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Halloween-Hero-1-HDo you love Halloween? Are you celebrating? I’m doing this extra blogpost today partly to remind you that I’m hosting a Virtual Halloween Party today on Facebook (4pm to midnight), and if any of you are on FB and enjoy the virtual parties to be found there, I hope you’ll come! It’s a fund-raiser for my friend Joyce, who needs to raise funds to stay on the kidney transplant waiting list, but it’s also a celebration of Halloween –what better time for a party? We have a number of nice gift giveaways planned, and we’ll be posting pictures and having conversations, playing games and doing mini-contests.

Would you drink this at a "real" party

Would you drink this at a “real” party

The party is by-invitation-only, so if we aren’t already “friends” on Facebook, send a friend request to me (Gail Eastwood-author) –or message me– and I’ll friend and invite you! (Or let me know if you want to know how to give a donation, even if you can’t come to the party!)

In my area of the U.S. the practice of trick-or-treating has really diminished in favor of FIREWORKSparties. Safer, I’m sure, but there was always a kind of thrill to roaming in the dark and going door-to-door. Halloween isn’t anything our Regency characters would have participated in. And in Great Britain, even now I would venture to say it is overshadowed by Guy Fawkes Day.

Demonstrators with Guy Fawkes masks march to the Portuguese parliament in LisbonBonfires! Fireworks! Those are fun, but do they get to dress up in costumes? Do they have Guy Fawkes Day parties? Oh, wait. Yes, yes they do. But I still say I’d rather have candy than gunpowder.

The roots of Halloween are very ancient, as most people know. The name comes from All Hallows Eve, the night before the Christian observance of All Saints Day (November 1, Hallowmass), established by Pope Gregory in the 8th century. But the Celtic celebration of Samhain (“summer’s end”) on October 31 is much older. Samhain was the night before the Celtic new year began, when it was believed the boundary between the living and the spirit worlds grew thin. The Celts may have believed the living could commune with the dead at such a time, see into the future, or even that spirits could return to earth. halloween-bonfire Bonfires, the wearing of costumes to confuse the walking spirits, and the telling of fortunes may have been part of the Celtic traditions.

Some sources also throw in two Roman celebrations, the festivals of Feralia, honoring the passing of the dead, and of Pomona, a goddess of fruit and the harvest, also held at the time of the change in seasons. Mix in the medieval practice of “souling”, when the poor would go door-to-door on All Hallows asking for handouts in exchange for saying prayers for the dead, and you can see a lot of the ingredients for the evolution of Halloween.

My fellow Riskies have already written some posts you might like to revisit this weekend. Elena did a lovely one about jack o’lanterns all the way back in 2008 (posted Oct 29). Amanda talked about the holiday origins in 2011 (Oct 25), and back in 2009 she did a Halloween post about the ghosts in the Tower of London. For more ghosts plus witches in the UK, revisit Elena’s post from last year (Oct 31, 2014).

In case those aren’t enough to occupy you, here are a few more articles you may enjoy:

“Slutty Halloween Costumes: a Cultural History”, which makes a case that Halloween has always been about sex:

And in defense of those who follow the Wiccan religion, “What’s Witchcraft? Six Misconceptions about Wiccans”:

For the candy-lovers among us:

And finally, I couldn’t resist including “Top Five Halloween Myths Debunked”:

Happy Halloween!

raynhamghostSince my blogging day has fallen on Halloween, I’ll do my best to get into the spirit of things. (Get that? “Spirit”? Feel free to groan!)

I checked out the Internet and found many suggestions for “10 Most Haunted whatever”. Here are a few.

Listverse’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places (anywhere) has the following in the United Kingdom: Borley Rectory, Raynham Hall in Norfolk, where this famous ghost lady picture was taken, the Tower of London and Edinborough Castle.

