Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Is Halloween

Magnet # 80:  The Olde Pink House, Savannah Georgia

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Me

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I hope there's no tricks, all treats in store for you today.

Well, I've decided to return home to wrap up my month of horrors.  The only time I've ever actually visited the Pink House, a historic restaurant here in Savannah, was on Halloween night several years ago.  My friend Catherine and I decided to have a bit of a progressive dinner downtown.  We started out at Churchill's Pub, then headed over to the basement of the Pink House for dessert.  We had a nice time - there were fires going, the piano was playing, and we both had an ice cream treat with berries in an edible bowl made of crushed nuts.  It was quite tasty.  Of course, we never realized we were spending Halloween in a haunted locale.

Yep, I later found out during the carriage ride I mentioned earlier this month that the Pink House is reportedly haunted.  It was built in 1771 by James Habersham, Jr., a military man and Revolutionary war hero who wanted a beautiful mansion within walking distance of the Savannah River.  You can imagine his shock when a bad combination of red bricks and white plaster resulted in a pink color for his dream home!  The house was continually painted over with coats of white paint so Habersham could try to keep his dignity.  It took over one hundred years for the house to come into the hands of an owner who decided to let the pink shade of the house show, giving it a distinction from other historic downtown homes that would eventually make it a Savannah landmark.  By this time, it was also said that the house was haunted.

After his death in 1799, the ghost of James Habersham, Jr. has been said to been seen walking his home at the Pink House countless times.  Nearly every server there has claimed to see his manifestation.  Apparently, he tends to be seen more during the months from October to March and on quiet Sunday afternoons.  Even one patron claimed that he shared a toast with the ghost while he was seated at the bar.  There is a rumor that he even hanged himself at the Pink House, which might explain why his spirit is so connected to the place.  His grandson is also said to haunt the spot, sometimes ordering a beer before traveling to his grave at the local cemetery.  At least one female reportedly haunts the second floor dining area, and people have said they hear her sobbing when the restaurant is closed.  And some have claimed to see the ghosts of slave children in the basement, where they roll dice, and have apparently hit the bartender with bottles of wine.  One particularly mischievous ghost may haunt the woman's restroom, locking women in stalls and forcing the doors closed until someone comes to free them.  It's actually a part of the staff's routine to check the stalls every so often in case a patron has been stranded there.  When we were on our tour, the guide said that a patron from one ride was actually trapped in there when she ran in the restroom as the carriage continued along the Square and everyone else was told about the Pink House's hauntings.  When she finally returned, she told her tale, but some on the ride thought it was actually a staged event.  Although neither Catherine not I saw any unusual occurrences during our visit there on Halloween, all these stories do make me wonder what was going on around us unseen that night.

I've really enjoyed finding all of these magnets that tie into haunted and creepy locales around the world.  I even have a couple that are going to have to wait until next year to be posted, although I only missed one day in October.  Next month, or tomorrow, I'll resume my regular posting activities and may skip a day every so often.  But I look forward to saving and planning for next October - I hope everyone else has had as much fun reading these creepy posts as I did researching and writing them!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Mystery of Lot 310

Magnet # 78: Pastoral Iowa Photo

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: The Kibby Family

Ahh, Iowa - yet another peaceful, seemingly innocent location with some deep, dark moments in its history. Yes, the state of Iowa has its own sinister haunted sites, but none measure up to the town of Villisca and a spot there that has come to be known as the Axe Murder House. It's notorious and supposedly haunted enough to receive national attention, bringing in droves of curious tourists and paranormal experts to its remote location every year.

It all began in June of 1912, when successful, local businessman J.B. Moore, his wife Sarah returned home one night with their four children and two overnight guests. They had been at their church, involved in a successful Children's Day Program, and their mood was light as they headed off to bed. Of course, they would never be seen alive again. By morning, their neighbor, Mary Peckham, had realized something was wrong. She'd neither seen the Moores nor heard any sound of the usual cacophony that resulted from so many young children. After failing to rouse the family herself, she called Mr. Moore's brother, Ross. When he arrived, all of the doors were locked and he had to use his own keys to enter. And that's when he made his gruesome discovery. Some say he ran out of the house, crying "there's a person dead in every bed!" Yes, all eight persons in the house had been bludgeoned to death by an axe, even the youngest child, who was five years old at the time.

Although fingerprinting technology was in its early stages at the time of the murder, the scene of the crime was so compromised that no expert could have made any sense out of it. Around one hundred locals soon found out about the crime, mobbing the area and touring through the house, some even grabbing mementos.  Almost all of the victims' faces had been covered with bedclothes after their murders, but there is a rumor that one person took a particularly disturbing souvenir - a part of Mr. Moore's skull. Finally, the National Guard arrived and kicked these ghouls out, but the damage had been done. Although the blood-stained axe had been left in the house, with fingerprints, and there were other kinds of evidence, such as a large slab of bacon that was removed from the freezer and left to thaw near the axe, the murderer - or murderers - were never caught.  Several theories exist as to who could have perpetrated the ghastly act.  Some said another local businessman and Senator who loathed Mr. Moore had, along with his son, hired a man to kill him alone, but that, once inside, he'd dispatched of the entire family.  A shady traveling minister was also in town at the time of the killings, who may have confessed to the crime, and was tried, but was acquitted.  By all accounts, he was mentally unstable.  And there is the possibility that a true serial killer slaughtered the family.  A string of murders had occurred during that time frame when several Midwest homes had been broken into at night and all of the occupants had been killed with an axe.  So there are a few possibilities as to the perpetrator of this crime, but one fact is almost certain - that individual (or individuals) is surely dead by now.

Yes, it would seem the matters behind the Villisca Axe Murder House, or Lot 310, as some locals call it, now solely regard the spirits, as many now claim the home is one of the most actively haunted spots in the country.  Of course, the living can visit, and even spend the night if they dare.  People claim they hear children's voices there when there are none around, that objects move on their own, and that photos taken there turn out strangely.  The current owners have stated that when they place balls on the floor, they will move on their own, in paths that are impossible to recreate.  Perhaps the most interesting tales come from the stream of renters that have lived there since the Moores perished.  One pregnant woman claimed to wake one night to a vision of an axeman at the foot of her bed, and when her husband heard noises himself, like someone inexplicably walking on the stairs, the couple fled.  Another tenant avoided the house so much that he began sleeping in the barn.  A family later lived there, and the two daughters insisted strange events were occurring, like all of their clothes being tossed out of the dresser when the room was empty.  Their father ignored them.  But, supposedly, one night he was sharpening his pocketknife when it flew out of his hand and stabbed him.  They vacated that night.  Yet, one resident who lived there over twenty years adamantly denies anything out of the ordinary is going on there.  So I suppose it's anyone's guess as to what is going on at Lot 310 in Villisca.

