Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It’s coming,
See the brand-new shininess
Like a baby about to be born.
Watch the old year creep off
To hide away in a darkened corner,
Party with the new year
Its laughter is sexy and happy.
Fortunes come and fortunes go,
But know this…
With good friends and family,
2014 will be the best yet!

May 2014 begin with a bang and not a whimper for everyone!




Friday, December 27, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Superstitions About New Year



 
The New Year is more than saying goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. There are superstitions attached to this time of the year. Of course, 2012 has something special, with the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world.



But let’s talk about normal legends and myths. Open all doors at midnight, to let the old year escape without being stopped. Celebrate at midnight with as much noise as possible, for it’s not just for celebration, but to chase bad spirits away. Widespread superstition has it said that the Devil and other evil spirits hate the din and will run away. Church bells on a wedding day are rung originally for the same reason.






A kiss at midnight with those close to us and whom we hold in affection starts the New Year off right by making sure ties and affections stay the next year. If no kiss is exchanged, it will mean a year of coldness.


Bills must be paid off before midnight chimes to make sure the household does not start off in debt. Same goes for personal debt, as they must be settled before January 1 also.





It is said that the first person to enter your home after the New Year is the one who will influence how your year will go. It is best if the man comes bearing gifts in either silver coin, a lump of coal, a sprig of evergreen, some salt or a bit of bread. And he should be dark-hair, tall and good-looking to make it a good year. But if he’s a red-haired or a blond, well, he will bring nothing but a year of bad luck. As for a female first guest, she should be chased away before disaster hits the household. Hold the women off until a man cross your threshold. The first footer should knock and be let in, but never use a key to enter, even if he lives there. Then after he drops off his gifts and greets those within the walls, he should then exit by another door than the one he entered by.


Larders must be stocked and money in everyone’s wallet to guarantee prosperity.


Another thing about first footers, they can not have flat feet, be cross-eyed, or have eyebrows that meet in the middle (can this last one be a werewolf thing too, since a werewolf can be identified by having brows like this?).


Another thing in regarding to good/bad luck for the New Year, is not to take anything out the first day, not even the garbage. If have presents, don’t even bring them in, but leave in the car until the second. This means don’t shake a rug out or take out empties. Some people say that it’s okay to take something out, long as something else was brought in first, most likely a first footer.





Down South, people make black-eyed peas to serve New Year’s Day to get good luck and financial good fortune, especially to the diner. Other foods such as ham hocks, cabbage, and collard greens can be added, but there must be black-eyed peas as the key ingredient.





Other foods considered lucky are lentil soup (due to looking like coins), pork (pigs root forward while poultry scratches backwards and a cow stands still), and sauerkraut (I grew up with a Czechoslovakian mother, so I love this, as my husband is half Polish!). Definitely do not eat chicken or turkey the first day, since the birds scratch backwards, this means the diners will scratch in the dirt all year (meaning poverty).


Do a token amount of what you do at work (even if you’re off from your job and not near it even) on January 1st, but a small amount is enough, as to engage in a serious project that day is considered bad luck. Don’t even do your laundry or even wash dishes, as this may wash away you or your family members in the home (death) during the coming year.


Wear something new January 1st, to insure you receive more new garments during the year. Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on the first day of the New Year, otherwise you’ll be paying out all year. Avoid crying too. That will mean that will be the tone of the next twelve months and do not, I stress, do not break anything the First, otherwise the rest of the year will a life of wreckage.


So far, sounds like your first day might be best spent in bed after letting in that dark-haired man. But you need to get up to examine the weather that first day. Yes, even the weather can make things bad or good. Like if the wind comes from the south, times ahead will be prosperous times and great weather for all year. But if the wind comes from the north, that means bad weather all year. Wind from the east brings famine and calamities with it while from the west, it brings milk and fish a-plenty, but will also see the death of an important person. No wind, a joyous and prosperous year!





As for babies born on January 1, they are insured luck always.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Christmas Is Scary, Not Just Merry

A repeat of post I did last year. Was real busy today. 

It's that time of the year to smooch under the mistletoe, shop for loved ones and go view Christmas lights on the Tacky Lights Tour. The season is full of good tidings and happiness, nothing scarier than you might get that special gift from Santa Claus. Right?




WRONG! People in olden days didn’t stay indoors due to the “frightful” weather, but more because it might have been cold and dangerous outside. They knew in their hearts that dark forces lurked amidst the shadows of the snow drifts. Winter Solstice (December 21) was seen as a time when the fabric between the mortal world and the world of malicious spirits became thin enough for things to snatch unwary victims. Though the fiends are lout all winter, still, this time prove to be the scariest. When many gathered together to celebrate, it was hoped that the dark spirits would realize with all that din that there were too many bodies inside or caroling outside to grab one person. Another custom practiced was doors were flung open at midnight to let out trapped evil spirits caught inside the building. A candle was left burning in the window all night to insure good luck for the family inside. Any candle that burned out before dawn was deemed a bad sign.



