Thursday, October 28, 2010

Graveyard Romp

In case my blog entries this month have been a little too subtle, let me state clearly that I love Halloween! My earliest Halloween memory dates back to 3 years of age. I was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood in a red checked pinafore with my own red hooded cape. My Dad carried me from door to door in our neighborhood in Laie, Hawaii, and people told me how cute I was and put candy in my basket. I remember thinking, “This is brilliant! Why aren’t we doing this everyday?”

It seems that the world is divided into two groups of people: those who love Halloween and those who hate it. Now, these two groups can be divided into further sub-categories like those who like to “glam it up” and those who like to costume themselves as tins of ham (you know who you are), but I want to concentrate on the latter group of Halloween haters. I suspect that those with Samhainophobia(fear of Halloween) have experienced traumatic Halloween-related events in their past. It may have been a premature exposure to a haunted house, an older sibling with a propensity for jumping around corners wielding rubber steak knives, or the mistaken idea that gory equals scary.

May I recommend a course of treatment? Visit a graveyard at night, and bring a child. No, this isn’t shock therapy. This is an exercise in tapping into the imagination, creativity and sense of fun that makes Halloween a treat rather than a terror.

I stumbled upon this course of treatment by accident. I was the host of a Halloween party with 15 children who had already eaten donuts from a string, completed a Halloween craft, explored the vast extent of my two-bedroom apartment and who had finally resorted to loud swordfights in the spare room. I happen to live across the street from a historic cemetery in Pleasant Grove so, in a voice of increasing desperation, I cried “who wants to walk through the cemetery?” This brought a complete halt to the clash of plastic swords. After a millisecond of silence, I experienced a chorus of enthusiastic, “me, me, me, me’s.”

The children’s parents had settled into my living room with food and drink and had no intention of going anywhere until they’d had some serious “adult-time,” so I distributed lighted lanterns to the oldest children in the group and we set off.

The graveyard tour was, without a doubt, the hit of the party. The participants ranged in age from 6 to 13. As we crossed the street, the littlest one holding my hand informed me that he was not afraid of ghosts because he knew “they were just pretend.” With this healthy attitude, the children had a riotous time running from tombstone to tombstone, searching for their own names and trying to find the oldest dates. The Pleasant Grove graveyard is a pioneer graveyard, which means it has inhabitants dating back to the 1800’s. The children practiced their math skills by calculating how old each person had been when he or she died. They were particularly moved by the sight of the tiny tombstones with lambs on them because these were usually the graves of infants.

Lest you think that I happened to be accompanied by a group of particularly macabre children, my friend and neighbor tried the same kind of adventure a few nights later with a new batch of children. The verdict was the same. Even the very young kids had a great time.

So here are a few tips for making your graveyard tour successful and safe.

1. Get children in the right frame of mind with age appropriate ghost stories. Some vintage children’s classics include “
Georgie” by Robert Bright and “The Ghosts’ Trip to the Loch Ness” by Jacques Duquenney.

2. Remember that the children will take their cue from you. If you are excited and cheerful about your graveyard visit, odds are your children will be too. When they see that you are not afraid, they know there’s nothing to be afraid of.

3. Take lanterns and flashlights. While flashlights are convenient, a lantern is a lot more poetic. I recommend the inexpensive “Rotera” tea light lantern from IKEA for $3.99.

4. Be prepared with some interesting graveyard facts. For example, in the 1800’s, when someone died from an illness, they were often buried with a string tied to their finger which was attached to a bell above ground next to the grave. That way, if the person had accidentally been buried alive, the unfortunate soul could yank on the string and ring the bell, signaling people above ground that they needed to be dug up.

5. This kind of activity seems to work well in groups. Children feed off of each other’s enthusiasm and give each other courage.

6. Dress in light colors. It’s much easier to see each other this way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gardner Village at Halloween

One of the most picturesque places to shop in Utah is historic Gardner Village in West Jordan. And there is no better place to get a family-oriented Halloween experience.

During the month of October, Gardner Village is over run with witches: witches playing baseball, witches riding flying bicycles, witches having hoola hoop contests…they’re everywhere.

During the month of October, Gardner Village has a petting zoo, pony rides, and Halloween themed adventures for kids including “Ride to a Witch” and “Breakfast with a Witch.” Gardner Village has also created several optimal spots for family photographs.

In my exploration of “all-hallowed” things, I recruited five fellow adventurers of various ages (2, 7, 9, 11, 13) and a few parents. On the “Ride to a Witch” we rode out to Cricket Hollow and were given a tour of a witches base camp set up in an old railway car. Gardner Village’s witch royalty were in attendance and happily interacted with the children, helping them stir cauldrons, hang up witches’ bloomers on the laundry line, etc.

