Tag Archives: Halloween

The Embalming House

McGaheysville VA, Rockingham Co. VA, Halloween

The Embalming House.

With Halloween season in full swing and the day itself less than a week away, I wanted to join the fun. As we continue to explore our new Virginia haunts (pun intended), we keep encountering fantastic scenery and intriguing architecture all across Rockingham Co.

On our latest exploration, we visited the burg of McGaheysville (pronounced MaGakiesville) southeast of Harrisonburg. We found a cute little shop, some Civil War era farm homes and a doctor’s office/residence combination. A historical placard indicated that the building across the road from the doctor’s place was the embalming house. I thought that was both convenient and a subtle inference of the former physician’s medical prowess.

“The Embalming House” wasn’t much to look at, but it was more than appropriate for my Halloween Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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A special Halloween pie, and it’s not pumpkin!

jackolanternapplepiebybrucestambaugh

A Jack-O-Lantern apple pie that my wife baked was absolutely delicious.

My wife, Neva, loves to cook, plain and simple. However, she likes to spice things up a little from time to time, and that doesn’t necessarily mean adding a lot of zing to the food she creates.

Neva baked up a special treat for the grandchildren while we were visiting them recently at their home in Harrisonburg, VA. Using her usual recipe, Neva made a wonderful apple pie especially for the Halloween holiday. She added a Halloween theme to it by cutting a Jack-O-Lantern face into the top crust. The revealed slices of apples added a spooky look to the delicious pie.

I thought you might like to have the recipe. The pie is too good not to share. Once you taste it, you’ll discover that this Halloween will be all treat and no trick.

Bruce Stambaugh

Neva’s Apple Pie

Ingredients:
4 large cooking apples, about 2 lbs., which equals 6 cups of sliced apples
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg
A dash of allspice or ground cloves
Pastry for a 2-crust, 9 inch pie
2 tablespoons of butter

Preparation:
Peel, quarter, and core apples. Cut into 1/4 inch slices to equal 6 cups. Toss with the lemon juice in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Pour over the apples and toss to coat the apples.

Place one pie pastry into a 9 inch tin or pan. Pour in the mixed ingredients, and place the second pie pastry over the top. Crimp the two crusts together, and cut out the Jack-O-Lantern face to suit.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Enjoy!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Whatever happened to the Halloween I once knew?

Amish country fall by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

Halloween didn’t use to have such a bad reputation.

When I was growing up, us post-World War II youngsters looked forward to this benign, unofficial holiday. We just had fun.

Sure. There were mischief-makers, roughnecked teens that crossed the line. But they fortunately were in the minority. They certainly didn’t exhibit the violence and gore that we too often see associated with Halloween today.
Jack 'O Lantern by Bruce Stambaugh
I remember some bully stealing our carefully carved jack-o’-lantern off our front porch. When I spotted the costumed thief running away with our pumpkin, I yelled at him. The much bigger boy responded posthaste by threatening me. Fearful, I said nothing more. I didn’t want to lose my bulging bag of candy that I had so carefully gleaned from our burgeoning neighborhood.

Other Halloween hooligans would soap windows. The really nasty ones would use paraffin, which was much harder to get off the glass. A silly prank was to throw a handful of shelled corn against someone’s windowpane. That trick was used if you got no treat at the front door, which seldom happened.

Of course there were the unfounded scares of razor blades in apples and tampered with candy. We just took precautions and had a good time.

At school, Halloween parties were held in each classroom. All the kids would dress up, many in mundane outfits like cowboys, ghosts, witches, pirates, and princesses. Homeroom mothers would prepare snacks that usually included punch and homemade cookies.

Even our parents got caught up in the fun. I distinctly remember Mom and Dad going to a Halloween party dressed as outhouses, hers and his of course. They won a prize, which I think was a bag of corncobs.
Trick or Treat by Bruce Stambaugh
My wife and I wanted those same experiences for our own children as they grew up. However, living in the country is much different than living in a suburb. There was and continues to be no Trick or Treat night in our sparsely populated neighborhood.

