The first ghost story I ever heard was from my mother. She described how once, while sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in her sister’s house, she woke to the feeling of twin icicles curling around her ankles. They were hands, but she didn’t see a body, exactly. More like an abstract interpretation of a body, female, crouched at the foot of the bed. It yanked once, hard, and she opened her pink teenaged mouth and screamed, causing it to let go and vanish. The details shift uneasily when she retells this story—sometimes there is a horrible, unseasonal rainstorm beating the roof, sometimes she is 15, or 17. But these [...]
Valentine Sillcocks is a ghost. He lives in the uptown Trinity Church Cemetery, on Broadway between 153rd and 155th Streets, high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Through a cluster of creaking maples he can just make out the eastern tower of the George Washington Bridge, which opened in 1931, the same year he was buried at the age of 43.
Valentine Sillcocks was a real person before he became a ghost. His name is etched in a piece of granite that marks the spot where he was laid to rest. His family included a silk hat maker, which may or may not have been Valentine [...]
Thematic tourism can be great (it also can be exploitative, which is not so great). Since it's October, the witchiest, most magical month, we've rounded up 13 of the hocus-y pocus-y museums around the world.
1. Museum of Witchcraft, Cornwall, UK Cornwall is the mother of all witchcraft museums, which we mention by way of asking: who wants to go on a field trip? The museum's website notes that important events in its history have fallen on Samhain and Hallowe'en. Their Twitter feed is bananas and delightful and the reason that I follow Cornish Folklore. Also the museum was founded by a [...]
At Halloween, I bought a bunch of decorative gourds and tiny little pumpkins. These things are practically indestructible so I have had them strewn about my kitchen and dining room ever since. One of them started looking a tiny bit suspicious, so I checked them all.
One on my wooden dining room table that looked perfect from the top was totally stuck on with gross pumpkin mold and goo and stuff. So far I've thrown away the rest of the pumpkins and gently scraped off of the worst of the gunk, but there's still some gross stuff on there and a dark stain underneath. It is solid wood [...]
All of us need to check in with ourselves about our Yonce-worship practices occasionally. Have you sung Bey’s praises lately? Have you updated your personal altar with a fresh candle or worked on your Everything Beyonce Pinterest page? Have you seen this brilliant gourd-based tribute to Her Greatness and thought, “If only I had an MFA and an extra set of thumbs?”
We’re here to help. As great minds in Williamsburg put their skills to work, we in Chicago have been busy brewing up the perfect how-to.
This ring, created by the great Art Nouveau designer René Lalique, was obviously commissioned by a sorcerer who would wear it while poring over alchemical manuscripts from the library of Dr. Dee. It's exquisite, of course, but also stupendously creepy. (Note: the Wartski site does not link to pieces directly, so click on “Jewellery” and scroll down.)
Featuring a central carved ivory face set in yellow gold and crowned with a cabochon emerald, the ring showcases the quality of workmanship so typical of Lalique jewels. Long, flowing hair of deeply engraved gold forms the shoulders of the ring, contrasting with the more formal [...]
The sexy Halloween costume is tyranny; it is irony without attendance. Sexy Halloween costume, I decry you. This Halloween, I humbly submit that we take our costume cues from a simpler, less brazenly sexy time: Arden Holt’s Fancy Dresses Described; or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls, already through five editions in 1887. This volume has suggestions for everybody: “brunes,” fair women, history enthusiasts, elderly ladies, and even gentlemen. Here are some selections of fancy dresses:
When I was 12 I cast a spell on my mom so she’d let me to go my friend Seth’s Bar Mitzvah. It was from The Good Spell Book, which I found in the sale bin at Barnes & Noble, and even though a few pages had been ripped out it still had instructions on how to bend someone to your will. I sat on the floor of my uncle’s old bedroom in my grandparents’ house, with a pink ribbon and a candle and some sort of scented oil and made my Intentions clear to whoever was listening. A few weeks later, she relented and said she’d send me [...]