Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monsters, Creatures, and Evil Spirits: A Halloween Primer

Dear George,
Next to Xmas, Halloween is definitely the best holiday for kids.  You get to disguise yourself in a costume so people don’t know who you are.  When you get old enough, you go out after dark with your friends with the possibility of engaging in mischief.  You collect tons of candy and goodies.  And there’s a lot of scary excitement about the prospect of encountering evil beings and monsters in the night.  

There are many things to be scared about in life, and witches, vampires, and ghouls give us entities upon which to target our worries.  In the interest of pinning down just who we should be concerned about this Halloween eve, I’ve compiled a taxonomy of evil beings and monsters.  Here are the most important ones.  

The Devil
The devil, of course, is number one, since he is the very personification of evil.  Most religions and cultures acknowledge the devil’s existence.  In Christianity he is a rebellious fallen angel who fights with God over the souls of human beings.  The American public, by and large, tends to believe in the devil’s reality and power.  67% believe in the devil’s existence (3), 51% believe that people can be possessed by the devil or other evil spirits (10), and 45% believe that Satan is the cause of most of the evil in the world (11).   The devil doesn’t just come around on Halloween — he’s here all the time.  

The devil commands an army of demons.  Often fallen angels or the spirits of those who have died recently, demons are evil spirits who have the capability of possessing living beings.  (12) Upon entering the body, demons “seize” the victim and cause nightmares, disease, epilepsy, and even death.  Rites of exorcism are used to expel demons.  Exorcism is practiced on occasion by Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.  (13) 

There are important sub-categories of demons.  A succubus is an attractive female demon who appears in dreams and seduces men.  Having sex with a succubus results in loss of one’s health or even death.  Adam’s first wife, Lilith, later became a succubus.  She left Adam and the Garden of Eden after mating with the archangel Samuel.  A male sexual demon who seduces women in their sleep is an incubus.  (12) 

Ghosts are particularly likely to be hovering about on Halloween night and are probably the supernatural creatures we are most likely to personally encounter.  Ghosts are apparitions or spirits of deceased persons that appear after death.  Descriptions of ghosts range from an invisible presence to barely visible wispy shapes to lifelike visions.  Experiences of ghosts of deceased ancestors appear to exist in all human cultures.  While ghosts can be good or evil, people generally fear ghosts and see them as an omen of death.  (14) About 42% of American believe in ghosts.  23% report that they have actually seen a ghost or been in a ghost’s presence.  (9) 

If you go to the movies or watch TV, you probably know a lot about vampires already.  Vampires are undead creatures who feed on human blood.  They are believed to come from the grave at night to suck blood from sleeping victims.  Vampires are capable of immortality, though they can be killed by sunlight or a stake driven through the heart.  (7)  A Fox News poll found that only 4% of American adults believe in vampires.  (3)   I find this surprising since I notice one or two vampires on Ludlow Avenue almost every day.  According to one informative website, prominent vampire communities are located on the Sunset Strip in L.A., in New Orleans cemeteries, in the Caves of St. Louis, Missouri, and in downtown Detroit.  Georgia Tech professor and researcher John Edgar Browning interviewed 35 vampires in New Orleans and reports that there are at least twice that many in the city.  (6) 

Zombies  are all the rage these days.  They are undead creatures who are created when human corpses are reanimated through a sorcerer’s or witch’s magic or other means (e.g., viruses).  Zombies are mindless, primitive, uncontrollable, and extremely violent.  They are also very ugly.  Some zombies hunger for human brains.  (12)  Victims of zombies may become zombies themselves.  Both zombies and vampires are undead creatures, but zombies are brainless, repulsive creatures, while vampires are attractive, intelligent, finely dressed, and can blend in with the living.  (2)   A 2014 Chapman University survey on American Fears found that 18% of Americans are at least somewhat afraid of zombies.  (5) 