Local towns held Trick or Treat night, but we never felt comfortable having our children beg for candy at homes where they were not known. Fortunately, local civic groups, including the volunteer fire department, hosted a Halloween parade and a party with judging, games and treats for all area children at the elementary school.
Betsy Ross by Bruce Stambaugh
Our son and daughter went one year dressed as a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. Maybe they thought that would counter the cavities they would develop devouring all of that sugary candy.

To be sure, there were and still are other downsides to Halloween in rural America, including Amish Country. Pranks include corn shocks burned or moved into the roadway, and extensive toilet papering. Dozens of rolls of toilet paper are unfurled on trees, utility lines, in yards and on town squares, creating a TP style blizzard.
Cornshalks by Bruce Stambaugh
In our hectic world, with an unlimited stream of electronic information vying for our attention 24/7, my nostalgic description of Halloween seems pretty blasé. People today seem to have the desire to be scared out of their wits and often pay good money for the privilege.

In this age of skepticism and trepidation, some see Halloween as a demonic plague on society. They claim there is just too much evil and violence connected with the frightful celebration.

Since I tend to avoid malevolence, I’ll not quibble with that assessment. I do wonder, however, whatever happened to the Halloween that once focused on fun instead of fear.
Fog and trees by Bruce Stambaugh

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Pumpkins are for more than pie

Great pumpkin by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins, including the Great Pumpkin apparently, are sold in lots of large boxs at a produce auction near Mt. Hope, OH.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Besides the colorful leaves, pumpkins have to be right up there as one of the top icons of fall. The portly orange fruit seems to be everywhere this time of year.

By their sheer numbers, people appear to be in love with pumpkins. Maybe that’s because they don’t have to rake them like they do the pumpkin’s leafy fall compatriots.

Perhaps the pumpkin’s versatility is the primary reason for its popularity. Pumpkins are used for all sorts of things. My favorite, of course, is in pumpkin pie; hold the whipped cream please.

Pumpkin pie by Bruce Stambaugh

My wife's fabulous pumpkin pie.


I know I’m prejudiced. I’m partial to the pies my good wife makes. That doesn’t deter me, however, from enjoying the baking efforts of others just to prove my point.

Fall is the time of year when real, honest-to-goodness pumpkin pie begins to show up on the menus of local restaurants. There’s good reason for that. It’s pumpkin harvest time. Of course with canning and freezing, pumpkin pie can be made anytime. But given its delicate ingredients, it’s best made in cooler climes.

It’s also worth noting that the pumpkins we see for sale in the market, at roadside stands and in people’s front yards are not generally the kind of pumpkins of which pie is made. For that, you need pie pumpkins, which makes perfect sense to me.

Pumpkin display by Bruce Stambaugh

Homestead Furniture, Mt. Hope, OH used pumpkins in it's 20th Anniversary Sale last October.


These pumpkins have a much higher calling. They are for show. Pumpkins decorate front porches, yard displays, commercial displays and accent fall flower gardens. Their bright orange color warms the coolest autumn morning.

Toward Halloween, people pick the perfect pumpkin for their Jack O’ Lantern. Carving a face into the anointed pumpkin can be a family affair that makes lasting memories for impressionable children. On October’s darkened nights, a single lighted candle sufficiently illuminates the caricature designed and desired.

Colorful pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins of different colors.


To be chic, pumpkins now come in alternate colors. There are white ones, gray ones, brown ones and even blue ones. These, too, are prized for their ornamentation qualities, and exhibited indoors and out.

Pumpkins are so highly regarded in our North American societies that they even earn their very own festivals. Towns around the country, especially in the Midwest where most pumpkins are grown, celebrated with contests like the largest pie and the largest pumpkin grown. To date, the record belongs to a young man in Wisconsin with a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,810.5 pounds.

Painted pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins even get painted rather than carved so they last longer.


Pumpkins show up on our dinner tables in other forms besides pies and decorations. There are pumpkin cakes, rolls, ice cream, lattes, ravioli and soups. The seeds can even be roasted and eaten for snacks.