At the time of the murders, Villisca was flourishing.  It was on the railroad tracks, and businesses were coming to the town, bringing families and continued development.  Nowadays, however, it is described as forlorn and mostly abandoned, as the majority of what was once over two thousand residents have left.  Did the murders play a part in this?  Did people consciously leave after the community's innocence had been shattered, or was it a less subtle departure from its former time of promise?  Whatever the matter, Villisca will go on, a shadow of its former self, and a more unusual variety of tourists will continue to visit, ones that either wish to see the site of one of the twentieth century's most notorious unsolved crimes or those that hope to have an encounter with the supernatural, or, in some cases, maybe a little of both.

The End of the Ottomans

Magnet # 78: Turkish Flag Detail

Material: Acrylic

Purchased by: Mom & Dad

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's kinda funny that Greece and Turkey have national holidays one right after the other, given their longstanding rivalry? I don't make these dates up, I just post when it's appropriate. So yep, it's Republic Day over in Turkey, when they celebrate the 1923 amendment of the Turkish constitution, the creation of the Republic of Turkey, and the last of the Ottoman Empire.

For over 600 years, the Ottoman Empire straddled the Eastern and Western worlds, serving as a connection between the two and an amalgamation of both cultures. At its height, the Empire dominated much of the Eastern Mediterranean and was a considerable military threat. Powerful and capable Sultans added to the size of the Empire, bringing in lands from Europe, Asia, and Africa. But, eventually, the tide began to turn. Europeans made military advancements beyond the Ottomans, making them impossible to beat on the battlefield. The Empire thus lost a considerable amount of its European holdings. It was forced to become a primarily defensive army, and, later, to never venture into military engagements alone, but as part of an alliance. Reforms began to be enacted, and a Constitution was developed, giving citizens equal rights and freedom of belief, but it was abolished and later reenacted. The Empire fell into debt, ethnic groups within it quarrelled, and it was unable to maintain communication over its vast territories. After World War I, when the Ottomans emerged on the losing side, much of their land was partitioned by the Allies. Finally, after a period of uncertainty, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was able to amend the constitution, and a new country was formed. Sultanates were officially the way of the past - Republics were the way into the future.

Nowadays, Turkey is alive and flourishing, but signs of its Ottoman roots are still visible. For exaple, the current Turkish flag is actually inspired by that of the of the Ottoman Empire. Its crescent moon is a holy symbol from pre-Islamic times, and the color red was used by Ottomans for secular purposes, eventually becoming their signature color. The star, once consisting of eight points, was trimmed down to five in 1844. These symbols and color are said to have been inspired by a legend of an Ottoman battle site, where a vision of a crescent moon and star were glimpsed in a pool of blood. Some say, however, that the crescent and star were actually symbols of Constantinople that were adapted by the Turks when they conquered the city, and that the cresent is actually linked to Artemis, as it is her symbol. Regardless, the flag of Turkey is a clear indication that, although the Ottoman Empire may have officially ended 86 years ago, its descidents are alive and still connected to its traditions, and will continue to be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No, It's Not Okay

Magnet # 77: The Acropolis in Athens

Material: Ceramic

Purchased By: Me

Today in Greece, they're celebrating Ochi Day. It's the anniversary of the day in 1940 when then Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected Italian dictator Mussolini's request that he and the Axis Forces simply be allowed to occupy Greece. He did so by simply saying "Ochi" which means no in Greek. Before day's end, the Italians had attacked the Greek border and Greek citizens had taken to the streets, chanting "Ochi" in support of Metaxas. Greece may have entered World War II, but they were defiant and not going to simply surrender to the Axis powers. Even while the war raged on, Greek citizens continued to celebrate this day, and after the war had ended, it was made into a national holiday.

The Greek Army managed to fight off the Italians, forcing them past the Albanian border, and even taking parts of the country themselves, but this triumph caught the attention of Nazi Germany. They came to the aid of their allies, attacking with a Blitzkrieg campaign and Bulgaria invaded as well. By July of 1941, all of Greece had fallen and was divided between Italy, Germany, and Bulgaria in a triple occupation. During this time, the Germans massacred the Greek villages like Kommeno and even turned on the Italians, killing scores of their soldiers stationed at Kos and Cephallonia. Thousands of Greeks died during this time, and many were left homeless and starving. But they were not deterred. The resistance movement in Greece was one of the strongest offered by any occupied nation and it inspired the rest of Europe. Early on, the ancient Acropolis became the site of two of the most shocking and memorable acts of resistance to date in the war. One came when the Germans climbed up to where the flag was flying. There, they ordered the guard to take down the Greek flag and replace it with the Nazi swastika flag. Once he had taken down the Greek flag, he wrapped it around himself and leapt off the cliff to his death, a proud Greek to the end. The second occurred when two Athenian youths snuck up to the Acropolis and tore down the German flag now raised there under the cover of night. The pair are still alive and are now national heroes. German retaliation for these and other acts, however, were brutal, and for a time, they ceased. But by 1942, groups of resistance fighters had sprung up and would not go away. However, these groups later proved to be a detriment for the country once it was liberated in 1944 when German forces fled the coming of the Soviet Army. They then began to clash with one another, resulting in Civil War in 1946. All in all, it would take the Greeks decades to recover from the repercussions of the Axis Forces' occupation.

Throughout history, the Greeks have been invaded and occupied countless times, but they remain a proud and defiant nation. This is their opportunity to celebrate the fact that while some Europeans cowered before the Nazi forces during World War II, giving them little to no resistance whatsover, they showed the world that Greece is not a place that takes invaders lightly. Their military actions against Germany played an important part in draining their resources so the Allies could defeat them, although that is rarely acknowledged.  Yes, they may have paid dearly for their defiance, but once again, we are reminded that it is not okay to mess with Greece.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Terror in the Tower

Magnet # 76: Beefeater Guarding the Tower of London

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Debbie

When William the Conqueror designed and began construction on the Tower of London in 1078, it was intended to serve more as a trifold castle, prison, and fortress. Many of the kings of England later called this site their home and expanded to it. But over the years, the Tower became more of a prison and a place to hold treasures and weaponry. Eventually, the monarchy ceased to reside there and its primary use became holding and executing prisoners. It's a function that has earned the Tower a somewhat dubious standing in European history, as it is now the oldest palace, prison, and fortress on the continent.

