What beckoning ghost along the moonlight shade
Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
- Alexander Pope
First my granddaughter wanted to be a vampire for Halloween, but now shes decided to be an angel. Did she change her mind because I feigned tears when she wanted to be something so ghoulish?
Nah, her mother said, its sibling rivalry. Her sister is going as a devil and she wants to look the better of the two.
So much for my presumed influence, or subtle attempt to follow the mood of the country to tone down the horror this year. Or is that the mood of the media?
Checking the internet for more tone down stories, I did find a new curfew for the city of Detroit. But then, Detroit has a long history of frightful Halloweens. Still, even there the editor of the Detroit Free Press wrote, Boooooo on those trying to discourage Halloween. Heaven knows we can all use a good time.
Other cities are simply following the growing trend to plan more group activities and reduce the practice of trick-or-treating. Then there are the petitions to President Bush against banning Halloween. Someone must have started a rumor that such a ban was in progress. As of last week, 220,000 people had signed nearly 5,000 petitions begging the president to let our children have at least this amount of fun in an especially scary year.
Whats next, one petitioner asked, banning Thanksgiving and Christmas?
With a real war to fight and hundreds of other things on his mind, I wondered when Mr. Bush would have the time or heart to declare war on kids and Halloween.
But if you're among those who are trying to discourage traditional Halloween this year, yet still want to spend some spooky time with your kids, I have an idea.
Instead of goingsomewhere else for scary thrills, stay home, open Tim Clarks collection of stories from The Old Farmers Almanac, and read all the real-life spooky tales you want.
Here are a few to get you started:
Its estimated that the average breath contains 10 sextillion atoms (thats 10 plus 21 more zeroes), which is also the number of breaths taken or expelled on our planet every 4 to 5 seconds. Assuming air currents rearrange all that expelled breath the instant you exhale, every time you inhale you are breathing back about one atom from each of those other breaths. By repeating this process 20,000 times a day, you are likely exchanging your air every day with four billion other people, not to mention other creatures, too.
Pliny the Elder, scholar of natural sciences in the ancient world, had some quaint but generally accepted ideas about medicine. The only cure for hay fever, he said, was to kiss the nostrils of a mule. Similarly, he believed eating the brains of an owlet would cure a sore throat, and a colicky baby would stop crying if fed roasted lark. (Forgive me, but Pliny's cure for epilepsy is too gross to print.)
Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, California geologist James Berkland has an uncanny method of predicting earthquakes. With a 75 percent accuracy rate over the past 15 years, Berkland doesnt spend time studying seismic gap theories. Instead, he counts the number of missing pets in the classifieds, measures ocean tides, notices when elephants refuse to have their nails cut, or when the number of worms wriggling out of the soil and snakes deserting their dens increases. A month before an earthquake disrupted the 1989 World Series and devastated San Francisco, he counted an unusually high number of lost cats and dogs, and warned his city to prepare for a 5-plus magnitude quake. The earthquake that followed measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.
On second thought, maybe its less scary to take your chances on candy, costumes and the average haunted house.
P.S. This just in: As of moments ago, little sister objected to her bad old devil costume and is now arrayed as a fairy princess. Will the angel shed her wings? Stay tuned.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@aol. com.)
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