Lists for the top 10 in the UK vary. Interestingly, Raynham Hall didn’t appear on either of the lists I checked. Haunted Rooms’ Top 10 Haunted Places in England lists the following places: Borley Rectory, Ancient Ram Inn, Pendle Hill, Berry Pomeroy Castle, Woodchester Mansion, Pluckley Village, Athelhampton House, Tower of London, Salmesbury Hall, Chillingham Castle. Visit Britain’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places lists Highgate Cemetery, Borley Rectory, Pendle Hill, Red Lion in Avebury, Ancient Ram Inn, Glamis Castle, Tower of London, Culloden Moor, Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Berry Pomeroy Castle.

borleyghostBorley Rectory seems to always hit every list. I’d already read tales of the hauntings, supposedly due to a monk from a monastery that had existed on the site falling in love with a nun. According to the story, he was executed and she was bricked up alive within the convent walls. According to the Haunted Legend of Borley Rectory, this legend has no historical basis. However, there were strange incidents, reports of ghost carriages, an apparition that could have been a nun. However, there’s also some suspicion that a paranormal researcher, Harry Price, faked the phenomena he reported, and also that a subsequent resident, Marianne Foyster, may have faked paranormal activity to cover up her affair with a lodger.

Here’s an image of a purported ghost sighting at Borley.

Another of the places that seems to hit a lot of the lists is Pendle Hill, around which 12 women who in 1612 were tried and hanged as witches in what became known as the Lancashire Witch Trials. Check out this Youtube video to learn more. Given the superstitious nature of the time when these hangings occurred, some are now urging for these women to be pardoned.

The legend of the Lancashire Witches forms some of the backstory for Lucy in Disguise by Lynn Kerstan, one of the Regencies in the ebook set Regency Masquerades. The set also includes the RITA-winning Gwen’s Ghost, co-authored by Lynn Kerstan and Alicia Rasley.

Regency Masquerades will be on sale for 99 cents only for a few more days, so if you’re interested, buy it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.


What ghost or witch stories or haunted places do you find the most interesting?

Wishing you a happy Halloween!


Hopefully by my next post I’ll have Exciting Book News to share, but today I have a seasonal question for you:

Are you ready for Halloween?

A Jack o' Lantern made for the Holywell Manor Halloween celebrations in 2003. Photograph by Toby Ord on 31 Oct 2003.

For practically the first time since Miss Fraser was born in 2004, I can answer that question with a yes, and before October 30, too. After some discussion, Miss Fraser has elected to go as the goddess Athena this year, so we found a generic Greek goddess costume, which we’re accessorizing with a helmet, a toy spear, and a stuffed owl. And just in case she backs out of being Athena at the last minute because she has to wear a dress, I ordered a mockingjay pin, which, along with her bow and arrow set and carefully chosen clothes from her everyday wardrobe, would make a credible Katniss Everdeen costume.

Her first choice was actually Avatar Korra from The Legend of Korra, but I couldn’t figure out how to bring the costume together given my utter lack of crafting or sewing skills. I have to say, I’m proud of having raised a daughter who’s so fond of strong women in myth and literature that her heroines are Korra, Athena, and Katniss.

I even have a costume of my own planned for the first time in over a decade! I’m part of a fantasy football league at work, and we’ve decided to all dress up as our teams. My team is the War Tigers, a riff on my favorite college football team, the Auburn Tigers, whose battle cry is, “War Eagle.” If you watch an Auburn game, you’ll see both an adorable mascot in a tiger suit and an actual eagle who swoops around the stadium before the game and then perches on his handler’s arm on the sidelines looking menacing during the game.

War Eagle!

So I’m going to wear my Auburn shirt and baseball cap, and carry a stuffed tiger perched on my wrist like that eagle. Granted, maybe two of my Seattle coworkers watch enough college football to get the reference, but still.

One of these years I’m going to invest in a Regency dress–or maybe a redcoat officer’s uniform, so I can go in Napoleonic-era drag–and make that my costume.

What about you? Are you dressing up for Halloween this year, or do you have a kid to costume? If you dressed as a Regency and/or literary figure, who would you choose and why?

Besides anxiety about Sandy, Halloween has obsessed me for much of this week.  This past weekend I helped to run a Halloween Party for my UU church, complete with a Haunted House put on by some of the older youth including one of my daughters, who played her role to creepy perfection.

