The Exorcist, Axe Murder Hollow, and Bad Choices

In high school, I worked part-time at a local business called Home Video Exchange, a place that rented out movies on VCR tapes. It was the precursor to Blockbuster. (Anyone remember Blockbuster? Yea, verily, the long ago days before streaming everything.)

Every now and again, I’d choose something to take home myself. We were allowed free rentals of anything we wanted, except for new releases. I brought home Pink Floyd’s The Wall one time, and watched it with my brother… and my dad. Super awkward. I rented About Last Night, and got in trouble with my parents for that one.

And one summer evening after my high school graduation, I rented The Exorcist.

I don’t know what possessed me.

*pause for laughter*

I invited some friends over, and we watched it in my parents’ finished basement. Cast of characters: Alicia, Hope, Tim, and my post-prom-date, then-boyfriend Mike.

And then, after we watched what is arguably the most terrifying movie in the history of movies, we decided to go to the most haunted (allegedly haunted) site in Erie, PA: Axe Murder Hollow.

As with many smaller towns, Erie has an infamous, apocryphal murder. It took place more than 60 years ago. The way I heard it is that a local farmer lost his mind and chopped his family into bits, then killed himself. Other stories say the motive for the murder was that the farmer’s wife was stepping out, and he killed her and her lover. With an axe.

Either way: Axe. Murder. Hollow.

Mike knew where it was, so we piled into his beater, and drove out there. We weren’t even drinking.

As we descended the road that lead into the hollow, my friend Hope said, from the back seat, “Oh my god, did you see that gypsy woman standing on the side of the road?”

The other four of us said no, we hadn’t.

Hope was a little freaked out. “The farmer murdered his family because he was cursed. He wouldn’t let the gypsies camp out for the night in his field, and this old gypsy woman put a curse on him. He went berserk.”

That pretty much unsettled everyone. “Maybe we should just turn around,” I said to Mike.

“We’re here anyway,” Mike announced. He stopped the car.

And then he shut it off.

This did not go over well with the female contingent in the car. Tim and Mike had a few yuks at our expense, and Mike said, “Okay, okay, we’ll go.”
He turned the key.

Nothing happened.

“You better not be fucking around,” I said shrilly.

“I’m not, I swear,” Mike answered. He tried the key again.


There was a lot of yelling at that point. Even Tim was like, “Get us out of here, man!”

The car started, and we peeled out.


Mike called me the next day.

“My car didn’t start this morning,” he said.

“You’re kidding me.”

“I swear, I’m not. I had to get it towed to the garage. When I told them it wouldn’t start last night they pointed out [car-related thing that was broken]. They said I was lucky it had started up again at all.”

I didn’t see Mike too much after that.


I guess if there’s a moral of the story, it’s, “Don’t visit a haunted place after watching a horror movie.” Or maybe it’s, “Don’t shut off the car if you drive to a haunted site.”

Either way, if you visit Erie this Halloween, there’s this place where this weird thing happened…

Copyright for featured image

This was originally published by my friend Kim Z. Dale at her blog Listing Toward Halloween, at ChicagoNow. You should head there for lots more Halloween themed fun and chills.

Halloween Week 2015 Part II: Invisible Work

It’s maddening, all the little things that go into a day and a week, especially when you throw in Halloween.

Along with the usual activities (like gymnastics and soccer, homework, and feeding the children), other things need to be prepped and managed. Cousins picked up, costumes ready to go, emails and texts from moms of other children walking around with us, and then getting home in time to get everyone ready for trick-or-treat.

Kate added to the chaos by deciding she didn’t want to be a puppy anymore; we didn’t have what she needed to be a vampire; so she dressed all in white and declared herself an angel. When we couldn’t find materials to make wings and a halo, she decided she was a goddess. She found a Wonder Woman headpiece from a couple of years ago and a curved stick that I turned into a bow (as in bow and arrow), and we dubbed her Athena, and went with it.

Planning ahead is vital. So is putting everything in my phone.

