Hallowed Ground

Poe’s Bronx Cottage &
Houdini’s Queens Grave

Perhaps no other two public figures are more intrinsically connected with Halloween than Harry Houdini and Edgar Allan Poe. Fittingly, there seem to be always fresh new stories about them too.
Houdini, who died 94 years ago tomorrow, famously promised to give us a sign, proving there’s life after death. We’re still waiting.
And Poe, who preceded him to the great beyond by 77 years, will be forever attached to tales of the macabre, even though his claim to literary immortality comes from his detective stories.
Hungarian-born Houdini, escape-artist extraordinaire with a Freudian relationship with his mother, was skeptical about the supernatural but inspired a generation of then-called occultists.
Poe, who was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore was a true believer in the afterlife, but actually became associated with that most rigorous of law-enforcement sciences: forensics.
Lastly, both will be forever connected to New York, by the way of Queens and The Bronx, despite having come from (more)
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This Halloween, Let Every
Witch Take Over the World

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Everything Must Go

Houdini, Who Was Not a Believer,
Died on the Day of the Living Dead

Harry Houdini once made a promise that he was sure not to honor: if there’s life after death, he said, I’ll let you know. If he could pull that trick, it’d be a treat. But since that Halloween, 90 years ago, he’s sent no message, denying validation to many a believer.
The irony is that the great illusionist was a debunker of mediums, and left a coded message with his wife to unmask fraudsters. He knew the Big Sleep pulls no bluffs. Just don’t tell that to pilgrims who every year flock to his grave at New York Machpelah Cemetery, in Queens.
It must have taken guts. And those he had, until they literally burst out by blows, administered with his consent, by an admirer. When he died of acute Peritonitis, hundreds of new cults had flooded the world to claim ownership over the ‘supernatural’ phenomena and challenge organized religion.
The dominant figure of the so called Occult Movement, Helena Blavatsky, had died less than 30 years before, but not before inspiring a lot of deranged minds into believing that they too, had something different about them. And they did, alright, although not exactly what they believe they had.

At the turn of the 19th century, backwater America was festering too with the roots of these messianic cults, led by an assortment of lunatics, snake oil salesmen, and plain mentally ill visionaries, many of which turned later into some of the tax-exempted religious faiths we have today.
A crucial difference between those who time forgot and say, a Joseph Smith, who went on to ‘invent’ Mormonism, was arguably sheer survival skill. And maybe an absurdly non-sensical ‘origins’ story, to rival any of the astonishingly fantastic tales upon which all three major religions of our time stake their claims.
In many ways, Hungarian-born Erik Weisz, whose ‘Harry Houdini‘ stage name topped a string of less known aliases, was ahead of his time in two main ways: he worked really hard to perfect (more)
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Tale of Two Cities

Downtown New York
Reclaims Its Dark Glow

The glitter’s gone. The boasted safety of Alphabet City’s been taken away after sunset. And even if there’s no looting or sleazy crimes to report at this time, New York has returned to its gritty surname, if only for a, hopefully, brief time. We still remain polite, though.
Downtown has no lights, power, or hot running water right now, and even the traditional Village Halloween Parade has been canceled this year. Alas, if you’re really New Yorker, you’re used, even proud to trample tradition, and start it all over again, every once in a while.
It’s a pain, to be sure. Cold showers are no fun. Finding deli after deli surrendering to the inevitable, and closing their doors on your face is quite disheartening, if you’re a resident. And delivery from your favorite restaurant is out of question. You’re on your own, pal.
Then again, we were getting a bit too comfy with the Bloomberg world of glitzy parties, and supermodels, and unaffordable stores, so Hurricane Sandy was an inconvenient, but needed, shock to the system. And if you really remember the 1970s in the city, you’re almost dismissive.
So what? Let them enjoy Times Square, that ghastly Trump-inspired shopping mall. We’ll walk all the way there to get a decent cup of coffee, but we’re not staying. No open Duane Reade around? Good; that will teach them. Bloomingdale’s closed too? We were not planning to stop by there anytime soon, anyway.
Fine, when the wind howled and the trees began to fall, we cowered for protection just a little bit. And we looked like frightening light posts with our flashlights, wandering like the walking dead, in search for a drink and some conversation, since TV’s also out of question.
But we’ll toughen up. We can take it. Well, for a couple of days, top, at least. Then, it’ll be madness. But for now, silly but still argumentative New Yorkers will not give it an inch. We’ll be back, you just wait. And coming Monday, remind us to call cable, phone and ConEdison to ask for a discount.
Still, it’s kind of unfair that our Halloween got screwed. We really had a neat idea for a costume. And candy. Well well. Since kids would be smart to not wander in the dark in a night like that, we’ll have them ourselves. In bed. With no phone service. What a drag. No, we’ll not complain.
And just to prove that we’re no scrooges, here’s what we wrote last year to mark the date. You know, for the kids. Have a nice Trick or Treat; see you on the other side of this darkness. Also, our thoughts to those who’ve lost lives, belongings, homes, and a bit more of what they didn’t have with the hurricane. Help is on the way.


All Hallows’ Eve

Last Rites For Halloween:
Candy Slaves & Ole Zombies

The origin of the bloodiest of all popular holidays is pagan. But church soon got into the action. It celebrates the dead and the dark side of the human experience, and the first frost in the Northern Hemisphere.
For sure, it’s a healthy and playful way to cope with the fact that the mysteries of the great beyond are usually fully disclosed, or not, only to those unable to report back to us.
Pretty much all ancient cultures had a day or time of the year dedicated to the diseased and the spooky, and even a place to do so, from the Celtics to the people who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids and everything else we hardly know much about these days.
The fact that now most celebrations congeal around the same time of Continue reading