While waiting for Sandy to hit, we finished carving our pumpkins in accordance with this year’s theme, Lord of the Rings.  (My daughters dressed up as Elven maidens in medieval-style gowns and their ever-useful Vulcan ears.)  Here’s my pumpkin, carved with the head of a Balrog, the fire demon that the wizard Gandalf battles in the mines of Moria.

Carving vegetables into scary shapes was already a custom during the Regency, although potatoes and turnips were often used.  If you want to learn more, check out my post about Jack-o-Lanterns from a few years ago.

We were fortunate enough not to lose power, so I was able to toast the pumpkin seeds the next day. This year, we experimented with a Mexican-inspired version. They were quite yummy. Those that I didn’t spill on the kitchen floor while transferring from pan to storage container, that is!

Here’s my recipe should you care to try it:

Ingredients: pumpkin seeds, olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt.

  1. Rinse pumpkin seeds. Remove all pulp. Drain and spread on a cookie sheet to dry overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 250F. Line baking sheet with foil.
  3. Toss pumpkin seeds in enough olive oil, salt, cumin and chili powder (about twice as much chili powder as the cumin) to lightly coat them.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour, tossing every 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Cool. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Lastly, I was browsing around Youtube and found this clip of Northanger Abbey as if it really were a Gothic horror novel.

I hope you all enjoyed or will enjoy your Halloween, if you live in an area where it has been rescheduled. I think it’s important for the children (all of us, really) to maintain fun traditions even during scary, troubling times.

So what did you do for Halloween or what are you planning?


Happy Halloween!

My quick surfing of the net and peek into Google Books yielded very little information about Halloween during the Regency.
In 1818, Blackwood’s Magazine entertained its readers with ghost stories from Wales (as opposed to Scotland, where such stories usually originated, apparently). Witches, ghosts, demons, evil spirits, dogs of hell, fairies, corpse candles, and something called Kyhirraeth, a “doleful foreboding noise before death,” were discussed.
This example amused me:

The Rev. Mr Thomas Baddy, who lived in Denbigh town, and was a dissenting minister in that place, went into his study one night, and while he was reading or writing, he heard some one behind him laughing and grinning at him, which made him stop a little. It came again, and there he wrote on a piece of paper, that devil wounding scripture, 1 John iii. ‘ For this was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,’ and held it backwards towards him, and the laughing ceased for ever; for it was a melancholy word to a scoffing devil, and enough.

Clever fellow, Reverend Tom. Nerves of steel, as well. I believe I would have screamed and run from the room.

It seemed to me that the Regency era people prided themselves on being rational, with no time for such nonsense as ghosts and witches and fairies. I suspect the prevailing view on the occult was similar to Sir Walter Scott’s.
In Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft Scott clearly scoffs at ghost sightings and such. He believes in rational explanations for events which are credited to the supernatural.

Here’s an example in Scott’s words:

The remarkable circumstance of Thomas, the second Lord Lyttelton, prophesying his own death within a few minutes, upon the information of an apparition, has been always quoted as a true story. But of late it has been said and published, that the unfortunate nobleman had previously determined to take poison, and of course had it in his own power to ascertain the execution of the prediction. It was no doubt singular that a man, who meditated his exit from the world, should have chosen to play such a trick on his friends. But it is still more credible that a whimsical man should do so wild a thing than that a messenger should be sent from the dead, to tell a libertine at what precise hour he should expire.

Sir Walter is clearly a skeptic. Too bad he didn’t have access to Celebrity Ghost Stories on the Bio Channel.

Perhaps in Wales and Scotland, families practiced old rituals on Halloween during the Regency. Perhaps people told ghost stories by the light of the fireplace at night and carved turnips into jack o’ lanterns, but I suspect Halloween was not celebrated among the Beau Monde.

I’m celebrating Halloween today with a contest! Seven authors, including me, are hosting a Novel Trick or Treat Contest. Stop by my website to start. We’re each giving away prizes to some lucky commenters, but, like all good trick or treaters, you have to visit each of us in turn. Come join the fun!
How else are you celebrating Halloween today?
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