Sunday, October 22, 2017

... Poe, a historic graveyard, a haunted tavern, and one spooky event...

Don't we always write that October is terribly busy? I have so much to share. 

To start, last night, the River City Cemetarians, the MeetUp group that I host, attended the St. John’s Church Foundation and the Poe Museum’s “Fancy Me Mad,” their fall event “honoring the spirits of the season, All Hallow’s Eve, as well as master storyteller, Edgar Allan Poe.” While Poe isn’t buried at St. John’s church, his mother is.

This is the second year that I have attended the event. Last year was fantastic but this year they added more ambiance, a few more spirit-actors, and two storytelling sessions. Last year we were packed into the church; with the additional storytelling sessions, we had more room to relax. It also made it so that we were not so pressed for time.

Before we headed over to St. John’s Church, the group met at Patrick Henry Pub & Grille, which is one block from the graveyard. Patrick Henry Pub & Grille was built in 1850. According to Style Weekly, the location used to be a brothel and a speak-easy. And, like so many old buildings from that time, it also is allegedly haunted. The only spirits we saw were those placed on the table by our waitress.

After an amazing dinner where I was thankful that my friends let me try their onion rings, fries, and roasted vegetables which were all so delicious, we headed over to historic St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous Give me Liberty or give me Death speech.

We were each given a self-guided tour that included a map and an itinerary. We followed the pathways to various spirits who recounted stories of their lives and times. As we meandered our way through the churchyard there was tons of ambiance and even some fun puns, including the parish hall being named the perish hall for the evening. 

My coffin selfie
The event concluded with us entering the church to listen to the organist play some spooky music. Finally, we heard tales from Mr. Poe himself.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

...haunted, haunting, and a local haunt...

It’s been years since we have attended any of the local haunts, even though we are friends with Haunters! The last time we went to an actual haunt for Halloween was 2011. Since then, we have been going to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and Kings Dominion in Doswell for their haunted attractions; and, since I worked at Kings Dominion in my youth and one of my good friends is the Human Resources Director there, we have also enjoyed watching Kings Dominion surpass their big-budget competition. The last time we went to a local haunt, we went to Ashland Berry Farm. I remember us having fun but we also had to crawl through part of the haunted house and it was pitch black. That part wasn’t fun so fun and total darkness isn’t scary. It’s cheap.

Over the years, we have gotten tired of jump-scares in movies. I think that also applies to haunted attractions. I understand they have to move the masses through the attractions but banging something close to my ear does not terrorize me; storylines do!

With the master minds of Red Vein Haunt
Last night we attended The Red Vein Army’s haunted house, Red Vein Haunt. It was so much more than we expected. We figured it would be good but my fella, who typically just laughs when something scares him, was startled no fewer than three times. We jumped; we laughed; and, I nearly cried at the end of the evening because it was so good. And, it was also super funny to me that my fella did not recognize some of our friends who are actors in the haunt. I mean, they were in costume but he’s often the guy who points out movie actors asking if I recognize them. I always respond, “No! Shhhh, don’t ruin it!”

I worried that KNOWING some of the actors would make things less scary. I was completely wrong. Let me tell you, walking through a haunted attraction where people know who you are and know your name (and USE your name) makes it scarier! You cannot run away from them because they know you’re coming. It felt more like, “Hey, I just sat by him during the RVA Horror Movie Club when we watched IT. Now something has gone terribly wrong… and what’s wrong with his face.” And, “we just had breakfast with ----- a few weeks ago. His eyes don’t look quite right.” I wanted to stare at them longer but they freaked me out! I need to say it was a dream come true to hear my name rising from creepy voices in a cornfield.

Overall, the actors were amazing! No silly masks but actual make-up and spooky contacts. “Look into my eye!” Eeek! No, thank you!

The haunt is in the middle of nowhere aka off a rural, country road where all truly good haunts are supposed to be located. It’s deserted; you can hardly see where to park (except for the attendants in orange vests). You walk down to the tractor and take a hayride to the actual haunted attraction. As you approach, you’re going to see a large skull that appears to be floating in the air. In a way, this reminded me a bit of Halpole’s The Castle of Otranto. But, don’t worry. That is just the start of the queue, which is part of the attraction; and, the first actor, one of the scientific researchers from Unexplained Virginia attempts to reassure you that everything is okay. “See, locked. No one can come in or go out,” he reassures while muttering about the shadows, rabbits, and something being radioactive. He told me that I had good veins. I didn’t take that as a compliment. But, he was great! I mean, he was really believable. As we head in, we become “volunteers” to assist with the experiment. This is where I will stop by play-by-play.  