I'm not sure if there is any other place in the world where so many historic figures have been imprisoned and even killed. Kings of France and Scotland were held there and even a King of England, Henry VI, was imprisoned at the Tower until he was murdered. Richard III kept his nephews, Edward V and Richard Duke of York, housed at the Tower, insisting it was for their own protection. However, the pair disappeared and were most likely killed there, presumably under Richard's orders. They were only twelve and ten years old at the time and have come to be known as the Tower Princes. Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia, was held at the Tower, executed at Tower Hill, and his remains are buried at the Tower. The Tower Green, a more private location inside the complex is where nobles such as King Henry VIII's wives, Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, as well as her sister-in-law, Jane Boleyn, all died. Later, the Lady Jane Grey also met her fate there. Guy Fawkes was held at the Tower after his failed attempt to blow up Parliament. Even Elizabeth Tudor spent two months there prior to becoming Queen when she was accused of treason against her sister, Mary I.

The anniversary of one of the Tower's most notorious executions is actually two days from now, on October 29. In 1618, Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded there. Though his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I was not always smooth, he was in her favor at the time of her death. Afterwards, however, he was arrested and tried for treason against King James. During this time, he was imprisoned at the Tower of London. He would spend over 13 years at the Tower, for although he was found guilty, King James continued to spare his life. He was finally released in 1616 and sent to lead an exploration to Venezuela. This did not go well, however - his men attacked a Spanish outpost and Raleigh's son was killed in the process. Upon his return to England, King James finally imposed Raleigh's death sentence, in part due to the Spanish Ambassador's demands. Defiant to the end, Raleigh was said to have made a quip about the axe and urge the executioner on. Some have called his execution a travesty and one of the ugliest moments in the history of England's justice system, for there was no real proof that Raleigh had ever plotted against King James, and they most likely killed an honorable, innocent man.

With all of the suffering, death, and torture that has occurred at the Tower, it is now rightfully known as England's most haunted building. For centuries, there have been ghost sightings at the Tower. The first reported one occurred in the 13th Century, when the Inner Curtain Wall was being built and the ghost of Thomas A. Becket was said to have appeared and destroyed a portion of the gate with a blow from his cross. A chapel was soon dedicated to him, and there were no more assaults on the site's progress. People have also claimed to see the ghosts of the Tower Princes, two boys in nightshirts, holding hands. About 200 years after their disappearance, a chest was unearthed in the Tower, containing the remains of two children. They were assumed to be those of the princes, and now they may haunt the site of their tragic demise. It is said Anne Boleyn walks the corridors, carrying her head under her arm, and the ghosts of Sir Walter Raleigh, who haunts the Queen's House, and Henry VI have also reportedly been sighted at the Tower. Some have claimed to see the ghost of the Lady Jane Grey on the anniversary of her death and that of her husband, who was also beheaded, is said to weep in Beauchamp Tower. It is also said that the cries of Guy Fawkes can be heard at the Tower, for he was tortured there. Perhaps the most alarming apparition is that of the Countess of Salisbury. Henry VIII ordered her execution, but she refused to put her head on the block and ran, forcing the axeman to pursue her and chop her to death in the process. Some have claimed to see her ghost reenacting the grisly chase and also to have seen the shadow of the axe as it fell. One of the more unusual sightings occurred in 1816, when a sentry claimed to see the apparition of a bear come out of the Jewel Room. His bayonet went straight through it and he was said to have later died from fright over this encounter. Considering the Royal Menagerie was once housed at the Tower of London, this tale may have some validity. And, of course, there are those who have reportedly seen entire processions of headless ghosts at the Tower. This place may very well be a hotbed of supernatural activities, and one of the world's most haunted sites.

Nowadays, the Tower is open to tours. It no longer holds prisoners and is very family-friendly. I don't think tours extend beyond 10 P.M., after the Ceremony of the Keys has locked up the facility, but there's plenty of interesting sights to take in during the rest of the day. One particularly interesting area to note is the Salt Tower. Although no particular ghosts are known to haunt this part of the Tower, strange occurrences have gone on there and dogs refuse to enter it. Workers at the site also avoid the area after dark. Some have claimed to be bitten and scratched by a vicious spirit that haunts this part of the Tower. Visitors can also look for the ten Ravens of the Tower, who are kept there by a Ravenmaster. Although Charles II almost had them removed centuries ago, he learned there is a legend that if ravens ever leave the Tower, it would crumble and England would meet with a disastrous fate. Ever since that time, they have been a tradition of the tower. Clearly, this nearly millennium-old structure is steeped in legends and tradition, and even if a visit there does not produce a ghostly encounter, one can certainly have a brush with history, even with some of England's darkest moments.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Poe Evermore

Magnet # 75: Poe's 2009 Bicentennial

Material: Laminated Paper

Purchased By: Me

Well, I have just returned from a weeklong, whirlwind tour of some of the Mid-Atlantic states and their cities. On Tuesday, I headed up to Charlottesville, VA from Savannah. The next day, I traveled east to Annapolis, MD and then out to Dover, DE on Thursday. After that, I came back over to Baltimore, MD and then down to Richmond, VA before heading home on Sunday. It was incredible - I was all by myself and I had a really good time, although I got lost everyday but the last one. It was cool to see what's north of Savannah since I always seem to head down south to Florida or west to Alabama and Texas. And, yes, I bought quite a few magnets to post here.

One of the three places that I was determined to see on my trip was the Poe Museum in Richmond. Edgar Allan Poe's dark, Gothic writings are a perfect match for the creepy theme I'm adhering to this month. He tapped into the human fears of matters like being buried alive, putrification, haunted homes, disease, and descent into madness. His works captivated readers of his time, gaining him fame and moderate financial success. Of course, his fans demanded more shocking, grisly tales and Poe obliged, publishing stories of revenge, murder, torture, and other vicious deeds. Over the years, his haunting stories terrified readers and inspired artists like Gustave Dore, Edmund Dulac, and Henry Clark. Poe provided an insight into the dark side of the human psyche, combining it with gripping details and a narrative that almost makes his audience believe they are witnessing his shocking events in person. If you want a good scare this Halloween night, read a few of his short stories alone by candlelight.

