight;
But once a year it doth appear,
On this Walpurgis Night.
Ere you peril your soul in murderer's role,
Heed those who sinned of yore;
The path they trod led away from God,
And onto the thirteenth floor,
Where those they slew, a grisly crew,
Reproach them forevermore.

"We are higher than twelve and below fourteen,"
Said Maxie to the bum,
"And the sickening draft that taints the shaft
Is a whiff of kingdom come.
The sickening draft that taints the shaft
Blows through the devil's door!"
And he squashed the latch like a fungus patch,
And revealed the thirteenth floor.

It was cheap cigars like lurid scars
That glowed in the rancid gloom,
The murk was a-boil with fusel oil
And the reek of stale perfume.
And round and round there dragged and wound
A loathsome conga chain,
The square and the hep in slow lock step,
The slayer and the slain.
(For the souls of the victims ascend on high,
But their bodies below remain.)

The clean souls fly to their home in the sky,
But their bodies remain below
To pursue the Cain who each has slain
And harry him to and fro.
When life is extinct each corpse is linked
To its gibbering murderer,
As a chicken is bound with wire around
The neck of a killer cur.

Handcuffed to Hate come Doctor Waite
(He tastes the poison now),
And Ruth and Judd and a head of blood
With horns upon its brow.
Up sashays Nan with her feathery fan
From Floradora bright;
She never hung for Caesar Young
But she's dancing with him tonight.

Here's the bulging hip and the foam-flecked lip
Of the mad dog, Vincent Coll,
And over there that ill-met pair, Becker and Rosenthal,
Here's Legs and Dutch and a dozen such
Of braggart bullies and brutes,
And each one bends 'neath the weight of friends
Who are wearing concrete suits.

Now the damned make way for the double-damned
Who emerge with shuffling pace
From the nightmare zone of persons unknown,
With neither name nor face.
And poor Dot King to one doth cling,
Joined in a ghastly jig,
While Elwell doth jape at a goblin shape
And tickle it with his wig.

See Rothstein pass like breath on a glass,
The original Black Sox kid;
He riffles the pack, riding piggyback
On the killer whose name he hid.
And smeared like brine on a slavering swine,
Starr Faithful, once so fair,
Drawn from the sea to her debauchee,
With the salt sand in her hair.

And still they come, and from the bum
The icy sweat doth spray;
His white lips scream as in a dream,
"For God's sake, let's away!
If ever I meet with Pinball Pete
I will not seek his gore,
Lest a treadmill grim I must trudge with him
On the hideous thirteenth floor."

"For you I rejoice," said Maxie's voice,
"And I bid you go in peace,
But I am late for a dancing date
That nevermore will cease.
So remember, friend, as your way you wend,
That it would have happened to you,
But I turned the heat on Pinball Pete;
You see - I had a daughter, too!"

The bum reached out and he tried to shout,
But the door in his face was slammed,
And silent as stone he rode down alone
From the floor of the double-damned.
© Ogden Nash

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Upon Each Samhain - Norris

Upon Each Samhain

By David O. Norris

I miss you most upon each Samhain
When the boundary turns to sheer
I wait until the veil is parted
At the ending of the year.
Sweet spirit, as you walk among us
At the tolling of this eve
I see your face beyond the sunset
And hear your voice upon the breeze.

In the glowing of the candle,
From the shadow on the wall
I watch for you in every movement
And hear your footsteps in the hall.
Can you sit and spend the evening
As the portal opens wide?
Ancestral dead, I bid you welcome,
Most recent dead, I pray, abide.

When you come I sense your presence
I put my hand out in the air
A moment, then, we stand united
Palm to palm while waiting there.
I miss you most upon each Samhain
When the boundary turns to sheer
We share these hours until the dawning
Then bid farewell until next year.

© David O Norris

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Old Huntsman - Doyle

The Old Huntsman

By Arthur Conan Doyle

There's a keen and grim old huntsman
On a horse as white as snow;
Sometimes he is very swift
And sometimes he is slow.
But he never is at fault,
For he always hunts at view
And he rides without a halt
After you.

The huntsman's name is Death,
His horse's name is Time;
He is coming, he is coming
As I sit and write this rhyme;
He is coming, he is coming,
As you read the rhyme I write;
You can hear the hoofs' low drumming
Day and night.

You can hear the distant drumming
As the clock goes tick-a-tack,
And the chiming of the hours
Is the music of his pack.
You may hardly note their growling
Underneath the noonday sun,
But at night you hear them howling
As they run.

And they never check or falter
For they never miss their kill;
Seasons change and systems alter,
But the hunt is running still.
Hark! the evening chime is playing,
O'er the long grey town it peals;
Don't you hear the death-hound baying
At your heels?

Where is there an earth or burrow?
Where a cover left for you?
A year, a week, perhaps to-morrow
Brings the Huntsman's death halloo!
Day by day he gains upon us,
And the most that we can claim
Is that when the hounds are on us
We die game.

And somewhere dwells the Master,
By whom it was decreed;
He sent the savage huntsman,
He bred the snow-white steed.
These hounds which run for ever,
He set them on your track;
He hears you scream, but never
Calls them back.

He does not heed our suing,
We never see his face;
He hunts to our undoing,
We thank him for the chase.
We thank him and we flatter,
We hope – because we must –
But have we cause? No matter!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Halloween Blessing - Dearborn


By Sabrina Dearborn

At this time of dark and night,
spirits often give a fright.
We call upon the ancient dead,
circling now around our head.
Bring the blessings from before,
while we stand with open door.
Ancient spirits hear us now,
peace and love do we avow.

© Sabrina Dearborn