Saturday, November 8, 2014

Looking Back on October

Whew. October was a busy month.

Aside from my work going wild (which I'm not going to talk about, really can't talk about, except our operations are expanding and we'll be changing our name in a few months as we've outgrown the old), I was getting into a lot more than usual. One of the good things about living in the Baltimore suburbs as opposed to the DC suburbs is that my money goes much farther.

My friends at the Yellow Sign Theatre in Baltimore's trendy artsy Station North neighborhood (where I once considered moving) ran an innovatively-staged film series. For three weeks, a different film was featured each week, and each film was hosted by a different "horror host". What made it even better was that the theater was done up as a basement rec room, with a "slacker teen" host who had to deal with interruptions from his mother ("Oh, I just thought your friends might want a snack,") and a grouchy, overbearing father who appeared only as a silhouette. It was a blast going to that and I hope they do it again. The films were Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, The Ape Man (with Bela Lugosi), and the sleazoid classic Bloody Pit of Horror. There were also commercial breaks (usually vintage) and a great sensation of being over at a friend's place, watching TV.

One evening I impulsively went to Bennett's Curse, a huge and elaborate haunted house in Jessup, MD. I was deeply impressed; it was the biggest and most technically professional haunted attraction I'd ever seen. There were large animatronic figures that must have been expensive, as well as a section of the attraction done in 3-D paints (patrons were given glasses). It took quite a while to go through, and sometimes was pitch dark and you had to feel your way. It was a real adventure and next year I want to get a group together and go. It's expensive as these things go ($30 basic admission) but was worth every penny.

The HallowRead conference was an interesting experience. It's currently a one-day event, a sort of micro-con, in a community center in Ellicott City, MD, just down the road from me. The focus is on "steampunk, horror, paranormal and urban fantasy" although I was bemused to notice that the romance end of these genres was heavily represented. There was a steampunk tea that I managed to miss (it required separate admission) but I will be sure to attend next time. There were panel discussions and some socializing, and a small dealer's room that was primarily a chance for the authors to sell their own works. I bought a Baltimore-set paranormal novel, and had a zesty conversation with the author about finding a moral compass when you're a nonbeliever, and a couple of gay romance novels which I found out is actually a thriving genre for female readers. I also met and connected with a charming lady who turned out to be the wife of a Facebook friend, whom I'd never met, so that was a charming coincidence. So in the end, it wasn't a literary Monster-Mania but it was enjoyable, and with potential to expand into a full-weekend convention, and I hope it does.

My HallowRead ticket included admission to two events that evening that I decided to attend, which I think nobody else did. One was the "Haunted Ruins" of the Patapsco Female Institute. Check the link for the story behind the site; it's a ruined girl's school on a hill overlooking the town. It was a typical amateur haunted house in some aspects, but was given a punch of eerieness by taking place in actual ruins and using the actual folklore.

The other event...oy. It was an opportunity to sit in on an actual "ghost hunt" at the Ellicott City Historical Society by serious "paranormal investigators." Now, I'm a skeptic about such things, but I thought, what the hey, it would good to see this sort of thing in person and firsthand. I wondered if they would be cynical charlatans but no, they were sincere believers, although perhaps a bit off in the wooniverse. The most down-to-earth member of the group was their resident Wiccan, who was very sensible about a lot of things, dismissing "orb" photos as mostly being dust, moisture, or insects. One spot for investigation was a place in the basement, where several people claimed to have felt nauseated near some broken tombstones. Several said they felt queasy, but I honestly said I felt nothing. (I wondered how much of the queasiness was their own built-up expectations.) They would sit down and try to communicate with the spirits using a smartphone app called "Echovox." That's right, a $20 smartphone app that lets you talk to the dead somehow. I found the notion fairly ridiculous myself.

Anyway, a long period of questioning the spirits and getting fragmentary answers followed (Echovox seems to record ambient sounds and play them back in fragmentary bits so it will sound otherworldly and you can interpret them according to your own expectations), and I went off my shift and to the upstairs. One lady and I wandered into the main museum and while there did seem to be a real cold spot in there, I realized quickly it was because the door was open. Their "EMF readers" were getting all sorts of readings there (I suspect those things function randomly, based on my own observations) and then people clustered in to investigate this new "haunting," they wondered why it was warming up so much. I stood back thinking, "Hellooo, body heat," but said nothing. Eventually, I had enough, and was horribly tired, so I excused myself and went home. still a nonbeliever.

I also attended my friend Phil's annual Cemetery Potluck, held every October in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC. That is turning into the goth/steampunk/dandy event of the season, and I'm always flattered to be included and welcomed in that diverse group, although I need to step up my game with the outfits.

Halloween itself I spent in DC, thrifting and visiting a favorite tea shop and ambling about downtown, and attending a burlesque show in the evening. However, I think next year I will stay in the Baltimore area...I didn't get home until 3 am and was a wreck the next day.

This weekend I have nothing planned, and am content to limit my travels to the gym, library, and grocery store. There are times I lament my ongoing singlehood but tonight I'm actually grateful to be alone. A weekend home alone with the TV and my books is welcome after all the running around I did in October.

To close, here's a favorite tune for this time of year...

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