Found this guy recently at a junk shop and knew immediately that he needed to come home with me.
He’s kinda the perfect Halloween-y compliment to the vintage match strikes and child’s chest x-ray on our mantle.
Most Americans will recognize these types of mid-century decor from the holidays of our childhood. Every December, my grandparents had 3 foot soldiers guarding their front porch. And our neighbors had Santa in a sleigh and a half-dozen reindeer running across their roof line. At Halloween, it was those candy buckets shaped like Jack-o-lanterns that we just had to have for trick-or-treating – because a standard pillow case was the only other option.
In case y’all didn’t know, plastic blow mold decor (made from the same plastic as Elmer’s glue bottles) like my ghost, has been around since the 1940s. There were ducks, Disney characters, nativity scenes and carolers, penguins, and even Snoopy available at most five and dime stores across the country. Some even included a build-in lamp to enhance the festive-ness.
It was the creation of Don Featherstone’s plastic lawn flamingo for Union Products in 1957 that set the trend on fire. Other companies, like Empire Plastic Corporation, had been making blow mold flamingos for over a decade, but it’s Featherstone’s flamingo design that is still the most sought after.
And why should it?
These things are charming for days…..
So proudly display your kitsch.
I said that you could.
Halloween costumes used to be much creepier….without really trying.
Please examine the evidence…..
Here’s a pretty quick, and pretty charming, treat.
Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Bats.
Alls ya need is a handful of tortillas, melted butter and 1/4 cup of sugar sifted with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and here’s the secret part….a few dashes of chili powder. Trust me on this. It’s the perfect nod to Mexican cooking, and you’re already using tortillas.
Use a bat shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many bat shapes as you can from the tortillas.
Dip each bat in the melted butter and then quickly into the cinnamon/sugar/chili powder mixture. You only need to coat one side of the bat with this mix.
Lay them out on a Silpat (or parchment paper) lined cookie sheet, non-cinnamon/sugar side down, and bake at 350 for about 5 minutes, or until the bats are crispy.
After they cool, eat them just as they are….
OR, better yet,
….use them as a spooky/sweet garnish for ice cream sundaes.
When I was young, I remember watching late night TV and there was a commercial for some movie where a man carrying an ax was chasing this kid through a snowy hedge maze. Just that image, freaked me the F#@&! out.
I was 11.
Then I read the book (pretty sure borrowed from my Mother) and it hit me even harder.
I still have Shining nightmares.
So why, ohhhh why, would I want to visit the hotel that inspired that horror?
Why wouldn’t I?
When Jamie told me he was attending a work-conference at the Stanley Hotel, the most haunted hotel in the US, I immediately booked a ticket to tag-a-long on his business trip.
When F.O. Stanley came to Estes Park Colorado in 1903, the 53-year-old inventor of the Stanley Steamer had gone there to die. He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and given only a few months to live. Why not spend those last few months in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.? Stanley’s health improved so much over the course of the summer (he lived another 40 years) that he quickly purchased land and started building a stately luxury hotel so that he and his wife, Flora, could share this beautiful place with their family and friends.
Flash forward 71 years, the once grand hotel had fallen on some hard times, and gone through a few uncaring owners. A young horror writer and his wife stumble on the hotel when their road trip through the Rockies is cut short by a snowed-in mountain pass. It’s the last day of the season (it would be 9 more years before the hotel offered central heat) and the Stanley Hotel, working with a skeletal staff, reluctantly rents the Kings the Presidential suite, room 217. Stephen King was working on a new novel at the time about a haunted carnival and a young boy with telepathic powers – his editor hates it. After spending the night as the only guests at the Stanley hotel, and encountering Mr Grady; the bartender/caretaker who tells King that “your money’s no good here”, experiencing a ferocious nightmare where a hotel fire hose chases his 3 year-old son down an empty hotel hallway, and an encounter on the abandoned 4th floor with the ghosts of twin girls……Mr. King returns to Maine to write what would become his bestselling novel.
I have to warn y’all. There’s no hedge-maze, no groovy 70’s carpeting to ride a big-wheel on…..and not even a room 237. (It’s really room 217) These were all elements added to Mr. Kubrick’s movie.
If not for the King’s fortuitous stay at the Stanley, and the best-seller that followed, the hotel may not had been saved from the wrecking ball. In fact, Mr King contributed $2 million to renovate her in order to film the 1997 mini-series version of his novel.
Room 217 has a pretty odd past other than just sparking Stephen King’s imagination. During a power outage in 1911, maid Elizabeth Wilson ignites a gas leak with a lit candle, blowing pieces of the hotel over a half mile away. She fell through the floor and was recovered in the ballroom from underneath the rubble of 3 floors with several broken bones. F.O. Stanley pays for all her medical bills, and upon her recovery, gifts her a “job for the rest of her life” at the Stanley. Possibly, after her death as well. Elizabeth, who died in 1951 at the age of 94, is said to still work room 217, occasionally unpacking guest’s luggage for them…..and even packing a gentleman’s bags if he’s not married to his “sleeping companion”. The hotel used to enforce a strict “married only” policy with bachelors required to say at the Lodge next door.