On the first day of my trip, I picked up a free magazine on touring Richmond, so I had all week to study it. The cover image had me intrigued. There was a smiling couple in the foreground enjoying their visit while a bust of Poe loomed in the background. But the part I was most interested in was the ghostly figure in the middle of the image. It was a tall, thin Poe-like young man dressed in garbs of the Romantic era. His image had been altered to appear translucent and otherworldly. Familiar with this as I was, you can imagine my surprise when the door of the Poe Museum opened and the ghostly man from the picture was behind it! He was dressed in modern clothes and was a Museum employee. When I asked, he confirmed he had posed for the cover. I thought it was so cool, I even took my own picture of him seated behind his desk. So I guess you could say I almost had my own encounter with an apparition while I was on my trip. At the very least, it was a little shocking for a moment.

I had seen this incredible Poe illustration by Bret Alexander on the Museum's store website featured on a magnet, but was pretty alarmed when, right before my trip, it vanished. Sure enough, I got there and it had sold out, but they still had matchboxes featuring the design, so I bought one to convert into a magnet. It's a little smaller than it would have been as a magnet, but I have so many magnets to cram into my kitchen that I'm okay with that. This and another image were made specifically to commemorate Poe's Bicentennial this year. The entire city of Richmond is involved in this yearlong event. Back in January, Garrison Keillor visited the Landmark Theater and read some of Poe's works. In July, the Library of Virginia opened an exhibition of rare Poe manuscripts that runs through the end of this month. Even other Virginia attractions like Maymont House, St. John's Church, and the Soundry are featuring events and items that tie in with the celebration. And, of course, the Poe Museum is at the center of all the festivities, hosting one event after another, until their final Unhappy Hour on October 29.

It's amazing to see how much influence Edgar Allan Poe has two hundred years after his birth. His macabre work has affected every generation that has come after him. He was a pioneer of dark writings which will doubtlessly inspire and terrify for another two hundred years - and beyond.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Witchy and Whimsical

Magnet # 74: Paulina Stuckey-Cassidy's Doin' the Happy Dance

Material: Plastic

Purchased By: N/A - given to me, free

Well, Halloween is getting closer still, so if you need a costume and haven't figured out just what to buy, it's time to act! I thought this image of a cute little witch and her adorable dog familiars might help to get everyone in a Halloween mood. After all, there aren't many costumes more appropriate for this holiday than that of a witch.

It's pretty tough not to love artists who give out business card magnets with their work on them for free. Well, for me at least. I met Paulina Stuckey-Cassidy a couple of years ago at Dragon*Con in their Art Show. I'd brought a copy of The Art of Faery, a fantasy art compilation of work by about twenty different artists for another artist to sign. I thought it might be a nice way to break the ice. Once she had finished signing the page where her work was featured, she began thumbing through the book to see if any other artists featured in it were at the Con. Turns out Paulina was, and she had the booth right next door! Once I was finished at the first artist's booth, I moved on down to Paulina's table, introductions already made. Paulina was so nice - she signed my book on her page and even added a sketch. Then she gave me this magnet. It was toward the end of the Con, so most of her products had been sold, but I ended up buying a light switch cover with her delightful work on it. I still have it up in my bedroom. She was so nice to me -and to my shame, I've not talked to her since. I don't know if she's been at Dragon*Con in the years since, and I keep forgetting to look for her. I intend to change that next year.

Since meeting Pauline, I've been checking out her work on her website, She's very prolific and her work is so cute and whimsical, even when it's a little dark. I love her linework and the amount of detail she puts into all of her art. She also has a selection of books that she's both written and illustrated and she's even collaborated with singer Tori Amos on a book called The Bee Sides. She has a number of creepy and Halloween-themed images, so if you'd like to see more images to inspire a All Hallows Eve state of mind, give her site a look.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One World United

Magnet #73: United Nations Headquarters, New York

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Dad

This is United Nations Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945. World War II had just come to an end, and it was clear that the League of Nations wasn't capable of creating a powerful, lasting dialog between the nations it consisted of, which did not include the United States. A new organization was needed, and Franklin Roosevelt himself provided the name "United Nations" when referring to the Allied Powers. When the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, the Republic of China, and the United States joined together to formally begin the United Nations, it was hoped that it would maintain peace and encourage nations to come together to solve economic, social, and humanitarian issues.

When the time came to find a place for the physical headquarters of the United Nations, the Rockefeller family played a major role. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. himself paid $8.5 million to buy some of the best real estate in all of New York City after his son Nelson negotiated the purchase. They then signed it over to the City for free. The area is now international territory and consists of a complex of four buildings and a park. The 39 story Secretariat is the most visible and important structure there.

Some might argue that the United Nations is weak, ineffective, corrupt or what have you. Personally, I'm glad for its very existence. It's a sign that we live in a world where war is considered wrong, and countries that invade and conquer one another are censured in some way. Sure, we still have wars like those in Afghanistan or Iraq, or terrible acts perpetrated in part of Africa, but we have come so far in terms of achieving some kind of peace in this world. I cannot imagine - or perhaps don't want to - living in the Ancient World, where one army after another invaded whatever land was known to exist, killing, enslaving, and committing all sorts of atrocities in the meanwhile. Armies like the Etruscans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Huns, and the Romans were a continual threat and invasion and war could never be far from people's minds. And Medieval times weren't really any better. The bloody Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land took place then. England and France were continually at each other's throats, particularly during the Hundred Years' War. Even once those times were done, conflicts persisted, eventually leading up to the atrocities committed during World War II, such as the Holocaust and the Bataan Death March. Once the horror of that war had ended and those acts became public, it was clear countries needed to gather together to make some kind of change, in the hopes of preventing future war and war crimes. And the United Nations was their solution.

In these past times, war was a way of life nearly all over the globe. Countries were almost expected to invade and engage in bloody acts, and did so for thousands of years. The United Nations marks a change in human consciousness, an attempt to shift from the bloody mindset of the past to a present where war is not an accepted way of life. Nowadays, in most parts of the world, people don't carry a weapon at all times out of necessity as they have in the past. I doubt we'll ever know peace on Earth, but perhaps, with some help from the United Nations and the countries who are a part of it, we may pave the way toward a more peaceful future.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Keeping His Post

Magnet # 72: St. Simons Island Lighthouse

Material: Metal

Purchased By: Me

There are actually two reportedly haunted lighthouses within a day's drive from Savannah. I've already discussed the one in St. Augustine, and now it's the St. Simons Island lighthouse's turn. The first lighthouse built on this spot wasn't all that interesting until 1862, when it was blown up by fleeing Confederate troops to prevent it from assisting the Union once they took control of the area. When the Civil War was over, construction began on a new lighthouse in 1872. And that's when the tragedies began piling up.