Another thing said is that those born on Christmas are apt more to see a spirit than those not. But they have nothing to fear from any ghost if they chance to encounter one. They are also protected against deaths by drowning or hanging.


Witches are a part of Christmas too—through our very own Christmas ornaments, or balls. In Scotland, people used to wear them around their necks to ward off witches. It was also believed in Scotland and Canada that if a witch touched one, her/his soul would be caught within the ball forever.


A witch ball is a hollow sphere of plain or stained glass hung in cottage windows in eighteenth-century England to ward off evil spirits, witch's spells, or ill fortune, though the witch's ball actually originated among cultures where witches were considered a blessing. Witches would usually "enchant" the balls to enhance their potency against evils. Later, they were often posted on top of a vase or suspended by a cord (as from the mantelpiece or rafters) for a decorative effect. Witch balls appeared in America in the nineteenth century and were often found in gardens under the name "gazing ball,” something that has come back, as I bought one last summer to place in my own garden. However, "gazing balls" contain no strands within their interior. According to folk tales, witch balls would entice evil spirits with their bright colors; the strands inside the ball would then capture the spirit and prevent it from escaping.



Witch balls sometimes measure as large as seven inches (eighteen cm) in diameter. By tradition, but not always, the witch ball is green or blue in color and made from glass. There have been others made of wood, grass, or twigs, instead of glass. Some are decorated in enameled swirls and brilliant stripes of various colors. The gazing balls found in many of today's gardens are derived from silvered witch balls that acted as convex mirrors, warding off evil by reflecting it away.


Because they look similar to the glass balls used on fishing nets, witch balls are often associated with sea superstitions and legends. The modern Christmas ornament ball is descended from the witch ball. According to an ancient tale, the ornament was originally placed on the tree to dispel a visitor’s envy at the presents left beneath the tree.


Besides the ball, mistletoe was also considered a powerful charm to be used against witches, along with lightening. The lightening? Is it connected, as maybe caused by a witch? Good question.


This time of year also has ghost stories told. Just as much as Halloween. Charles Dickens’ novel, the Christmas Carol, Is proof of that. Those Victorian people did more than go Christmas caroling or drank mulled wine by the roaring fires. There’s even that line in It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year song that goes "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago." There are novels and anthologies that come out this time of the year, ghostly fiction or horror stories. One book of fiction I found is Christmas Ghosts, edited by Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell. I ordered for myself, a ghostly tale set during Christmas time for my Kindle, The Carousel by James Cessford. The eBook intrigued me to read it and it was not a bad price. Search Amazon or your local brick and mortar independent bookstore for other Christmas ghost stories to buy and read.


Besides, ghost stories, there are other dark myths and legends concerning with Christmas. In the olden days gone by in Finland, they believed in Joulupukki. Pagan people used to have festivities to ward off evil spirits. In Finland these spirits of darkness wore goat skins and horns. In the beginning this creature didn't give presents but demanded them. The Christmas Goat was an ugly creature and frightened children. It is unclear how this personality was transformed into the benevolent Father Christmas. Nowadays the only remaining feature is the name. The process was probably a continuous amalgamation of many old folk customs and beliefs from varied sources. One can speak of a Christmas pageant tradition consisting of many personages with roles partly Christian, partly pagan: A white-bearded saint, the Devil, demons, and house gnomes. Nowadays the Joulupukki of Finland resembles the American Santa Claus. This reminds me of Black Peter and the Krampus, both being Santa’s “evil twin.” In many areas of the world, it is said that St. Nicholas has a companion. This companion is Krampus, though another version is Black Peter, or Zarte Piet or Zwarte Piet. Black Peter is associated with the Netherlands and has dark skin. Krampus isn't a man though. He has horns, goat hair, hooves, and claws. Just like a demon. His job is to accompany St. Nicholas and to warn and punish bad children. He is said to carry a basket on his back where he will place the bad children and take them to Hell to be tossed into the pit. Puts a frightening twist on “have you been naughty or nice!” Krampus originates from Krampen--meaning claw. Young men dressed up in goat skins and masks they spend two weeks making and on December 5th go out to scare all and carry out "birching," mainly on young girls.



So, besides a season of “good tidings,” it is also a time of terrible fear. So get your children in at night and make sure they are good. And do the same for yourself. For you never know if that shadow moving along the street past your front yard is just someone looking at your Christmas lights, or something else waiting to get you! Happy holidays.Why Christmas Can Be Scary, Not Merry

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Scary Tale for Christmas




Enjoy my original short Christmas horror tale. It is copyrighted, so please just share the link with your friends so they can come and read it here.


By Midnight (Copyright by Pamela K. Kinney)

You better watch out, you better not cr. . . .