Actor Jim Carey spent a few hours in this room. Just a few hours. He checked out in the middle of the night without saying a word and immediately checked into the near-by Holiday Inn.
Ghost Tour? Don’t mind if I do.
Myself, and 20ish other curious visitors were led through the darkened hotel for an hour and a half by our tour guide, Travis. Not only did he give ghostly encounter stories for the Billiards Room, the Music Room, The Ballroom, the Grand Staircase, Room 217, the tunnels under the Stanley and the very haunted 4th floor….he threw in quite a bit of Stanley Hotel history too. Well worth the 2 bills I threw down… whether you believe in ghosts, or not. (BTW, there’s a non-ghost tour also. Jamie took that one)
Some jokester scribbled “REDRUM” on the underside of the bell tower door.
We were lucky enough to stay on the famed 4th floor – the floor where Stephen King had his meeting with the deceased twin girls.
Our room was close to the far end, on the left. Room 410.
Until the early 1980’s, when the Stanley underwent a major renovation sparked by its inclusion on the National Historic Register, the 4th floor was truly just attic space. There were no actual guest rooms, instead it was used to house staff, and the nannies/children of guests. Hauntings on this floor are much more common than the other 3. Guests complain of door handles rattling, and the sounds of children playing in the hallway at all hours of the night; riding bikes and bouncing balls. (Perhaps the same toy ball Mr King worked into his novel) The front desk also fends off a lot of calls about furniture moving in the attic all night….when the 4th floor IS the attic. There’s a cowboy specter who paces in front of the bed in room 428 and Lord “Cornwallis” Dunraven himself is said to touch guests who dare stay in his room, 401, even though there’s no record of him ever staying in the hotel – he merely sold the land to Stanley.
I wish I could tell y’all that we experienced all these things. Sunday and Monday nights were extremely windy, and the rickety old hotel seemed to shake…..especially the 4th floor. Our door rattled, our windows rattled, and I thought our ceiling fan was going to fall off…..but I’m fairly certain these could be attributed to an old hotel facing Rocky Mountain October winds. Not spooks.
Tuesday night was different; quite a bit louder. I’m not saying all this was paranormal, but I was awoken by all sorts of sounds in the night. Thumps, hushed conversations in the hallway, creaking floors…..and, I’m pretty certain, furniture being moved on hardwood floors. No lie.
…..all the rooms near us were carpeted.
Sure, the hotel plays Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining movie on a constant loop, the gift shop is stocked full of Stephen King books, there’s a ghost tour almost every hour, and even a “Redrum” Punch served in the bar. But, aside from this “influence”,… it’s a simply stunning hotel. Haunted, or not.
There’s truly something special about Estes Park, Colorado and the Stanley Hotel.
Side note* I wrote this post sitting in the Stanley Hotel bar (because there is no Colorado Lounge)….so….
“All work and no play makes James a dull boy.”
Sorry, I couldn’t resist
I’ve been chasing ghosts for years.
Whenever I check into a hotel, I always request a room on the highest floor available. And after carefully sizing up the desk clerk, I’ll add, “and if you have one that someone was murdered in…or maybe just one that the maids are afraid to spend time alone in.”
(Usual pause from the clerk…..)
“No murders,…but I might have a suicide”
Pay-dirt! That’s the room I want.
If I’m traveling, and there’s a spooky paranormal spot to visit in that city …..I’m hittin’ it. Jamie is usually the “Scooby Doo” on my ghost hunts; my unwilling tag-a-long who needs to be bribed with a treat or two. (BTW, He likes bracelets and anything Gucci)
In St Louis, for our friends Rick and Laura’s wedding a few years ago, we stopped at the Lemp Mansion for a delicious dinner……..and a ghost story or two.
Life Magazine named the Lemp Mansion one of the most haunted places in America in 1980. And it doesn’t disappoint. If my hazy, grainy photos don’t send shivers down your spine, just wait till you hear about the 4 Lemp family suicides that happened in the house……and the young boy who died chained in the attic. Locals say that you can occasionally see him peeking out of one of the little attic windows.
The Hotel Jerome in Aspen is another of my favorite haunted places.
I’ve never been lucky enough to spend the night; but I’ve eaten in the restaurant, had drinks at the bar and even attended a dear friend’s wedding there.
Built in the 1880’s by Macy’s co-owner Jerome Wheeler, the Hotel Jerome was the first Aspen hotel with full electrical lighting and a grand ballroom. The hotel also boasts a number of famous deceased inhabitants like the ghost of a small boy who reportedly drown in the hotel’s pool. He appears to guests in room 310 shivering and wet only to disappear leaving behind a trail of soggy footprints. There’s also stories of a long-dead maid that still makes her rounds turning down guest’s beds before the living maids have a chance to.