During construction of the lighthouse, the head of construction and some workers died of malaria. Mosquitoes breeded in the stagnant ponds surrounding the area, making the area very unsafe. Finally, years after the structure's completion, major construction was undertaken to make the lighthouse safe for habitation. This was important, considering the adjoining keeper's house was home to two families: the keeper and his family inhabited the first floor, while his assistant and his family lived upstairs. Working together and living basically in the same space would be difficult for many people to manage. It was practically a given that, at some time, this much togetherness would cause friction between the keeper and his assistant. But no one could have imagined how badly emotions would turn at the St. Simons Island lighthouse.

In 1880, an argument between then lighthouse keeper Frederick Osborne and his assistant, John Stephens, turned deadly when Osborne was shot in the stomach by Stephens and later died because of the injury. No one is quite certain what brought on the dispute, but it's believed that Stephens was offended by Osborne's inappropriate treatment of his wife. Stephens was arrested but eventually acquitted by a jury and he went on to become head keeper. But many claim he had additional company of the supernatural variety. It was around that time when odd, unaccountable footsteps began to be heard in the lighthouse. And a few noteworthy claims of supernatural activity in the lighthouse have surfaced in the years since. One of the more remarkable ones came from a later keeper's wife, who had apparently known Osborne and had one been promised by him that if she ever needed his help, to just call for him. Her husband was away and she was tending to the lighthouse alone, finding problems with the mechanisms beyond her control. Apparently, furious, she called out to Osborne and saw a figure appear near her. She passed out and when she came to, the light was mysteriously fixed. Another lighthouse keeper's wife, Mrs. Svendsen, moved there with her husband in the early 1900s. They brought the family dog, Jinx, along with them. Soon, she began hearing the inexplicable footsteps and noticing an odd behavior change in Jinx. The usually friendly animal would growl whenever these footsteps sounded, and his hair would often stand on end as he'd back into corners. Perhaps it's true, as many claim, that animals have a better perception of spirits and apparitions than their human companions. Whatever the case, Jinx's odd behavior continued throughout the Svendsen's stay at the lighthouse.

Is the lighthouse on St. Simons Island truly haunted, as residents of the area and visitors say? If you're curious, visit the site of Frederick Osborne's murder and climb the steps of the lighthouse he once tended - and may still. Maybe you'll be able to hear his heavy footsteps and smell the kerosene of his lamp, as others have claimed to before.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

Magnet # 71: Mauna Loa Orange

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Dad

It's okay to feel like a nut today, given that it's National Nut Day. Since it's not exactly clear whether it's a day set aside to celebrate the kooky, nutty folks of the world or enjoy the partaking of a handful of nuts, I guess it's fine to do both. But, as far as this post goes, I'll be focusing on the consumption of nuts, like the ones Mauna Loa produces. Yes, I know there's a piece of fruit portrayed on this magnet, but they sell nuts, too - particularly macadamia nuts, which can be so delightful when combined with white chocolate and cookie dough batter.

For years now, one health study after another has been extolling the health virtues of nuts.  Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, which is believed to promote healthy aging, and can possibly reduce the risks of heart disease and cancer. Brazil nuts contain selenium, an antioxidant agent that helps the brain function properly. It's also believed to reduce the risk of prostate cancer for men, and one or two Brazil buts a day provides enough selenium to make your daily quota.  Peanuts, which are actually legumes, and not truly a nut, are nonetheless healthy.  They contain niacin, which can raise good cholesterol levels, and folate, which can help your body in a number of ways, including helping nerves function correctly.  Walnuts are some of the best nuts you can eat, even if they're not the most tasty to some folks.  They have quite a few vitamins, and instead of having a variety of nuts to get these nutrients, you can just eat a handful of them.  Most importantly, they're also a great source of omega-3, which is a highly beneficial fatty acid.  Its benefits include reducing the risk of heart attack and strokes, and may even prevent depression and Alzheimer's.  Many nuts are also a good source of copper, which helps the body produce healthy red blood cells, and B-6, which helps produce antibodies and insulin. Nearly all nuts also have no cholesterol and almost no sodium, unless manufacturers add salt to them. However, they do contain a fair amount of fat, so make sure you don't eat more than a handful. On that note, however, nuts do have a fair amount of protein, fiber that can help dieters feel fuller for longer amounts of time. They can be added to salads, baked goods, cooked veggies, pasta, and cereal to assist in the weight loss process.  

I've been trying to have a handful of almonds most days for the past half year or so. I haven't noticed any changes for the better, but I haven't noticed any for the worse, either. So grab a jar of your favorites, and feel like a nut today! Then practice cannibalism...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not Crystal Clear

Magnet # 70: Dolphins in the Waters of Belize

Material:  Copper

Purchased By:  Mary

You know, I had never thought of Belize as a particularly scary spot.  There's sand and surf, waterfalls, a barrier reef, and luscious jungles.  It's a paradise for travelers that come from all over the world.  And then Andrew Zimmern took a trip there on Bizarre World and changed my opinion completely.

The original inhabitants of this land were the Maya, who practiced human sacrifice.  And they often preferred to offer up the young to the gods because they believed them to be pure.  And the shameful practice was brought back into the limelight about twenty years ago when an archaeologist discovered Actun Tunichil Muknal, or the "Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher."  But when Zimmern visited the place, he called it the "Cave of the Crystal Maiden," referring to what lay in wait there for him.  For this is a place of altars where the natives sacrificed their own to the rain god in times of drought, and the evidence of their dark deeds remains.

It's a kind of creepy cave to get into.  First, visitors must swim or wade deep into a pool that surrounds the opening, leaving them wet for a good duration of their visit.  Once inside, they walk through a set of chambers for about an hour and a half until they find themselves at a place dubbed "The Cathedral."  Here lies a pile of human remains from fourteen different bodies.  The holes in most of the heads clearly establishes them as sacrificial victims and not as bodies in a burial space.  Seven of these victims were less than five years old.  One is particularly disturbing - the remains of an infant about two months old.  You could tell Zimmern was a bit overwhelmed by this sight, being a parent himself.  It's just hard to imagine how anyone could sacrifice a baby.  But there is still one site of interest beyond "The Cathedral."