I had three specific things to do for parties for today:

For Flora, I had volunteered to bring a fruit tray for her Activity Day.
For Kate, I had volunteered to donate plates and napkins to the party.
For M, I had volunteered to donate cheese (cubed or sliced; I went with cubed).

I bought the cheese and paper products last weekend. I had meant to buy apples at the Monday farmers market in Coraopolis, but apparently their last day was two Mondays ago. I swung through an Aldi on the way home Wednesday instead.

I packed up the paper products Tuesday. I cut up the cheese into cubes last night. This morning I got up early to cut up the apples and bathe them in lemon water to keep them from browning AND to make caramel sauce. (I didn’t have vanilla extract which what the heck?, so I hope it turned out okay).

As I hustled Michael and Flora out the door this a.m., Dan sleepily asked, “Why are you taking Michael?” I usually drop Flora off at her bus stop, then go to work.

“Because,” I said, “I would have to ask you to remember the cheese and the costume and that M is buying pizza for lunch and the money is in his folder, and — ”

“I get it,” Dan said.

Dan is perfectly capable of remembering all that stuff, but if he doesn’t have to — because I already know it — then why put more on his plate?

He delivered Kate and her paper products to school. All was well.

It’s true, I can no longer keep these things in my head. I have to put calendar events and tasks in my phone to keep things moving. If and when I remember to put it in my phone, then it gets done. (About 98 percent of the time.)

And sometimes I forget to tell Dan anything, and he can’t figure out why I’m a little frazzled at the end of a day or week. I mean, I went trick-or-treating with 10 people last night. We were quite a crowd. Getting them out the door and back home, and keeping them from eating all the candy, and making sure they threw out their wrappers, and then, well, out the door again in the case of the children who didn’t belong to me, and then getting three sugared up children to go to bed, wore me out a bit!

Jack o'lanterns
Grim Reaper, Iron Man, Happy Pumpkin, by Flora, me (picked by M), and Kate, respectively. Picture by Dan.

This is why grownups have beer and take their children’s Halloween candy. Because we deserve it.

Sorry about the lack of costume pictures. The camera on my phone is not working, and I don’t know why, and so I didn’t get any pictures last night.

What invisible work do you dread? What would you pay someone to do?

Halloween Week 2015, Part I

I keep thinking I have to go update a post I wrote for my friend Kim who LOVES Halloween, but then I read through it and realize most of it is still true:

(My guest post for Listing Toward Forty from two years ago.)

Five Things I Hate:
1. Halloween versus Trick-or-Treat: Trick-or-treat is this Thursday even though Halloween is on Saturday.
2. “Sexy” costumes: check.
3. Dressing up (IMO) is for children. I’m not leaving the house on Saturday in order to avoid the bacchanalia at local watering holes.
4. Handmade costumes: I’m actually getting a wee bit better at this! First, I’ve set my expectations low (i.e. I can’t sew.) But last year I turned Kate into cotton candy and Flora into a zombie; the year before, I covered a cape with purple fabric for Kate’s Raven (from Teen Titans Go!) costume, and made a peacock shirt and tail for Flora. This year, I turned Kate into a puppy for the Boo Bash.

Zombie Flora
I helped make these!
Puppy Kate
And this! For what it’s worth, I made the spots on the shirt and attached a “tail” to the pants. Not my best effort.

5. Treat bags: I’m not doing ’em this year. I’m donating to three different classroom parties (paper products for Kate; apples and caramel dip for Flora; and cubed cheese for M). No. More. Bags.

10 Things I Love:
1 and 10. Chocolate. Just give it to me.
2. Multiple wearing of the costumes. Although Kate wants to be a vampire queen instead of a puppy for school. I told her she had to source her costume from what we had at home, because mama did her part.
3. Sorting candy.
4. Handing out candy.
5. Carving pumpkins — We are still working on M’s. I will post images Thursday.
6. Trick-or-treat times.
7. Full-size candy bars — for the children!
8. How excited my children get to dress up and trick-or-treat.
9. Non-candy treats.

For some extra chills this year, you should be reading The October Diary. It’s almost as delicious as chocolate.

What is your favorite thing about Halloween?