We shouldn’t be surprised at this. We are simply repeating history. Native Americans taught early explorers to North America to roast pumpkin slices skewered on long sticks over an open fire. Settlers learned to cut the top off a whole pumpkin, hollow it out, and fill it with milk and spices, and then bake it on hot coals. This entrée was the forerunner to our pumpkin pie.

The indigenous peoples also understood the pumpkin’s versatility. They would dry strips of pumpkin, and then weave them into mats to sit on.

Besides our early history, pumpkins have also played major roles in our folklore. Cinderella’s coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight. The headless horseman in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow threw a pumpkin at poor Ichabod Crane. Of course, Charlie Brown is full of hope, still looking for the elusive Great Pumpkin.

Whether reading, eating or decorating, enjoy the pumpkin variety show while it lasts. Now pass the pie please.

Large pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are sold every fall at the Mt. Hope Produce Auction, Mt. Hope, OH.

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Staying calm during a ghostly encounter

Hoover Auditorium, Lakeside, OH by Bruce Stambaugh

Hoover Auditorium, Lakeside, Ohio. This picture was taken July 3, 2010, the day I saw the ghost in the huge hall.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I wasn’t going to say anything about the ghost I saw last summer. But with the ghoulish season of Halloween upon us, and the details of the experience still fresh in my mind, I decided to share what I saw.

First and foremost, I am not a fervent believer in ghosts, especially the horror kind put forth each Halloween season. I have watched with skeptical interest the ghost hunter shows on television. Once I saw how excited they got after showing video of some supposedly spectral orb, I was more convinced than ever that such adventures bordered on silliness.

Nevertheless, I had occasionally wondered how I would respond if I had encountered a ghost first hand. Last July 3, I found out. I just sat there watching, calm and unafraid, taking in every detail.

I was hardly alone when the apparition appeared. More than 2,000 others were in their seats two-thirds of the way through a lively, if not loud, concert in Hoover Auditorium in Lakeside, Ohio.

During one of the songs, something caught my attention directly above the stage. I looked up, and I saw the bluish-white shape of a man walk across the catwalk that held the lighting and speaker systems for the performance hall.

I say “appearance of a man” because that is all I can logically conclude that it was. I watched as the man, dressed in period work clothes of the early 20th century, casually walked across the catwalk from stage left to stage right. He bent down as if to pick up something, and then simply disappeared. I glanced to the stage where the band continued to belt out its Celtic vibrations, looked back up, and saw only darkness.

I knew right then and there that it would have been impossible for a human being to actually walk across that purposed bridge. The crisscrossed steel structure had no stairs that led to it. In fact, the structure wasn’t designed for anyone to ever walk there. The horizontal frame was simply lowered by a system of ropes and pulleys.

Convinced of what I saw, the next day I headed to the Lakeside Historical Museum to see what I could discover about ghosts and the construction of Hoover Auditorium in 1928-1929. Neither the young museum curator nor the senior archivist blinked at my story. Neither did they laugh at me.

After an exhaustive search by the three of us, we had come up empty on both the report of previous ghosts in Hoover, and the report of any serious accidents or deaths during its construction. The one interesting fact I did discover from old blueprints was that the scaffolding that was used to erect the large meeting room was exactly the height of the structure that held the speakers and lighting.

Hotel Lakeside, Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The rear of Hotel Lakeside in Lakeside, Ohio. Guests have occasionally reported seeing ghosts there.

I also learned of reports of ghosts in the Hotel Lakeside and in the museum where I had begun my search. I appreciated the fact that both the curator and the archivist dived right in to help me find whatever facts we could.

Unfortunately, the facts were few, but the personal encounter was real. If anyone else in the audience saw anything, they never said so. It wasn’t like seeing the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and it certainly wasn’t the commercial and entertainment-driven ghoulishness currently being spewed out.

I know I saw this man in clunky work boots, old-style work pants, a thick leather belt, and old-fashioned work shirt and slicked back hair. I just don’t know why.

Decorated cottage at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

Peaceful, attractive cottages like this one abound in Lakeside, Ohio, making it an attractive, fun and safe vacation destination for families.

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