A strange jabbering woke her from her nightmare. Mrs. Piers sat up and switched on the lamp on the bedstead by her bed. Light flowed over her and the bed, banishing the darkness back to corners of her bedroom. The only other light came from moonbeams stretching fingers through the glass of the window.

Nothing. Must have been a revenant from the nightmare. She stared at the clock. Shoot! She’d overslept. The woman leaped out of bed, showered, and dressed in her custodial uniform.

It was Christmas Eve, but that didn’t matter, as she was scheduled to work tonight. It had proven to be the only way to get Christmas Day and night off. As she walked into the eat-in kitchen, her daughter, Jenny, brought their dinner, bowls of chicken noodle soup, to the table. Both sat and began to eat, though Jenny only ate a few spoonfuls of soup.

Mrs. Piers lost her husband a year ago and had to go to work to pay the mortgage on the house, besides to support both her and Jenny. Luckily, she saw the ad for someone to clean the local hospital during third shift and when she applied, she got it. That meant leaving her daughter alone in the house at night. A pretty teenage girl going through changes due to puberty could get into trouble, least what she had heard.

So far, nothing happened. Knock on wood.

Tonight though was Christmas Eve. Though Jenny promised she would go to bed early after watching It's A Wonderful Life on TV, as she admitted to feeling ill all day. Still, Mrs. Piers felt uneasy. Jenny handed Mrs. Piers her purse and bagged lunch, and followed her mother to the front door.

Mrs. Piers said, “I feel uneasy about leaving you alone tonight. Don’t know why either.”

“Night, Mom.” Jenny threw open the door. “I’ll make sure the place is locked up tight, besides, I’m sixteen! Geesh!” She shook her head. “What do you think could happen?”

Mrs. Piers reminded her. “There have been those people that vanished.”

The girl snorted. “That was last Christmas and they were homeless people that disappeared from a shelter downtown, not teenagers. There’s been nothing since. The police even said they think the men just snuck out of the building and took off for parts unknown.”

Mrs. Piers needed to get to work, so she stepped out into the night. The moon and a few stars sparkled up in the black velvet of the sky. Many houses had Christmas lights and other decorations. The whole street was lit up. Some people strolled along the neighborhood, only stopping to view the lights. Everything looked innocent and Christmasy. Nothing scary.

She whistled to the Christmas music that sang from the radio as she drove to the hospital.


****

As Jenny turned to go back indoors, a tease of jabbering reached her from the darkened area beneath a tree on the side of their home. A squirrel? This late though? With a shrug as she heard nothing further, Jenny locked the door and ambled into the living room. Raps resounded on the glass of the sliding doors that led to the back yard. Her friends and the guys they brought were here. Thank God, her mother had left already. Unlocking, she let in two girls and three boys. They strolled past her into the house, carrying bags of snacks and drinks, along with stuff for entertainment. Jenny shut the door and stared as they began to set up. One of the boys put two bags in the living room, while Lisa and other set bags on the kitchen counter and began taking things out. Things like bags of chips, cans of nuts and microwave popcorn overflowed the counter. Jenny thought back to the last day of school, just before Christmas vacation.

Jenny’s friends, Lisa and Debbie, had approached her as she was taking things out of her locker at school and jamming it all into her bookbag.

“Hey,” said Lisa, leaning a shoulder against the ,locker next to Jenny’s. “Your mother works all night—right?”

Jenny slammed the door on her locker and slung her bookbag over one shoulder. “Yeah, but you knew that. So?”

Debbie grinned. “Well, our parents will be out at a party that night until two o’clock. Be kinda cool to have a party without adults staring over our shoulders. There are these three guys—”

Jenny finished for her, “and you two have the hots for two of them. Guess the third was dug up for me? An incentive to have the party at my house?”

Lisa shrugged. “Well, your mom is gone all night—”

Jenny sighed. The other girls looked at her. She nodded. “I don’t feel good about this, but all right.” She shook a finger. “Not all night, okay. Just ‘til midnight.”

Lisa grinned. “Of course, we don’t want to do it all night. Christmas is the next day and we want to be rested for that. Besides our parents will be home by 2 a. m., so midnight is great.”

Jenny had been worried about agreeing then. Wore, all day today, she had not been feeling good. Couldn’t eat and stayed in her room most of the day, as her stomach twisted into tight knots. Least the need to barf had calmed down. It was only until midnight. She could handle that. Surely?

She chided herself. It’s not as if there would be alcohol. . . One of the boys, a tall, gangling one, laughed as he lifted a six-pack of beer out of a grocery bag. Another boy, dressed all in black and sporting earrings in his big ears, nose, and even his lower lip, laughed too, braying like a donkey.

Jenny’s stomach boiled as she fought not to run to the bathroom. She stomped over to Lisa and Debbie who were opening packages of cookies and bags of chips as they gossiped.

