BOO! Did I scare you? It seems that this time of year I spend most of my days and nights doing just that: telling chilling stories and answering multitudes of questions about the ghosts and haunts of Cape Girardeau, Just how (you may ask) did a girl who sleeps with the lights on after watching anything remotely spooky become a “ghost expert?”
Several years ago I was looking for ways to increase revenue flow into the coffins (ummm…I meant coffers) of Continuing Education. I noticed that other schools across the country had begun offering various spooky, Halloween-themed activities. It sounded fun and those schools were experiencing amazing enrollment numbers. I made a few phone calls and our first Ghost Hunting 101 workshop materialized out of thin air (ok…I’ll stop with the ghostly play on words.) Our first year, we had over 100 participants…yep that’s right, over 100! The following year we added (thanks in large part to Dr. Frank Nickell and Tom Nuemeyer) haunted historical tours of the downtown Cape Girardeau area. Last year, my office also became involved in Halloween Science Night a wonderful (and FREE) evening of science, spooks and candy for children throughout the region. My October is now a spooktacular (sorry…couldn’t resist) non-stop, Halloween free-for –all. Do I love it? That’s complicated. I love the fun and festivities. I spend most of the month decked out in one costume or another, meeting people like you and having a blast. However, there is another, less comfortable, part of all this graveyard frolicking and pumpkin exploding (really..we blow things up at Halloween Science Night!) I’ve seen things….things I can’t explain. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. This skeptic may be well on her way to the land of the true believers. If you want to know what I’ve seen and heard, check out this article and, believe me, that is just the tip of the iceberg. One thing is for sure, I’m not going to be taking up ghost hunting as a hobby anytime soon. Why? For starters, I feel that “hunting” something implies a desire to actually find one’s prey. Do you really want to find the thing lurking in the shadows? If so, you are a braver soul than I am!
If, like me, you are looking more for Halloween fun than true-life terror, we still have a few haunted history tours left this week. Give me a call and join the fun. I will tell you all about joy boats, tapping ghosts and restless soldiers from days gone by. I promise you won’t be sorry you got off the couch! Want a tidbit of Halloween history? How about the story of why we carve pumpkins? For the answer to this question, we have to look at old Irish folklore.
The story of the jack-o’-lantern is about a shifty farmer named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. When the devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, which made it impossible for the devil to climb down. In exchange for help getting out of the tree, the devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven because of his dealing with the devil (his sins didn’t help his cause…not a nice man our Jack.) Jack was also turned away from hell because of his trickery with the devil. Condemned to wander the earth, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil and used it for a lantern to light his way. As he wandered the earth as a ghost, he became known as “Jack of the Lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns. That is how we came to carve pumpkins in America. Don’t you feel smart now that you know that story?
In the interest of keeping you smart and well-fed this Halloween, I thought I would share a party idea and recipe.
Mummy Meat Loaves Recipe
Sweet cherry tomatoes are hidden in the center of these mini-meat loaves, offering a welcome burst of juicy flavor when you take a bite..
• 3/4 lb white or yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
• Kosher salt and pepper
• 2 large eggs
• 2 Tbsp ketchup
• 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
• 3/4 lb ground beef
• 1/2 lb ground pork
• 12 grape tomatoes
• 3/4 cup lowfat sour cream
• 24 frozen peas, thawed
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with foil liners. Place the potatoes in a pot, add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt, reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper; stir in the bread crumbs. Add the garlic and carrot and mix to combine. Add the beef and pork and mix just until incorporated. Divide the meat mixture among the foil liners and push a tomato into the center of each one. Transfer to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the meat registers 155°F, 14 to 16 minutes.
3. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the sour cream and 1/4 tsp salt and mash until very smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-in. ribbon tip (Wilton 104). Transfer the meat loaves to a platter and pipe the potatoes back and forth over each top to resemble a mummy’s wrapping. Place 2 peas on each for eyes.
I “borrowed” this recipe from Women’s Day but I have modified it for ease of cooking by using instant mashed potatoes (I add sour cream and butter to make them taste “real.”) I also used a plain plastic bag with the corner snipped off (because I don’t keep pastry bags) to pipe the potatoes. I made these for a kid’s cooking class and admit to a little apprehension about how the kids would respond to meatloaf. They LOVED these little guys and I have kept them at the top of my favourites list because they are simple, quick and tasty! I also find that recipes for Halloween sweets and treats are everywhere but it is much harder to find an entrée recipe that is kid-friendly.
So…now that you have fed the kiddos, how do you keep them busy until time to trick-or-treat. I absolutely LOVE this game:
Purchase two or more witch’s hat(s) at the dollar store and stuff with paper until solid. Then tape or nail the bottom to a piece of wood. The wood should be smaller than the hat so you can’t see it. Now purchase 6 glow in the dark necklaces or purchase light wooden ring or Frisbee (can add glow in the dark paint or tape if you will be outside.)
Now during a party, you can divide the group into two teams and place the witch’s hats 5, 8, 10 or 12 feet away from the throwing line. Each line is given 3 rings each and told that each player will have 3 tries to toss a ring around the witch’s hat.
The goal is to get everyone on your team to toss a ring on the witch’s hat before the other team does this.
So if you complete the task on your first or second or third you are done, now get the thrown rings and give them to the next person in line. If however you throw all three and miss then you need to collect the rings, give them to the next person in line and then go back to the end of the line. Continue until the first team one team has everyone place a ring over the witch’s hat.
Wishing you and yours a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!