Emily Redvyn
Emily Redvyn
What I absolutely loved- there was a story line. You don’t necessarily have to follow it; but, personally, I think it makes it better. You can read a bit about the legend on the Red Vein legend page. Even better, they have a book! Yep, you read that correctly. This haunted attraction comes with their own “diary” from 1688. The Diary of Thomas Redvyn by Nathan Barnes and Joseph Meddle or rather, by Thomas Redvyn, the poor husband of Emily. Again, this novella was much better than it needed to be. It complements the haunted attraction but it can be read separately just to get you into the mood of the season.

There were so many great visuals to point out but I want you to be surprised. I will say that there was an impressive coffin, a gorgeous cemetery gate, and paintings throughout the house. My fella and I continually talked about how amazing it was while we were walking through it.

It’s a long haunt. When you finish with the corn maze, you enter the house. Then you keep going. When you think it’s over, you keep going. Altogether, it took us about 40 minutes to go through the attraction without the hayride or the lines.

Holy moly, there were two effects we had not experienced before. You’ll think you’re falling (okay, maybe Disney’s Haunted Mansion has something a bit like this but they have an amazing budget… for a local haunt, this was insane!)

They do not overuse strobe lights. I have Meniere’s aka mad-vertigo issues and strobe lights force me to either close my eyes or look down to keep my balance. There were a few strobe lights that had scenes in them but overall, I didn’t feel like I missed out. The scenes were eerie and they were designed to be looked at. The tone was more psychological thriller from yesteryears. But, don’t look too long because there are actors everywhere.

Umm, when they asked you if the baby is beautiful, know that whatever you say won’t be the right answer. Just keep moving.

Umm, when you’re asked to sing along, whatever you decide is probably not going to be right.

Some people leave with red marks. My fella ended up with a red splotch on the back of his neck. We do not know how. It got on his white shirt; it completely washed out! Thanks, design team.

When you’ve come to the end, you’ll know! That was another thing I have never seen. I’m pretty sure it showed up in my dreams last night.

After the scares, I had a home-made Italian ice that was one of the best things that I have ever had. Trust me when I recommend you going for three scoops. I opted for one cherry scoop assuming it was ice with that syrup poured on it. I was so wrong so when my fella wanted lime, he got three scoops. He had his dinner there too (chicken tenders and fries). Together we shared an amazing funnel cake.

It was a great date night and we’re planning to go again before the end of the season.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

...burning both ends and lovely lights...

I’m sorry but how is it October? I swear that I blinked and nearly half of the fall semester is over. Thankfully because it has been a challenging one. Maybe even the most challenging semester since I started my job.

Plus, I have been fighting a cold or virus for nearly a month. With a compromised immune system, this is the norm for me. Others assume that since their bodies can fight a cold, everyone’s can. Nope, that isn’t my reality. My viruses linger; I’m allergic to many medications and have odd reactions to others; I take medication on a daily basis; and, I was born with one wonky kidney. I say all this because I’ve been saying it frequently in person. “Yes, I’m still sick.” “No, I don’t feel well again today.” Blah Blah Blah.

I should be working on a paper for my Public History course or doing my course reading. I should be giving feedback to student-papers. I should have sent that email stating that I am really not interested on working on editing that book because my priorities have changed and I’m feeling less scholarly.

Oy! Everything has been so hectic and busy. I came to this blog because I was at a time in my life where not feeling like others was starting to get to me, and I needed a place where I was part of the community. I found it and now we’re all busy being busy.

Edna St. Vincent Millay writes

My candle burns at both ends;
   It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
   It gives a lovely light!

I don’t know about you but I’m working on it. I’m working on slowing down. I’m working on being more authentic in my choices. I’m working on saying No when I really, really do not want to do something. I’m working on not worrying about what others think. I’m working on keeping in contact with friends, even though I feel like I have been really bad about this lately. I’m working on staying on top of reading your blog posts.  

The season is upon us; I’m really trying to enjoy the Halloween moments.