She grabbed Lisa’s arm, snarling. “You didn’t say there would be alcohol!”

Lisa glanced with disinterest as the boy withdrew another six-pack of beer. “Wellllll. . .I never said there wouldn’t be. John’s adult brother got them for him at the liquor store tonight.”

Debbie piped up. “It’s not like we’ll all get drunk on twelve bottles of beer, Jenny.”

Jenny blinked. Debbie wasn’t the brightest girl in town. Remembering the incident with Debbie and the horse last year, well, not even in the whole world either.

She sighed. “All right, but be forewarned, first time anyone starts to act drunk, the party is over and everyone goes home.”

Lisa shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. That’s doable.”

Lisa popped in a DVD of a Christmas comedy she brought and both she and Debbie settled on the couch, a boy each nestled against them. Lisa got John, who was the tall, gangling type with the beer, while Debbie got Roy, plump and dumb. Jenny ended up with Spider on the floor. Spider was the goth who brayed like a mule earlier. She had thumped down in the chair that matched the couch, but Spider had slithered in like a snake about to snatch its next victim, sliding his arms round her so Jenny got down on the floor. Unfortunately, so did Spider, looping an arm over her shoulders.

“You know why they call me Spider?” he whispered into her ear. “It’s like I got eight arms.”

It felt like he had eight hands too. They slid up and down her body, searching for permanent places to nest. Like her breasts, and other unmentionable spots.

She hissed in his ear, digging an elbow into his ribs. “Hands to yourself. I don’t know you enough for you to do that. Honestly, in my opinion, that will be never ever. Understand?”

He glowered as he grabbed the bottle of beer beside him. “Your friends didn’t say you be a class A bitch.”

He took a swig of beer and ignored her after that, staring at the television. Which was fine with her. Jenny rose to her feet and headed for the kitchen to get herself a bottle of soda and some snacks.

Alone, she opened the fridge and peeked in when she heard a sound. Closing the door, she listened and heard it again. It sounded like someone saying something, except so slow that Jenny couldn’t catch the words. It came from the back of the house. Jenny stared down the shadow-dark hallway. A chill skittered up her spine. The only people in the house were her and her guests.

The jabbering grew a little louder. Now, it sounded like there was a crowd back in wither hers or her mother’s bedroom.


She jumped when something touched her shoulder. Her pounding heart slowed when she realized it was Spider. His bottle hanging limp from his fingers, the boy’s brow knitted together.

“What’s going on?” He peered down the hall. “I thought we were the only people tonight? Your mother working, right?”

Jenny rubbed her arms with her hands, as she felt cold. “She is. We are.”

“Hey, what’s going on? Sneaking off to do some neckin’?” Lisa and Debbie plus their guys joined them.

Spider pointed with the neck of his now empty bottle at the hallway. “No. Doesn’t that sound like people are talking back there?”


Debbie bit her lip. “Really?” She turned to Jenny. “Thought you said your mom was at work.”

Jenny spat out. “She is. We’re supposed to be the only living bodies in the house tonight.”

Debbie giggled. “Cool. Maybe it’s ghosts.”

Lisa snorted. “There are no such things as ghosts, dummy. It’s just Jenny playing a trick on us.” She merged with the darkness as she walked down the hallway. “I’ll prove it. Hey, John, coming?”

John asked, “You sure you want me? I mean, I doubt there’s anything back there.” He gave Spider a nasty glance. “Spider watches too many horror flicks, you ask me.” But when Lisa told him to come with her, he hustled to join her..

Jenny heard the rustling of their clothing, their footsteps barely audible on the carpeted floor. All sound quiet as even the voices stopped. She back stepped until she found herself against Spider’s front. His odor flowed over her. He stunk of sweat, some male cologne and . . . . fear? How would she know what fear smelled like?

Lisa called out. “Hey, there’s a glow coming from a bedroom back here. It looks like—“

Silence. Nothing from her or John.

Debbie said, “Lisa? Lisa?” Roy yelled, “Yo, John?”

Lisa didn’t answer. John neither.

More chills skittered along Jenny’s nerves. She was ready to turn around and get her cell lying on the coffee table in the living room, then dial 911. But she didn’t as Debbie, along with Roy and Spider tiptoed to where Lisa and John were. Spider hadn’t wanted to, but Roy dug his fingers into the thinner boy’s shoulder and forced him along.

Jenny called out. “Come back. I’m going to call the—“

Suddenly, screams and growls rent the air. Frightened, and not even looking back, Jenny bolted, snatching her cell phone and the house keys. She ran out of the house, not even shutting the door behind her.

Breathing heavy, she stopped in the street and stared back at the looming darkness of the open doorway. Nothing surged out of it, not the others or whatever had gotten them. With a shaking hand, she called her mother at the hospital. After she got off the phone, she felt pain wash over her. Smells rushed at her. Iron-like, like when there was bleeding. She drooled. Confused and still in agony too, she leaned against a car parked on the street. Until she realized it was Lisa’s car, then she stumbled across the street. She stayed there.