The most intriguing remains in the cave are those of the Crystal Maiden.  She is set apart from the rest of the piles of bones, on a higher level, so it's believed she was a particularly important sacrifice.  She was most likely in her teens or early twenties when she was killed, probably by a blow to the head.  There is a stone celt which may have been the instrument of her demise near her remains on a shelf.  What is particularly striking about her remains is that they have fused with the floor of the cave and a layer of brown calcite has covered them entirely, resulting in a crystal sheen for which she was named.  Throughout his visit, Zimmern remained a bit in awe of all that he saw.  A trip to the cave can take about half a day, but I imagine for those that venture there, the chilling memories can last a lifetime.

Belize is also connected to another mysterious legend:  that of the Crystal Skulls. Over time, 13 Crystal Skulls have been found scattered all the way from Mexico to South America, usually near Aztec or Mayan ruins.  But some believe that neither civilization is responsible for the creation of these artifacts and that they may be the remnants of an older, more mysterious empire, perhaps even that of Atlantis.  No one can say how old these skulls are, but some may be as old as 5,000 years.  And they are believed to have incredible magical and healing powers.  The mystery surrounding them is becoming as great as that of Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Egypt.  And considering they were featured in the last Indiana Jones film, their reputation is likely to grow greater still.

The Crystal Skull that is perhaps the most famous and most mysterious was said to found in what is now Belize in 1924. British explorer F.A. Mitchell-Hedges claimed his daughter Anna discovered the quartz skull with a removable jawbone in a temple there.  Its authenticity was been called into question over the years, and the fact that Mitchell-Hedges has only allowed it to be scientifically examined once hasn't helped.  During that assessment, conflicting evidence was found.  It was discovered that the skull was carved against the crystal's natural axis, something that no modern artist would have done, as it would almost certainly cause cracking.  Also, there were no scratches that metal instruments would have produced.  Some have thought that perhaps diamonds and sand were used to shape and polish the skull, a process that could have taken as many as 300 years.  However, there were holes on the piece that appeared to have been made by a modern drill.  Overall, the experts were baffled by the skull and unable to make any concrete conclusions about it, although one felt it shouldn't exist at all.  The most disturbing part of the skull is that Mitchell-Hughes claimed the Maya used it to inflict death, but, to this day, many believe her story to be a hoax.

Belize's ancient past is clearly surrounded in a shroud of mystery.  No one can say for certain what civilizations have lived there, but what has been left behind in the country is fascinating.  Although the Cave of the Crystal Maiden and the Mitchell-Hughes Skull have already been discovered, this unsuspecting country may still hold other dark, creepy secrets that have yet to be unearthed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goodnight, Sweetheart

Magnet # 69:  Chinese Girl with Panda Teddy Bear

Material: Clay

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

For my birthday this year, I got a really cute set of six magnets featuring Asian children in traditional costumes. This one is the smallest of the bunch - she is so adorable! And looking at her, I can't help but be reminded two things:  that cute song "Goodnight Sweetheart" from the film Three Men and a Baby and of one of my more recent Halloween costumes.

Back when I was still in college, I had a couple of Halloween parties to attend with pretty much the same group of people. I decided to spend money on one costume and figure out what I already had on hand that I could use for a second one. I ended up focusing on my favorite pair of red pajamas with green stars. They're comfy, fleecy, and are full coverage. I put my hair up in pigtails with bows, painted freckles on my face, borrowed a teddy bear, and finished the outfit off with a pair of mouse slippers my Dad's Mom had bought for me awhile back. I told everyone I was a kid waiting up for Santa on Christmas Eve. It was a hit at the party. I still have a pic one of my classmates took of me that night (and no, I'm not posting it here). Sure, some girls had on sexier stuff like bustiers, but I figured I was alot more comfortable and warmer in my costume. And, hey, I got to wear pajamas in public - how fun!

Considering the current state of the economy, thrifty is in. So have a look at your closet and see if there's anything you can utilize for a completely unique costume. And maybe, just as I did, you'll want to wear it every year after this one!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The House that Sarah Built

Magnet # 68: Winchester Mystery House

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

Set amidst the modern sprawl of San Jose is a structure oddly out of place, a Victorian-style mansion and its manicured, decorated grounds - the Winchester Mystery House. This mammoth structure has the dubious honor of being one of the strangest residences in the United States. It's also reportedly haunted. No one is quite certain how many rooms are in this 4-story behemoth, but it's estimated to be 160. It's a testament to what great fortune and an unstable recipient can create and it packs in throngs of intrigued visitors every year.

When her young daughter and spouse died, Sarah Winchester was devastated. According to the legend, she visited a medium who channeled the spirit of her late husband, William Winchester, heir of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The medium claimed William said a curse against their family had killed him and his daughter. The firearms they produced had killed countless people and some of their vengeful spirits were after the family. He told Sarah to move West and buy a house there and never stop building onto it, for if the construction ended, she would die. Sarah had been left a fortune by William's death, so she wasted no time moving to California, where she found a six room house being built in the Santa Clara Valley and was able to buy it from its current owner. In 1884, she hired a construction team and began making her own alterations to the house, work that would not end for another 38 years.

Working 24 hours a day for every day of the year, a team of 22 men brought Sarah Winchester's twisted vision to life. The house gained all sorts of oddities. Staircases stopped at ceilings, doors opened to sharp drops outside or blank walls, and all of the stair posts were mounted upside down. People believed Sarah did this intentionally to confound and mislead the spirits who pursued her. She also formed an obsession with the number 13. Quite a few staircases have 13 steps, and many windows had 13 panes, and there are 13 bathrooms in the house. There are 13 hooks for robes in the seance room where Sarah communicated with the spirits each night. When a chandelier with 12 candle-holders, another one was added on. Sarah even signed her will 13 times in 13 different places. She may have formed her attachment to the number in the hopes it would ward off her evil spirits.

Eventually, the house rose as high as seven stories until the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, when part of it was destroyed. Sarah was convinced the earthquake was caused by the spirits who tormented her and that they were furious she had nearly completed the house. With a newfound fervor, she had thirty rooms boarded up and began both reconstruction and expansion. This continued until 1922, when Sarah died in her sleep at age 83 and all construction on her home ceased immediately, and the house was eventually converted to a tourist attraction.