Ghouls are undead monsters who live in graveyards and eat human flesh.  Ghouls prey on young children as well as adults, and they like to drink human blood.  Sometimes ghouls and zombies get confused.  Ghouls live in graveyards, are attracted to the dead, and are created by black magic or possession by demons.  Zombies are attracted more to live human beings and are created by voodoo or the bite of another zombie.  I used to watch out for ghouls when riding my bike past Riverside Cemetery outside Menominee in the dark of night.  (2) (12) 

A werewolf is a human being who has the ability to shape shift into a wolf, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or an affliction (e.g., a bit from another werewolf).  Werewolves are aggressive and malevolent.  The full moon causes the transformation from human being to wolf.  Werewolves have superhuman speed and strength, though they can be killed by a silver bullet or blade.  (12)  I didn’t think we had any werewolves in Cincinnati until I ran across an account by William D. Carl in a book called “Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse”  (Kindle, $10.99).   Here’s what happened (or might happen) in our city: “As night descends on Cincinnati, the city braces for hell on earth: The populace mutates into huge, snarling monsters that devour everyone they see and act upon their most base desires. Planes fall from the sky. Highways are clogged with abandoned cars, and buildings explode and topple. The city burns.”  (1) 

Witches possess evil magic powers.  Though both women and men can be witches, they usually are older women who wear black cloaks and a pointed hat and fly on a broomstick.  Modern witches are generally followers of Wicca, “a modern pagan, witchcraft religion” (12).  According to Marla Alupoaicei, co-author of “Generation Hex”, Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in America and will soon be the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam.  Witch School, one of thousands of occult websites on the Internet, reports that it has trained over 200,000 witches to date.  Currently there are over 200,000 registered witches in the U.S. and about 8 million unregistered practitioners of Wicca.  (8)  According to Gallup, 21% of Americans believe in witches, though my opinion is that that’s an under-estimate. (4)  

So there are quite a few evil beings to be worried about this Halloween.  I think back to a conversation with a graduate school friend many years ago.  He remarked that we all have monsters hidden within ourselves.  That struck me as a profound truth, and, if so, it also means that we are surrounded by hidden monsters all the time.  Maybe it’s not just werewolves that we should be worried about.

SOURCES:  (1), “Bestial: William D. Carl”; (2), “Difference between Ghoul and Zombie”; “Difference between Zombie and Vampire”; (3), “Fox Poll: More believe in Heaven than Hell”;  (4), “Three in four Americans believe in paranormal”; (5) www.neurologicablog, “What Americans believe”; (6), “There are real-life vampire tribes roaming New Orleans”; (7), “Vampire”; (8), “The fastest growing religion in America is witchcraft”; (9), “More Americans believe in witchcraft that agree with Citizens United”; (10), “57% believe in the devil, 72% for blacks, 61% for women”; (11), “Study: Americans are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in the big bang theory”; (12), “Demons”, “Witchcraft”, “Zombies”; (13), “Exorcism”; (14), “Ghost” 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Archive: Vic's Photos (#12)

Dear George,
I’ve been posting one of my dad’s family photos from the 1940’s and 50’s once or twice a week since I began this blog, and then I started posting accumulated batches of them as archives every few months.  My brother Peter reprinted many of Vic’s photos as postcards which he sent to family members, and the photos here are from Peter’s project as well as from family albums.  A large number of these are also available on my Flickr website:  

My parents met while my dad was in college or law school at the University of Wisconsin.  This is the earliest photo I’ve seen of them as a couple.  They’re certainly dressed up, my mom (Doris) looking like a flapper (which she probably was in the late 1920’s) and my dad (Vic) a dapper young man about town. 

My mother looks very pretty against this backdrop of a snowy U.P. winter.  She and Vic were married on June 1, 1932, in Omaha.  Doris was 22, Vic was 24.  They lived in Omaha for a short time, then moved to Menominee where Vic began his law practice.