Thirty minutes later her mother drove up and after parking the car on the street, joined Jenny who hugged her, crying. “Mom, something’s in the house, and it got Lisa and Debbie.”

Her mother patted her back. “Did you allow them in the house?”

Jenny sniffed. “Yeah. I allowed them and three guys to have a party of sorts at our house. Now something has got them and it’s my fault.”

Her mother nodded. “It is, Jenny. Mine too.”

Jenny looked at her mother and noticed how strange her face looked in the light of the moon. A kind of blurring. “What do you mean?”

“After your father died, I was called back to my people. But they wouldn’t allow you to come with me. I couldn’t leave you. Oh no. They said you’re a halfling. That you couldn’t survive in my world. But I noticed you had some of my powers, something most Halflings never inherited from their few parent. So staying here, I had to get a job to support us, but still worried about leaving you alone as you were entering puberty and with puberty for a fey, the changes come. Some of my people came to stay with us.”

Jenny backed out of her mother’s arms. “What do you mean? I never saw anyone but us in the house since daddy died. And what’s a fey?”

Her mother sighed. “That’s because of the glamour. Like what I use to keep me appearing human to humans, like your father. A fey is another word for what humans call fairies. I am part of one race of the Sidhe. We can change shape with will, besides having other powers.”

Jenny saw with shock as her mother’s form shorted out like a television reception. Where her mother had stood, a tall, pale being with shimmering hair that fell to its feet towered over her. It gave a parody of a smile, revealing a mouthful of cannibal sharp fangs. “I saw your father from a distance when he was hiking with friends in the mountains and I fell in love with him. So I stepped from my world into his, changed my looks, and made him fall in love with me. I don’t need to feed most of the year on what my kind subsist on normally, but on Christmas Eve, before midnight, the hunger calls to me. So I would sneak out to hunt my prey as your father slept deeply due to enchantment. It grew worse when I became pregnant with you. I had to feed for two then.”

Her mother snatched her up and they flew to the house, entering. The door slammed shut behind them without a sound. Jenny was let go and she found herself standing over Spider. A crowd of beings like her mother surrounded them, blood on their lipless mouths and bare skin. Her mother pointed at the scared boy.

“You’re half fey, dear, and you must eat the right food tonight to survive. Just as our relatives had gnawed on your friends. Just as I fed on a dying person at the hospital earlier tonight. Your magic is growing stronger each day and if you don’t feast on human flesh before the first strike of midnight, you will burn up. Don’t you feel the heat in you now? It’s our particular type of fairies’ Christmas curse.”

Jenny did. It felt like a roaring fire centered in her. It hurt. She stared down at Spider and saw how large and rounded his eyes had become. Even smelled his fear like an overpowering perfume. The pulse at his throat drew her eyes. It teased her, begged her to take a bite. But his hands interested her more. Spider had wanted his hands on her earlier that night. She had said no then. Why not be in a place they should? Like her mouth? Yes.

With a smile, Jenny leaned over, her jaws popping to accommodate the feeding. She grabbed Spider’s hands as he tried to screamed, but couldn’t, thanks to the magic she used.

His hands tasted so good when they were in the right spot. Like down her throat and in her tummy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Welcome the Magic of Winter Solstice







Winter Solstice Magic

By

Pamela K. Kinney

(please do not take the poem off as it is my original work, but share the link to the poem here with all your friends)




Chilly air,
Snowing,
Evergreen trees,
Sun above-no warmth though.

Look through the mistletoe,
See fairies dancing
Deer are leaping,
Sharing the space with wolves and foxes
Birds are singing,
Something they normally don’t
Snowdrops blooming,
That normally don’t
Winter wonderland.

It is the winter solstice,
Everyone is celebrating
Magic sparkling,
In snowflakes twirling.

Hush! Not a word,
Watch the winter solstice party
For one sound and they will scatter,
And magic will dissipate,
And a silent winter solstice
Will be all you have.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Mything About the Poinsettia







There is a legend of the poinsettia told in Mexico. A girl named Maria came from a poor family. She and her family looked forward to the Christmas festival. A large manger scene would be set up in the village church. There were parades and parties on the days leading up to Christmas.

She was saddened as her family had no money to buy presents. She wanted badly to give something to the church for the Baby Jesus, but knew her family could not afford to.
Maria and her family set out for church to attend the service. As the members of her family outdistanced her, to Maria’s shock, an angel of the Lord appeared to her. The angel told her to pick some weds along the road to offer as her gift to the baby Jesus. The angel vanished, and Maris did as the angel suggested. She figured better the weeds than nothing at all. Other children teased her about her gift, but Maria ignored them. She set the green plants around the manger and at that moment, a miracle happened. The green top leaves changed into bright red petals! 