There’s so many ghosts in Key West, that we’ve had to take a couple different ghost tours. Robert the doll is my favorite spook there. In fact, you have to ask his permission to take his picture. If you don’t, bad luck will follow you home.
Before he moved to the East Martello Museum, Robert lived in this Victorian just off of Duval street with “Big Robert”. Big Robert’s wife was not to fond of the creepy little doll who supposedly played mean tricks on her and she made her husband keep him in the attic. Where he did, propped in a chair in the turret. Neighbors say the doll would wave at passersby through the windows…….on his own.
When we were in San Diego last year, I made a solo trek to the Island of Coronado, just to see the stunning Hotel Del Coronado.
When the Hotel Del Coronado, the second largest wooden structure in the United States, opened in 1888 it was the largest resort hotel in the world and has since hosted at least 17 presidents (including Roosevelt, Kennedy and Obama), royalty (The Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson), and celebrities (Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, and Marilyn Monroe).
The hotel’s non-living guests are equally as famous. The ghost of a young girl, Melissa, has been seen wandering the halls looking for her long-lost favorite doll. Another guest, Kate Morgan, checked into room 302, but has never checked out. She is reported to taunt guests with flickering lights, temperature fluctuations, and even strong aromas.
The Sloss Furnace in Birmingham Alabama is a pretty spooky place too.
The Sloss Furnace produced pig iron for almost 100 years before shutting down in 1971. Under the leadership of foreman “Slag” Woormwood, 47 workers died from the unregulated working conditions; they were denied sleep, food, and even adequate pay to support their families. Slag found pleasure in making his workers perform dangerous tasks. When Slag finally fell* to his death, (* it’s rumored that he was pushed by his workers) his body dissolved instantly upon hitting the molten iron ore, but his soul is said to still wander the furnace grounds pushing people “back to work” and has even been heard growling “Push some steal”.
Luckily, we didn’t encounter Slag, but this place sure creeped us out.
So why bring up all these spooky places from our travels?
Because I think the next haunted place will be our best one yet.
Just y’all wait.
Im still chasing ghosts…
I’m one of those people who constantly says “I can do it better”.
Seriously, I can.
Take these Home Depot lawn spooks.
I like them, but…
“I can do it better”.
(Especially better than $169….SHEESH!)
I started with a big ol’ Funkin. (that’s a foam craft pumpkin).
Of course I couldn’t find any at a local craft store in the size I wanted, about 14 inches across, so I had to shop online at Funkins.com.
Still not satisfied with the color (it’s a little one-dimensional orange) I aged it by washing it over with brown acrylic craft paint mixed with water. The brown settles into all the nooks and crannies nicely….making it look a little more realistic.
When it was good and dry, I set about carving a spooky face in it with a sharp steak knife. I just drew my image first with a pencil.
It’s pretty similar to carving a real pumpkin…without all the moisture. (Bit of advise; It’s easier to cut clean straight lines than curves. Just sayin’)
For a secure base of the ghoul I used an 18 inch round wood table top from the hardware store. I stained it grey to match the concrete patio and screwed a silver 1/2 inch flange to the center.
Into the flange I screwed a 5 foot pipe that I sprayed the bottom 3/4 white with spray primer. (I suppose you could use PVC pipe, but for some reason I had a few extra pieces of steel pipe in the garage.) I want my finished ghoul to look like he’s floating in air.
For the shoulders, I attached a second flange to the center of a scrap 2X4 and twisted this to the top end of my mostly white 5 foot pipe.
I stapled some scrap pieces of chicken wire to each end of the 2X4 to shape into arms.
I picked up these skeleton lawn stakes from the party store…
…and just wired them to the ends of the chicken wire.
I simply used hot glue to glue my funkin to the center of the 2X4. (Also notice that I used a small piece of wood under the back to ever-so-slightly aim his face downward)
To light my ghoulish face, I wired a chandelier socket to the cut end of a white extension cord…
…and added a 3 watt flicker flame bulb. It doesn’t put off a lot of light…just enough to make for a spooky glow inside the funkin head.
I used a drill with a paddle bit (1 1/4″) to make a hole in the back base of the funkin big enough to push my flicker flame bulb inside.
Just insert the bulb into the hole and use zip strips to attach the cord down the pole.
You’ll need a queen/king sized white sheet. I tore the entire edge off and washed it a few times. I squished it into a ball and let it air dry so it was as wrinkled as possible. I cut a hole in the middle for his face and ties a piece of string around his neck for a little definition.
Next I covered him in a few pieces of gauzy cheesecloth from the craft store being sure to leave his face exposed…
With a pair of sharp scissors, I cut tears and holes as randomly as I could. I just wanted to be sure there were no straight edges. I don’t think it’s possible to do this wrong….the more tears, the more it will blow “creepily” in the October breeze.
Because he looked so pristine, I filled a spray bottle with diluted coffee and spritzed him as randomly as I could. I love this part…..it smells so good.
From foam pumpkin….
To feindish ghoul on our front porch in just an hour…..
and yeah, I think I did it better.