It's believed that the spirit of Sarah herself now haunts the home that consumed her in life. A figure of a woman in Victorian clothing that is most likely her has appeared throughout the house. There are all sorts of odd goings on around the house. People have claimed to hear voices, footsteps, and the sound of an organ in the Blue Room. Cold spots can be felt throughout the house, doorknobs turn on their own, and sometimes windows spontaneously bang so hard they break. Some have even claimed to smell chicken soup boiling in the kitchen that hasn't been used for years. The sounds of hammering and construction which resounded through the house for 38 years are also said to be still heard, even when there are no renovations underway. Perhaps they are made by the ghost of a construction worker that people have claimed to see toiling away in the basement, pushing a wheelbarrow filled with coal. Clearly, odd forces are underway at this unusual mansion.

The Winchester Mystery has worked its way into popular culture, inspiring Stephen King to write Rose Red, a story of a malevolent mansion that is as odd as its predecessor. I've always wanted to see Sam and Dean Winchester take a trip there on the television show Supernatural. Not only do they have their last name in common, they also fight evil spirits, so all the writers would have to do is add a poltergeist and we'd have a perfect fit. They might not be able to film on location, though. That was impossible for the Rose Red television miniseries because of the surrounding traffic and the enclosed nature of the house itself. But it would still be very cool - I certainly hope it happens sometime. For now, you can catch the Travel Channel's 7-hour live Most Haunted special on the mansion, which airs tonight. I think it may just be available on their website, but you can check out for more details. Regardless of what they have found, this bizarre residence is now rightfully included in lists of the creepiest places in the world, and its reputation will likely only continue to grow scarier still, all part of Sarah Winchester's abnormal legacy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Island of Enchantment

Magnet# 67: Coqui in Puerto Rican House

Material: Ceramic

Purchased By: Dad

Today marks the anniversary of U.S. troops gaining control of Puerto Rico in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, paving the way for the area to become a United States territory. This came after years of occupation by the Spanish.  During that time, the natives of the island were enslaved and forced into hard labor.  Disease, suicide, and violence by the Spanish had nearly killed them off entirely.  When the Spanish finally freed them in 1520, only to import African slaves to work in their places, they had been reduced to a fraction of their former population.  Over the years, the natives gained minor representation within the Spanish Parliament, but remained impoverished and dissatisfied by their situation, rebelling at one point.  Because of this, they gained a semi-autonomous rule until they were invaded by the United States and Spain signed over control of the island.

At first, life under United States control wasn't all that different from that of the Spanish.  Military control was established and Puerto Rican officials were appointed by U.S. Presidents.  Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917, but tensions continued, resulting in massacres, even after residents of the island were given the right to elect their own governor.  It wasn't until 1952 that the country became a Commonwealth with much greater rights.  By then, money from FDR's New Deal had made its way there, helping to industrialize the area and give its inhabitants a higher quality of life.  Nowadays, tensions between the two countries have calmed down and it seems we're in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Puerto Rico calls itself "Las Isla del Encanto" or "The Island of Enchantment." With such a lofty claim, they'd better be able to back it up. So what exactly can one be enchanted by there?  Well, evidence of the Spanish rule can still be seen at locales such as Fort San Cristobal, the largest fortification they built in the New World.  Old San Juan was the first establishment of the Spaniards and features quite a few preserved buildings from those days as well as the fort of El Morro.  Or course, the island is filled with all sorts of beautiful beaches to be enchanted by, including the Seven Seas and Rincon Bay.  Beach goers can simply relax or engage in activities such as snorkeling, sailing, and fishing.  Andrew Zimmern was enchanted by an area in the mountains of Puerto Rico known as the "Pork Highway."  He visited it for an episode of Bizarre Foods and learned that they roast so much pork there that they've become one of the best locales in the world to sample the meat.  Andrew said it was come of the best he'd tasted - and he's eaten plenty.  So that's a great place to visit if you're a meat lover.  Personally, I'd make a beeline for the Ponce Museum of Fine Art.  That's where Flaming June, the most famous painting by my favorite artist, Frederick, Lord Leighton, is usually on display. My Dad said it's the pride of the Museum and that, during his business trip there a few years back, he saw advertisements and billboards featuring the image around the island.  Seeing it in person would absolutely be enchanting for me.  However, it and another Victorian painting in the Museum by Edward Burne-Jones are currently on loan to Tate Britain, so I guess I'd better wait a bit if I want to see them in Puerto Rico.  Of course, there's also the opportunity to see and hear the coqui, the cute little frog that's the unofficial animal of the island and is featured on this magnet.  But that's another post entirely...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

One Sweet Idea

Magnet # 66: Lindsay Archer's Forbidden Love

Material: Plastic

Purchased By: N/A - given to me, free

When I visited my friend Lindsay this past weekend, I raided her fridge without ever opening the door. She's actually an extremely talented fantasy artist and had an assortment of magnets featuring her work that she was happy to pass onto the cause. She even let me rummage through her scrapbook paper so I could take some to use in my photo backgrounds as well. She is just awesome! I was so pleased to find this magnet - I knew Sweetest Day was coming but I didn't have any romantic couple magnets. But this one fits perfectly. It depicts a young human man and a female fairy who have fallen in love, but they are worlds apart and they know their families will not approve, so they have met in a secret embrace. Star-crossed, doomed lovers are a time-honored subject in art. Characters like Paolo and Francesca, Tristan and Iseult, and Romeo and Juliet have been depicted in countless forms over the years and Lindsay has done an admirable job giving a modern look to this long standing tradition. For this image, she's followed the style of Arthur Rackham, a very influential fairy artist of the 1920s. It's one of my favorite images by Lindsay. But I have a lot of favorites when it comes to her work. You can see why at

As I mentioned, today is Sweetest Day. Which begs the question: what the heck is Sweetest Day? Well, it's mainly celebrated in the Midwestern States and it's a day when people give the ones they love sweet presents like candy, cards, and flowers. So it's kind of a Valentine's Day in October. Apparently, it was created by Herbert Birch Kingston in Cleveland, Ohio in 1921 when a council of twelve confectioners convened and amassed 20,000 boxes of candy which were given out to the elderly, poor, shut-ins, and orphans in the area. Kingston wanted these people to remember they, too, were cared about. It was both a nice gesture and a great PR move. In the years since, the observance was moved to the third Saturday in October and candy manufactures have tried to boost it to the level of holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, but it has never really caught on in many areas of the United States. I've definitely never celebrated this holiday. I guess I'd pretty much written it off as another ploy by card and candy companies, but I'm glad to know its origins are more philanthropical than that.