This Christmas miracle legend of Mexico began in the 1600's. It’s been retold in many different ways over the years, including Caldecott Award winning writer and illustrator, Tomie dePaola. Though it is a lovely story, it is nothing more than a myth.

Actually, the poinsettia proves to be a sort of miraculous plant, as what appears to be the red flower petal isn’t a flower petal at all. It is a bract, or a modified leaf that turns red in response to the longer nights of November and December. Like the changing of the fall leaves with the longer nights, the poinsettia changes color in the same way.

The real flower is the starry yellow cluster at the center. Some poinsettia varieties grow as tall as ten feet high and its bracts range a rainbow of colors from red, white, pink, to even be pale green, or peach. The color will remain longer if the room temperature doesn’t go beyond 71 Fahrenheit. It is also important to note that wilted plants loose their bracts sooner. Another thing to do would be to keep the soil moist. Avoid overwatering the planet or letting it remain in standing water. Just take off the wrap and let the water drain. This will keep the leaves from dropping or curling. And don’t put outside, as poinsettias are sensitive to cold and won’t survive. Don’t fertilize while it is blooming either, bur after blooming season ends. To get a plant to reflower, keep it in darkness between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., until the color reshows on the leaves.

Another myth concerns that the plant is poisonous. That is a misconception. A study at Ohio State University has proven a child of fifty pounds ingesting 500 bracts may get a slight tummy ache, but won’t die from it. Still, the plant should not still be eaten by people or animals.
Called La flor de la Nochebuena, or the flower of the Holy Night in Mexico, it was in the 1800's, that the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, noticed the plant and brought some cuttings back home with him to try to cultivate them in his greenhouse. Unofficially, the Poinsettia was named due to the biologist Poinsett. His cultivation development techniques are used in greenhouses worldwide to produce the favorite brilliant, crimson red poinsettia of Christmas.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Guest Blog: VAMPIRE'S GUIDE TO NEW ORLEANS: Guest Blogger Steven P. Unger

`

Welcome my guest blogger,  author Steven P. Unger as he blogs about a vampire’s guide to New Orleans.

I wrote this article on New Orleans as an homage to one of my favorite cities, one still fresh in my mind and heart after a long-postponed revisit there as an invitee to the Vampire Film Festival's Midsummer Nightmare last year.
All of the photos in this article are my own, except for the portrait of the Compte de St. Germain and the two pictures otherwise credited.  Most of the text is a compendium of others' words and research.  With apologies to anyone I may have inadvertently left out, my online research for this chapter led me to articles from hubpages.com; Kalila K. Smith (whose Vampire Tour I can recommend from personal experience—see http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Kalila-Smith/178024410); New Orleans Ghosts.com; GO NOLA; Brian Harrison; Haunted Shreveport Bossier.com; and Frommers.com.  I've borrowed freely from all of these sources and recommend them highly to those who would like to delve more deeply into the secrets of this unique city.
     If you have ever walked the dark, rainy streets of the French Quarter at night, you have seen the voodoo shops selling their gris-gris and John-the-Conqueror Root.  You've seen the old woman in the French Market whose pointing finger foretells your death  And if you know the right person to ask and you ask in the right way, you'll be shown to the vampire clubs.
     I've been in those clubs and seen people who believe with their heart, body, and soul that they are real, live vampires.  And some of the people in those clubs are scared to death of a select group of vampires who have only appeared there a few times, and always in the darkest of night.
     By day, of course, the vampire clubs are closed and locked or turned back into regular tourist bars . . .
--Crazy Horse's Ghost
Like the Spanish Moss that drapes the trees of the nearby bayous, mystery and the occult have shrouded New Orleans since its birth.  For hundreds of years, families there have practiced a custom called "sitting up with the dead."  When a family member dies, a relative or close family friend stays with the body until it is placed into one of New Orleans' above-ground tombs or is buried.  The body is never left unattended.
There are many reasons given for this practice today—the Old Families will tell you it's simply respect for the dead—but this tradition actually dates back to the vampire folklore of medieval Eastern Europe.  First, the mirrors are covered and the clocks are stopped.  While sitting up with the deceased, the friend or family member is really watching for signs of paranormal activity, e.g.,. if a cat is seen to jump over, walk across, or stand on top of the coffin; if a dog barks or growls at the coffin; or if a horse shies from it, these are all signs of impending vampirism.  Likewise, if a shadow falls over the corpse.  At that point, steps are taken to prevent the corpse from returning from the dead.
Ways to stop a corpse—especially a suicide—from becoming a vampire include burying it face down at a crossroads.  Often family members place a sickle around the neck to keep the corpse from sitting up; stuff the mouth with garlic and sew it closed; or mutilate the body, usually by decapitating the head and placing it at the bottom of the feet.  But the most common remedy for impending vampirism is to drive a stake into the corpse, decapitate it, then burn the body to ashes.  This method is still believed to be the only sure way to truly destroy the undead.

