Tag: Spooktober 2018

Ernest Scared Stupid

Ernest Scared Stupid

 

Having already applied his bumbling shenanigans to one holiday in 1988’s Ernest Saves Christmas, slapstick neighborhood doofus Ernest P. Worrell set his sights on Halloween in 1991’s Ernest Scared Stupid. Purring singer/actress Eartha Kitt joined in the spooky/goofy shenanigans, as did an army of slimy trolls.

This time around, Ernest is in suburban Missouri, working as a garbage collector. As always, he’s a friend to kids everywhere, so when a group of neighborhood preteens asks for his help building a treehouse, Ernest naturally obliges. But this particular oak tree happens to hold Trantor, a 200-year-old evil troll, and as local crone Old Lady Hackmore warns, the troll will be released if a Worrell puts his hand on the tree the night before Halloween and says, “Trantor, I call thee forth.” Well, stupid is as stupid does…

Once Trantor is released, the mean, mucous-covered munchkin sets out to capture the souls of Ernest’s young pals by turning them into wooden dolls. That’s bad enough, but when Trantor tries to pull his wooden magic on Ernest’s pet dog Rimshot, the little snotface has crossed the line. Ernest is out to kick some troll tushie, and this time, it’s personal.

The Halloween season wasn’t as good to Ernest as Christmas had been three years earlier. Ernest’s “human cartoon” slapstick still brought in fans, but not as many as previous films had. Ernest Scared Stupid was the last Ernest movie made in partnership with Disney subsidiary Touchstone, but director John Cherry and actor Jim Varney plugged ahead without the corporate backing, turning out Ernest Rides Again in 1993 and four more direct-to-video Ernest films over the following five years.

The History of the Ouija Board

Ouija

Toy or device for speaking to the dead? Fun way to spend a slumber party or the deciding factor for what you should do with your life? The Ouija board is many things to many people, but one thing we do know is that for those that like a little mystery in their lives, the Parker Brothers Ouija board has remained on store shelves, and sold quite well, ever since the game manufacturer acquired the rights in the sixties.

In New York, min-nineteenth century, communicating with the dead was big business. Mediums – those people who claimed they could converse with the after-life – were big hits at chic parties across the city. In addition to letting the spirits speak though them, mediums also claimed the spirits could write messages on paper through them.

These mystics would hold a “planchette” (“little plank” in French), which was a heart-shaped board with a pencil attached in the center. The medium held this over a piece of paper and the spirit would “move” it to write a message. Unfortunately, the spirit didn’t always have the best handwriting, and nothing is more disappointing then an illegible message from the dead.

Three Americans – E.C. Reiche, Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard – developed a “talking board” that came with it’s own planchette. It was printed with the alphabet, numbers one through ten, and words ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ It is said that Kennard called the board “Ouija” after an Egyptian word for good luck, but rumor also said that the board itself suggested the word.

In 1892, Kennard’s ex-foreman, William Fuld, took the company over, named it the Ouija Novelty Company, and began producing the board in high volume numbers. Fuld came up with his own version of the Ouija’s genesis – that he had invented the idea himself, and that the word Ouija was actually an amalgam of the French “oui” and the German “ja” (which, incidentally, is the correct way to pronounce the name.)

There were other talking boards on the market at the time (for instance, Milton Bradley’s Genii) but Fuld’s was definitely the most popular. In a strange twist of fate, Fuld was killed in 1927 from a fall from a factory roof in his native Baltimore. Some said it was an accident, and some said it was suicide. (Didn’t anybody ask the Ouiji board?) Fuld’s children took over the company, and in 1966, they were bought out by Parker Brothers.

Today, the board looks almost the same as it did when it first came out, although now it’s made of folding cardboard instead of wood, and the planchette glides on velvet tabs instead of wooden pegs. It still has the alphabet and the numbers in two crescent rows, the words “yes” and “no” at the corners, and “goodbye” at the bottom.

Ouija 2

Atmosphere and mindset are crucial to play. Don’t play it alone. Don’t play it while angry. Play at night, since there’s less psychic static when it’s dark out. Let just one person ask the questions – you don’t want to get the spirits confused while they’re navigating Ouija games. Candlelight helps encourage conversation. It’s best to have two players work the board, with it either on their knees or on a table. Once you warm up the planchette by moving it around, let it rest, and ask a question out loud. If you’re lucky, the spirit in the room will answer the question by moving the planchette around the board to spell out the answer.

Either that or the players minute muscle movements move the planchette. Or some sneaky player moves the planchette to the answer they want to see. It’s never 100% clear – which is what gives the Ouija board its simultaneous coolness and creepiness. It remains an enigma – a game that you’re never certain you’re in control of. As such, it has been a staple of slumber parties and any other place people gather in the dark, intent on summoning the spirits.

Welcome to Spooktober 2018!

Retro Halloween

 

With the exception of that traditional eve when jolly St. Nick visits the chimneys of the world, there is perhaps no holiday quite as beloved, or more anticipated by kids than Halloween, the last day in October that we have long set aside as an evening to congregate in costume and perhaps even scare ourselves silly. It is a time of ghouls and goblins, of witches and black cats, of costume parties and grinning pumpkins. And, if that wasn’t enough, every kid knows that it is the one night when it is perfectly acceptable to beg door-to-door for candy. Now, that’s a holiday!

The origins of Halloween trace back centuries, a mixture of Roman and Celtic customs that celebrated the transition from fall into winter. Trick or treating may be traced as far back as the Middle Ages, when it was called “souling”. Poor folks went from door to door, saying prayers for the dead and, in return, received a few scraps of food. In Scotland, they called it “guising” where participants would hollow out turnips, turn them into lanterns and carry them from door to door. For their efforts, they might receive money, cakes or perhaps some fruit. That sounds nice, but it took some American ingenuity to create the confection-heavy version we’ve come to know and love.

The trick or treating we are now accustomed to started in the 30s, then was brought to a grinding halt when sugar rations became necessary during WWII. Shortly after the war ended, however, children’s magazines like Jack and Jill began promoting the practice again, as did the Peanuts comic strip, and even Walt Disney, who released the classic cartoon, “Trick or Treat,” in 1952.

 

 

Kids have been banging on doors ever since, begging for treats, and if denied, perfectly willing to exact revenge via mischievous pranks. Hell hath no scorn like a kid deprived of candy. Most pranks involved such household items as eggs, toilet paper, shaving cream and soap. You can use your imagination, but let’s just say that they were often used in ways in which they weren’t intended. And, of course, the granddaddy of pranks was the smashing of some poor soul’s pumpkin (there’s a band name in there somewhere) on the pavement.

 

Ben Cooper Costumes

 

Perhaps the most important decision to make prior to the arrival of Halloween was the choice of costume. Whether trick or treating or going to a party, a costume was a must. Perhaps as a small child, you picked out a Ben Cooper costume at the store, complete with vinyl smock and sharp plastic mask. Or, maybe you made your own (hobo, anyone?). Two holes poked into a sheet and you had an instant (and inexpensive) ghost. More enterprising youngsters even employed the two-costume technique, where you canvased the entire area for candy, then switched costumes and hit it again.

 

Halloween Sunset

 

When the sun finally set on Halloween, most of us began walking the streets, trusty plastic jack o’ lantern or pillowcase in hand, ready to collect Smarties, candy corn, Dum Dum Pops and an assortment of miniature candy bars. We took our hard earned bounty home and dumped it on the counter so our parents could inspect it closely. Thanks to some pesky (and mostly unfounded rumors) many of us (or at least our parents) believed that there just might be a razor blade, needle or poison lurking in that inviting pile of confections. We waited not-so-patiently for mom or dad to give their candy clearance, and then it was ours to do with as we pleased (in most cases, at least). Some kids would eat only a few pieces each day, while others polished off all the good stuff within the first 24 hours. You also might have had to guard your candy from the likes of larcenous siblings, or a even a sneaky parent with a sweet tooth.

Once kids began to outgrow trick or treating, of course, parties began to take precedence. Still costume clad, kids gathered to dance to The Monster Mash, eat creepy looking food, watch scary movies, and thrust their faces into metal tins of water, in the hopes of grasping a bobbing apple in their teeth. And if you didn’t have a party to go to, you could always go out and try to scare the crap out of the younger trick or treaters. There was always something for a kid to do on Halloween.

But why let the fun and memories be confined to just one night?  Well, you don’t have to.  We’re here to help you get your spooky retro groove on all month long!  Each and every day from now until Halloween, stop back by here at Retro Ramblings for a different “Halloween treat” to bring back those old memories.  Let Retro Rambling’s Spooktober 2018 begin!