So Happy Sweetest Day, everyone! If you're inspired, stop by Hallmark and pick up a card or two for the ones you love. And they need not be a romantic love of yours - unlike Valentine's Day this day is intended for everyone you love, family and friends alike. Or perhaps, in keeping to the true spirit of the day, give something nice to someone in need. With our current economic woes, it shouldn't be too tough to find a deserving party. Of course, if you just wait a couple of weeks, you can simply buy the candy and stay home while the masses come to you. But that's another holiday entirely...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Empire of the Dead

Magnet # 65: Flags of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Dad

Aah, Paris - it's the city of lights, love, and art. It's also the city that sits atop about 185 miles of tunnels displaying the remains of around 6 million bodies. What, you haven't heard about the Catacombs of Paris before? It's perhaps Paris' least advertised tourist destination and one of the creepiest places in the world.

In the late seventeenth century, graveyards in Paris, particularly the almost ten centuries old Les Innocents cemetery, were beginning to overwhelm the city, bringing illnesses and diseases to those living nearby. Finally, a solution was arrived upon: bodies were to be buried outside the city in the future and those already interred there would be moved to empty quarries beneath Paris. For years, under the cover of night, bones were moved to these areas in processions overseen by priests, where they were displayed all over the walls. Artistic care was taken in this arrangement and the skulls and other body parts were often assembled in shapes, such as a cross or a heart. One sign at the entrance even proclaims (in French) "Stop! Here is the empire of the dead." The photographs of these ossuaries are equal parts fascinating and revolting. In the time since their creation, they have grown into a morbid tourist destination. Even Napoleon III once visited them with his son. And they continue to draw in as many as 250,000 curious guests a year.

It's funny - I've heard people swear they will never visit Paris, yet waver in their resolve when I bring up the Catacombs. But nobody will be touring them this Halloween, and perhaps not anytime soon. Vandals broke in on the night of September 11 and caused some damage, knocking over stacks of bones and making pathways unsafe for visitors. Until the authorities can make some sense of what happened and perhaps make arrests, the Catacombs are closed to the public indefinitely. Personally, I hope the jerks who did this unleashed some sort of curse and their punishment will be more of the supernatural variety, but I guess that's unlikely to happen. Then again, you never know in a place as otherworldly as the Catacombs.

Even with all of my online magnet searches, I've never seen a magnet of the Catacombs, but I would love to get one someday. I decided to post this one today not only to mention this creepy locale but because it's the 216th anniversary of Marie Antoinette's execution at the guillotine in 1793. Usually, I'd rather commemorate a birth instead of a death, but for this month's theme, the latter seems appropriate. Although her life ended sadly in imprisonment, a ridiculously unfair trial, and beheading, Marie Antoinette continues to fascinate modern history buffs and audiences alike. Some portray her as a self-indulgent traitor who didn't care about the suffering of others, so long as she lived in extravagance. Others see her as a penitent, loving mother thrown into a world she didn't understand and used as a scapegoat by the Revolution. There are two modern film portrayals of her that are worth a watch. Of course, there's Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette where Kirsten Dunst plays her as a somewhat confused and scared girl trying to gain control of the situation in which she has landed. Watching this opulent film with all of its gorgeous costumes, it's hard not to feel sympathy for the title character. If you'd like a less friendly adaptation of the doomed monarch, Joley Richardson did a wonderful job portraying her in a supporting role in the film The Affair of the Necklace. It tells of how a scandal regarding the aforementioned necklace helped contribute to Marie Antoinette's demise. Hilary Swank stars and The Mentalist's Simon Baker is pretty funny playing a French gigolo. It's said to be based on true events and offers a far less happy ending than that of Marie Antoinette. Watching both of these can help establish a more well-rounded view of the former Queen of France.

So there you have it - the other side of Paris. It may be considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world but it has its own wicked deeds and dark places to contend with. I think it is a place of extremities: for every beautiful monument or lavish painting in the Louve, there is a woeful tale from the French Revolution or a skull on display in the Catacombs. Its streets have been both scattered with gold and filled with blood. Fortunately for modern residents and tourists, the opulence of Paris dominates most of the city and the tokens of the sins of its past are quietly tucked away where only the more determined can find them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Come on, Get Crabby

Magnet # 64: Maxine "Have a Nice Day"

Material: Paper

Purchased By: Me

Today is National Grouch Day, a time set aside to not celebrate when it's okay to be grumpy, stay home, and spread your pessimism to anyone who's in a good mood.  It was created by Sesame Street Magazine to recognize grouchy figures around the world, particularly its own character, perhaps the world's most famous grouch, Oscar the Grouch.

While I don't have a magnet of Oscar, I thought this one of Maxine would fill in nicely. She's presented as more crabby than grouchy, but I think those two qualities are enough alike. If you've never heard of her before, Maxine is a crotchety senior citizen who pulls no punches and tells it like it is. She was created by Jack Wagner and debuted at Hallmark back in 1986 as part of their line of Shoebox cards. It's hard to believe, old as she seems, that she's technically just twenty-three. Maxine and her companion Floyd the dog have grown immensely in popularity and now she is not just available in greeting cards, she also appears in other products such as ornaments, books, and magnets like this one. Actually, this was a pretty cool deal - it was a magnet stuck to a greeting card I picked up at Hallmark a few years ago. There were three different designs and I bought one card for myself and another for my Dad's Mom, who is pretty fond of Maxine herself. I think it would be great if they made more cards with magnets on the front. Well, I'd certainly buy them. But I have to be careful with this one - it's just paper with no covering. So if it gets a stain, I won't be able to clean it off. Luckily, I seem to have found a safe spot for it on my fridge.

So just why do people love Maxine so much? I mean, when you get down to it, she can be quite rude. Maybe they like her because she tells it like it is. Perhaps it's because they've never thought of something the way she says it and it makes them laugh. I guess there are a host of reasons why. But I think Maxine had to be portrayed as old to be quite so difficult. For some reason, it's kinda funny when older folks vent and rant about the world. They've lived longer than most and have almost earned the right to do so. I don't think people would take to Maxine as they have if she were drawn looking as though she were twenty-three years old.

So take after Maxine and Oscar and release your inner grouch today.  It's the one time you're going to have a good excuse.  You can get inspiration by checking out Maxine's own blog, - I love that she has a blog!  Once you're good and ready, release your inner grouch.  And if anyone has the nerve to try and cheer you up, let 'em have it!