THE CASKET GIRLS

Ask any member of the Old Families who the first vampires to come to New Orleans were, and they'll tell you the same:  it was the Casket Girls.
Much of the population that found their way to New Orleans in the early 1700s were unwelcome anywhere else:  deported galley slaves and felons, trappers, gold-hunters and petty criminals.  People who wouldn't be noticed if they went missing.
Sources vary on the specifics, but the basic story is that the city’s founders asked French officials to send over prospective wives for the colonists.  They obliged and after months at sea these young girls showed up on the docks, pale and gaunt, bearing only as many belongings as would fit inside a wooden chest or "casquette," which appears to have been the 18th Century equivalent of an overnight bag.  They were taken to the Ursuline Convent, which still stands today, where the girls were said to have resided until the nuns could arrange for marriages.
Some accounts say they were fine young women, virgins brought up in church-run orphanages; some say they were prostitutes.  But there are many who swear they were vampires, vampires who continue to rise from their "casquettes" on the third floor to break through the windows and hurricane shutters—windows and shutters that always seem to need repairing after the calmest of nights—to feed upon the transient crowds that for centuries have filled the darkened alleys of the Quarter.
Finally in 1978, after centuries of rumors and stories, two amateur reporters demanded to see these coffins.  The archbishop, of course, denied them entrance.  Undaunted, the next night the two men climbed over the convent wall with their recording equipment and set up their workstation below.  The next morning, the reporters' equipment was found strewn about the lawn.  And on the front porch steps of the convent were found the almost decapitated bodies of these two men.  Eighty percent of their blood was gone.  To this day, no one has ever solved the murders.

LE COMPTE DE ST. GERMAIN
If there is one person who encapsulates the lure and the danger of the vampire, it is the Compte de Saint Germain.  Making his first appearance in the court of Louis XV of France, the Comte de Saint Germain endeared himself to the aristocrats by regaling them with events from his past.  An alchemist by trade, he claimed to be in possession of the "elixir of life," and to be more than 6,000 years old.  
At other times the Count at claimed to be a son of Francis II Rakoczi, the Prince of Transylvania, born in 1712, possibly legitimate, possibly by Duchess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria.  This would account for his wealth and fine education.  It also explains why kings would accept him as one of their own.
Contemporary accounts from the time record that despite being in the midst of many banquets and invited to the finest homes, he never ate at any of them.  He would, however, sip at a glass of red wine.  After a few years, he left the French court and moved to Germany, where he was reported to have died. However, people continued to spot him throughout Europe even after his death.
In 1903, a handsome and charismatic young Frenchman named Jacques Saint Germain, claiming to be a descendant of the Compte, arrived in New Orleans, taking residence in a house at the corner of Royal and Ursuline streets. Possessing an eye for beauty, Jacques was seen on the streets of the French Quarter with a different young woman on his arm every evening.  His excursions came to an abrupt end one cold December night, when a woman’s piercing scream was heard coming from Jacques’ French Quarter home.  The scream was quickly followed by a woman who flung herself from the second story window to land on the street below.  As bystanders rushed to her aid, she told them how Saint Germain attacked and bit her, and that she jumped out of the window to escape.  She died later that evening at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.
By the time the New Orleans police kicked in the door of Saint Germain’s home, he had escaped.  However, what they did find was disturbing enough.  The stench of death greeted the nostrils of the policemen, who found not only large bloodstains in the wooden flooring, but even wine bottles filled with human blood.  The house was declared a crime scene and sealed off.  From that evil night to the present day, no one has lived in that home in the French Quarter.  It is private property and all taxes have been paid to date, but no one has been able to contact the present owner or owners.  The only barriers between the valuable French Quarter property and the outside world are the boarded-up balcony windows and a small lock on the door.  Whispers of Jacques sightings are prevalent, and people still report seeing him in the French Quarter.  Could it be the enigmatic Compte checking up on his property?