My oldest two female fellow adventurers (ages 11 and 13) were more interested in the shops (like the gorgeous Anastasia’s Attic) and the glitter eye treatments available outside of the shop Purse-onality. Extremely affordable witch makeovers are also available at the Cottage Retreat Day Spa.

Gardner Village encourages the enthusiastic Halloween spirit, and parents bring their children in costume all throughout the month. I can’t think of a better place to get a picture of your little ones in costume.

You can check the times for “Ride to a Witch” and “Breakfast with a Witch” at Tickets are required for "Breakfast with a Witch."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Odyssey Dance Theatre
Playing all through October
Click here for showtimes, tickets and venues

Have you ever watched a well-trained formation line of Irish folk dancers--feet flying, smiles rigidly affixed--and thought, 'I bet a graduate of the U.S. Army sniper school could pick those dancers off, one by one.' Derryl Yeager, founder and artistic director of Odyssey Dance Theatre, has.

It's that warped sense of humor paired with some serious dancing that has made Thriller a Halloween season sensation across Utah for the past 13 years. Odyssey Dance Theatre's Thriller is a series of dance performances featuring Frankenstein, zombies, mummies, some seriously funky scarecrows and a crew of chain-saw wielding, blood thirsty Jasons. This dance company goes through sugar plum fairies like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.

This concert is so popular that it is playing in St. George, Park City, Provo and Salt Lake simultaneously. "For the fourth year in a row, we've had to hire two separate casts to fill the amazing demand," says Derryl Yeager. Yeager is an accomplished dancer and actor. You might recognize him as someone who has had some experience with...well, let's call it 'the dark side,' but don't hold it against him. He's also played the apostle Peter on film.

You don't have to be a dance fanatic (like myself) to enjoy this show. I saw Thriller on its opening night at the Provo venue, and the audience nearly brought down the house. The dance numbers are interspersed with comedy sketches and short films which give the dancers time to change in between numbers.

Fans of So You Think You Can Dance may recognize Matt Dorame and Brandon Bryant in the Thriller cast. My favorite dance of the evening was a grisly pas de deux between Matt Dorame's Frankenstein and his bride. The comedic, jerky movements may look easy, but you've got to be a pro to make them look right, and these two are amazing. When Matt hoisted his stiff-as-a-board spouse over his head, grasping only her neck and one leg, the audience burst into applause.

Thriller is a great performance for teenagers and adults, but I'd think twice before bringing kids under 10. There are knife wielding doll dancers and pack of "lost boys" that stalk, bring down, and feast upon an unsuspecting victim. The dancers are committed actors, and between the rolling fog, vampiric hisses and occasional blood spatters, it's a pretty chilling number.

Vastly more entertaining than a haunted house, I highly recommend this concert for teenage and adult thrill seekers. Performances sell out, so call the ticket office a day or two in advance of the show you'd like to see. For tickets prices and performance times and locations, click the link at the top of this blog post.

Thriller press release

Monday, October 11, 2010

Salt Lake City Ghost Tour

SLC Ghost Tours
thru Oct. 30th
Tue.-Thurs. 7:00 p.m. & 9:00 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. 6:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. & 9:00 p.m.
Tours start behind the Rio Grande building in SLC
(300 S. 500 W.)

Thursday night, I figured I’d crash at home, curl up on the couch and watch an episode of Fringe. But Clem had other plans.

As evening approached, I began to feel restless, so I headed for the Rio Grande station in Salt Lake City. I wasn’t the only one in search of adventure. A small group had gathered around a bus behind the building. The bus driver sidled up to me and asked me if I had bought a ticket. Much to my surprise I found that I had.

“I can’t believe people actually choose to do this,” he said to me. I pointed out that he was driving the bus.

“Yeah, but I’m staying safely inside it,” he replied.

I went into the station to use the restroom before boarding the bus. Old-fashioned sinks, circa 1910, were lined up in the center of the room. Facing each other on opposing walls were two massive mirrors. I dried my hands, smoothed back a few stray strands of hair, and adjusted the brim of my hat.

Wait! I’m not wearing a hat!

Another glance in the mirror showed me it was simply a fleeting reflection of something that had moved just beyond my range of vision.

I rejoined the group of intrepid explorers of the supernatural and boarded the bus. Our tour guide told us stories about the Alta Club, Hotel Victoria, the suicide saloon, and leaving a tribute at the end of the bar for the ghostly barkeep. But all of this seemed like only a precursor, an overture before the curtain went up. We tramped through Salt Lake City’s dark and haunted graveyard and heard the story of Lily Gray, and all the while, I could feel him just beyond the edge of existence, waiting impatiently.

When the bus made its way past the Marriott Library—where he had been known to pick-up a coed or two—and headed toward Fort Douglas, the impatience became mine. He was drawing me closer, and even though he had a reputation as an incorrigible ladies’ man—in both of his lives—I knew I would answer his call.

The bus gave a hydraulic hiss and lowered itself to the curb. I disembarked with the rest of the crowd, hurried up the wooden steps to the porch and paced the planks. He was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the corner and peered through the metal gates at the artillery guns. Not so much as an orb of ectoplasm. I lingered as long as I could, and finally joined the last of the stragglers as we boarded the bus.

Had I displeased him in someway? Had he sensed a shadow of doubt in my mind? My transcendental tryst was not to be.

By the time, the bus returned to the Rio Grande station, I the felt master of myself once more. I bade my fellow travelers farewell and headed back to hearth and home.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halloween Cruise

Halloween Cruise
October 1-30, 2010
3606 W. Center Street in Provo
$7 per person or $28 per family
Mon. – Thurs. 6:30-9:00pm
Fri. and Sat. 6:30-10:00pm
(801) 373-1897

Rainstorms whipped through Provo during the day, but by nightfall, the clouds had cleared and it was a perfect night to navigate by starlight, so we three intrepid travelers ventured down to the Provo River to take the Halloween Cruise sponsored by CLAS Ropes course. Cruises leave every half hour, and we’d just missed the 8:30 boat, so we settled down on the wooden benches to wait for their last cruise at 9:00. While the outdoor set up is fun and festive it is not heated, so we were grateful for the lap blankets we’d brought along.

By the time our pirate captain came stalking down the tree-lined lane to fetch us, it was evident that we’d be his only cargo. However, he was more than happy to take us out on the river for a private ride. The real attraction of this cruise is its amazing ambiance. This isolated stretch of the river is overhung with tree branches and is practically pitch black, but strings of Halloween lights and one hundred lit pumpkins keep the ghosts at bay.

Our captain regaled us with a recitation of The Cremation of Sam McGee. He also warned us that the river was guarded by a fearsome pirate who didn’t care for trespassers. Right on cue, our pirate made an impressive attempt to board the vessel by swinging down from a tree on a rope. However, he failed to clear the river, so he quickly jumped into a canoe and came after us. Turns out he simply wanted to share some candy and a few pirate jokes. (Hint: a pirate’s favorite letter is not “R.”)

The 25-minute cruise is mild, enjoyable entertainment, perfect for young kids. This would make an excellent family activity. The atmosphere is slightly spooky without being scary—no werewolves jumping out from behind trees or chainsaw-wielding drama students. Floating down a dark river lit with pumpkins is a novelty that most children will enjoy, and it’s a variation from the usual land-locked Halloween activities (i.e. trick or treating and haunted houses).

I’d recommend going around 7:00 or 7:30. The later it gets, the darker it gets, and little children might get spooked by some of the Halloween decorations. Dress warmly, and if you have individuals prone to getting cold, bring along a blanket. It’s cold on the river, so having a thermos of hot chocolate or apple cider waiting in the car would be ideal.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Double Double Toil and Trouble

Now that October, my favorite month of the year, is here I’m going to double my efforts to keep you up to date on all of the fun things there are to do in Salt Lake and Utah counties this Halloween season. I’m going to a lot of toil and trouble to check out all of these fun venues so that I can give you an insider’s view.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big Halloween buff. Anyone who knows me also knows that I tend to cringe during fight scenes in movies and particularly brutal pile-ups during football games. So in other words, I’m not a blood and guts type of gal. I’m a harvest season enthusiast who loves carving pumpkins, donuts on a string, excuses to wear costumes, mysteries, and chills and thrills that tingle your spine but don’t keep you up at night. (The Others: yes. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: no. And check out the original Japanese movie Ringu—but have a pillow or a loved one with a high tolerance for pain nearby.)

In the month of October, I also recommend reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, observing one really good rainstorm, listening to Night on Bald Mountain, and fixing yourself the first hot chocolate of the season while you unpack your sweaters. (To my friends in So. Cal. I amend that last sentence to read, “while you unpack your long-sleeved T-shirts.)

If hot chocolate is not your thing, I recommend a cup of Republic of Tea’s Cardamon Cinnamon tea. It smells exactly like autumn.