I’m not certain but I’d guess that this photo was taken sometime before my birth in July 1937, perhaps in 1936 or 1935.  Doris and Vic look very happy together here.  It was the midst of the Great Depression, and they had very little in the way of money, worldly goods, or security.  As did many couples and families, they struggled and eventually made their way to a better life. 

It’s a shame we can’t remember anything about our first year or two.  This is me in a tub in 1938, age one.  I look sort of serious, perhaps wondering what I’m doing in the world and why my father is pointing that strange machine at me.  

This is my Uncle Ralph Buscher as a young man.  He worked at my grandfather's Rexall Drug Store in Marinette, and he was my boss when I clerked there in my teenage years.  Ralph sang in a prize-winning barber shop quartet and a Marinette church choir.  He and my Aunt Martha lived at Pine Beach with our cousins, Ann and John, and our grandfather, V.A. Sr.  

This is my paternal grandmother and grandfather, Olga and V.A.L. Sr.  I didn't really know Olga who died on July 22, 1942, but who had suffered a major stroke several years before and was bedridden.  I learned from family history that she was an important figure in the state Republican Party in Wisconsin and influenced my dad's going to law school (having told him that he was a good talker).  V.A. emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden with his family as a teenager in the early 1890’s, worked in a lumber camp, went to pharmacy school, and opened and ran drugstores in Marinette and Menominee throughout his career.  Close to his four children, their spouses, and his nine grandkids, he died on Nov. 20, 1959.

My dad took an annual photo of our family every summer, almost always at our house on the Menominee River.  This one was in 1953.  Vic had a gizmo which enabled him to set the camera up, then run over and get in the picture before the shutter opened.  Peter’s at the left (age 8), then Steve (12), Vicki (6), and myself (16).  This was a big year for me since I got my driver’s license and could take the family car to cruise around town with my chums. 

Jean Worth and his wife Margaret were among my parents’ very closest friends.  Jean was the editor of the Menominee Herald-Leader during my youth, and he was widely known in the region as the U.P.’s most accomplished historian.  Their three daughters, Dooley, Jean, and Ann were childhood friends of my siblings and myself.  We spent many fun times at the Worth’s hunting camp at Cedar River, about 25 miles north of Menominee.  

This is my freshman hallmate and Antioch college friend, Arnie P.  I visited Arnie's White Plains NY home in 1959, and he drove up to Menominee with me that winter.  There was a blinding snowstorm in Wisconsin and the Highway Patrol closed Highway 41 north of Milwaukee, but we took a two-lane back road and made it through the three-foot snow drifts  We didn't see another car for 150 miles.  Arnie and my dad had a lot of good conversations at river house.  Vic was disappointed that Arnie didn’t enjoy his required military service.  After Arnie graduated from Antioch, he went on to become a psychotherapist.  

This is my mom, Katja, and myself at the Menominee C&NW depot in the late 1950’s.  On at least one occasion Katja and I traveled from Springfield, Ohio (near Antioch in Yellow Springs) to Menominee and back by train, nearly a 24-hour journey each way.  Vic and Doris were probably seeing us off on our way back to college.  

From the cigarette in my hand, this was definitely taken when I was on a visit home from Antioch, maybe in 1959.  We’re out near the driveway at our house, with the Norway pines and the river in the background.  If it was 1959, I would have been 22, Steve 18, Peter 14, and Vicki 12.   

This is my Antioch College psychology professor, Clarence Leuba, his wife Frances, and their daughter.  I worked as Dr. Leuba’s teaching assistant for Intro Psych in 1958-59, and he was my main adviser for grad school planning.  My parents met the Leubas when they came down to Yellow Springs for our graduation and then several months later at our wedding.  They all hit it off together and became friends.  Professor Leuba taught at Antioch from 1930 to 1962 and lived in Yellow Springs until his death at age 86 in 1985.   

This is my sister Vicki in her early teens.  Vicki could be serious, and she could be lots of fun.  I left for college when she was 8, so I wasn't around much for her adolescent years.  All of us kids got resistant to having our pictures taken, so that may be the case for Vicki’s non-ecstatic expression here. 

This was taken of me in 1960 in Yellow Springs.  My parents and siblings drove down for my graduation from Antioch in June of that year, then again for Katja's and my wedding in late August.  We were certain we were more than old enough to be getting married, though I look pretty young in this photo.  

Here’s my sister Vicki (left) and her best friend Kiera, either at the O’Hara’s house on Green Bay or perhaps at our house on the river.  Our families were close, and the girls were inseparable from the time they were toddlers.  Vicki went to church with Kiera’s family so often that she wanted to become a nun herself.    

Peter came of age in the rock and roll era, and he had the most distinctive hairstyles of the four of us siblings.  I’m not sure if Peter’s style was directly patterned after Elvis, but I know it involved a special greasy mixture and careful pruning.  We teased Peter about his hair style, but he shrugged it off and did his own thing.  

Here are my brother Steven, Katja, and I on an unknown second floor building patio.  Because we’re well-dressed, I initially thought it might be our wedding.  However, that was on a very hot August 28th, and we wouldn’t have been wearing heavy coats.  More likely an Ann Arbor get-together.    

My brother Steve and sister-in-law Margie were married on June 20, 1964, in Elmhurst, Illinois.  Katja and I were delighted to have a second married couple in our cohort, and Margie brought a vivacious spirit to our family.  Steve and Margie were great dancers and made family gatherings full of fun.      

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sheepdog Season

Sophie (left) & Mike on the back porch

Dear George,
Katja and Donna are touring in France, while I elected to stay home and take care of our respective sheepdogs, Mike and Sophie.  It’s definitely more exciting in France, but being home with the dogs has its own perks.  Because of Mike’s infirmities, I’m leery about leaving him home along for too long, so we’re all together at home most of the day.  Mike and Sophie get along fine, though they do their own thing.  We do go on a lot of individualized dog walks — Sophie usually down Ludlow Ave. to Burnet Woods and Mike on a 6-block walk in our immediate neighborhood.  The dogs are good companions — affectionate, attentive, loyal, patient — and I’ve always felt I have a lot to learn about giving and contentment from them.  Here are a few photos with poetic commentary that depict what life is like these days with Mike and Sophie.

We are spending more time on the patio
The dogs and I go there each morn
Mike enjoys rooting in the dirt
While Sophie chews an acorn

Ever since he was six months old
Mike’s had an extraordinary knack
He’s able to hold four legs in the air
While balancing straight on his back

Sophie and I stroll down Ludlow
We stop at the fountain to rest
Sophie likes to watch the people who are out
She’s thirteen but still has her zest

We three are watching the Bengals game
The dogs bark and cheer for the team
Although they don’t watch every single play
They do when the game picks up steam

The dogs did drift off in the second half
The Bengals were clearly ahead
They gave a big bark for Andy Dalton
But then they were ready for bed

You might say the front porch’s a prison
The sheepdogs peek out through the slats 
The world going by holds their interest
They hope that they’ll see pussycats

Here’s Mikey with his rawhide bone
He carries it everywhere 
He’ll never chew on that rawhide bone
He keeps it under my chair

Burnet Woods is the forest primeval
And it’s only four blocks from our house
It’s Sophie’s favorite place to go hiking
She looks for a squirrel or a mouse

The dogs let me know when it’s time to eat
With meals they’re remarkably shrewd
Mike eats faster with Sophie here
He’s afraid she’ll get into his food

The dogs drink plenty of water
Their bowl’s on the kitchen floor 
But they both prefer the upstairs bowl
I never say “No” any more

I rarely leave the dogs home alone
But if I do — such despair
The dogs stand and wait at the kitchen door
Wondering when I will be there

The stairs have become much more daunting
I lift Mikey up step by step
Sophie still makes it on her own
Though she has lost a little pep

The dogs get in bed at nine o’clock
I beg them to leave me a place
But they cover up the entire bed
I’m lucky to find a small space