ANNE RICE AND THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES
There is no one who has done more to bring the vampire into the New Age than Anne Rice, born and bred in New Orleans, with her novel Interview with the Vampire and the films and books that followed.  Those who have profited mightily from the popularity of True Blood and Twilight owe her a great debt.
The ultra-retro St. Charles Avenue Streetcar will take you close to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, the gravesite of Louis de Pointe du Lac's (Lestat's companion and fellow vampire in Rice's The Vampire Chronicles) wife and child and where Louis was turned into a vampire by Lestat.
The Styrofoam tomb from the film Interview with the Vampire is gone now, but you can easily find the site where it stood, the wide empty space in the cemetery nearest the corner of Coliseum and Sixth Street.
During the filming of Interview with the Vampire, the blocks between 700 and 900 Royal Street in the French Quarter were used for exterior shots of the home of the vampires Louis, Lestat, and Claudia, trapped  through time with an adult mind in the body of a six-year-old girl.  In fact, the streets there and around Jackson Square were covered in mud for the movie as they had been in the 1860s when the scenes took place.
The perfectly preserved Gallier House at 1132 Royal Street was Anne Rice's inspiration for the vampires' house, and very close to that is the Lalaurie House, at 1140 Royal Street.  Delphine Lalaurie, portrayed by Kathy Bates in American Horror Story:  Coven, was a real person who lived in that house and was indeed said to have tortured and bathed in the blood of her slaves—even the blood of a slave girl's newborn baby—to preserve her youth.  She was never seen again in New Orleans after an angry mob partially destroyed her home on April 10, 1834.  There is a scene in American Horror Story where Delphine escapes from the coven's mansion and sits dejectedly on the curb in front of her old home.  A private residence now, some locals still swear that the Lalaurie House is haunted, and that the clanking of chains can be heard through the night.
Built in 1789, Madame John's Legacy (632 Dumaine Street) is the oldest surviving residence in the Mississippi Valley.  In Interview with the Vampire, caskets are shown being carried out of the house as Louis' (Brad Pitt) voice-over describes the handiwork of his housemates Claudia and Lestat:  "An infant prodigy with a lust for killing that matched his own.  Together, they finished off whole families."

SOURCES FOR VAMPIRES
As a service to this most vampire-friendly city (http://www.vampirewebsite.net/vampirefriendlycities.html), the New Orleans Vampire Association describes itself as a "non-profit organization comprised of self-identifying vampires representing an alliance between Houses within the Community in the Greater New Orleans Area.  Founded in 2005, NOVA was established to provide support and structure for the vampire and other-kin subcultures and to provide educational and charitable outreach to those in need."
Their Web site also points out that "every year since Hurricane Katrina, the founding members of NOVA have taken food out on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to those who are hungry and homeless."  (See http://www.neworleansvampireassociation.org/index.html)
FANGTASIA, named with permission from HBO after the club featured in True Blood, is an affiliation of New Orleans-based musicians and film and TV producers who for three years have presented a multi-day vampire-centric event of the same name, the first two years at 1135 Decatur and last year at the Howlin' Wolf.  You can follow their plans and exploits via their blog at http://www.fangtasiaevent.com/fangtasia-blog/.
Next year FANGTASIA hopes to create "the South by Southwest of Global Vampire Culture" at an as yet undisclosed location in Greater New Orleans.  As they describe it:
     Moving beyond this third consecutive year, FANGTASIA is building a broader international draw that will bring fans to not only party at club nights, but also attend conferences, elegant fashion shows, film & TV screenings, celebrity events as well as an  international Halloween/party gear buyers’ market.
     Participants will experience gourmet sensations, explore our sensuous city and haunted bayous… as well as epically celebrate the Global Vampire Culture in all its sultry, seductive, diverse and darkly divine incarnations.  Additionally, FANGTASIA is strategically poised months prior to Halloween to provide corporate sponsors and vendors a perfect window to connect with their core demographic.  This also allows FANGTASIA to actively support and promote existing major Halloween events in New Orleans and beyond.
On the subject of vampiric Halloween events, for 25 years the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Fan Club (http://arvlfc.com/index.html) has presented the annual Vampire Ball (http://arvlfc.com/ball.html), now as part of the four-day UndeadCon (http://arvlfc.com/undeadcon.html) at the end of October;  and on the weekend nearest Halloween Night (for example, November 1, 2014) the Endless Night Festival and New Orleans Vampire Ball takes place at the House of Blues (http://www.endlessnight.com/venue/).
The Boutique du Vampyre (http://feelthebite.com/boutique2013.html) is a moveable (literally—they're known to change locations on short notice) feast of vampire and Goth-related odds and ends, many of them locally made.  There are books as well—you may even find a copy of In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide if they're not sold out.  Their Web site itself holds a surprise treat:  a link to a free video cast of the first two seasons of Vampire Mob (http://vampiremob.com/Vampire_Mob/Vampire_Mob.html), which is just what the title implies.
Finally, no visit to the Crescent City would be complete, for Vampire and Mortal alike, without a taste of absinthe (http://www.piratesalleycafe.com/absinthe.html), or even more than a taste.  There is a ritual to the preparation and serving of absinthe that should not be missed; one of the sites that does this authentically is the Pirates Alley CafĂ© and Absinthe House at 622 Pirates Alley.
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About Steven P. Unger:
Steven P. Unger is the best-selling author of In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide, published and distributed by World Audience Publishers.
In the Footsteps of Dracula can be ordered from your local bookstore or online at Print on Amazon, www.amazon.co.uk, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.fr, www.amazon.de, KINDLE, or with free delivery worldwide from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk.