Special Section: Halloween
down my questions quick with a red marker on tablet paper,
I shove them in my back pocket and hoof it to a psychic rendezvous.
Marisha, my medium for the evening, mailed me a pamphlet earlier
this week: “Hints for a Good Reading” by the Rev. Rita Faubel.
There are 10 suggestions, and I skim them quick.
to put your mind at ease,” No.1 advises.
and psychics by nature don’t mix, so I scold myself to dislodge
my journamalistic skepticism: “You were a real person once,
too, you know.”
doorbell, and now despite myself, I am a little excited. I
have never been to a psychic before. Maybe she is the real
deal. A portal to the spirit dimensions could be opened and
the knowledge of the ether laid bare for me. I want to believe.
the very least, it will be entertaining.
“A good reading should explain the philosophy of harmonious
cat lies supine at Marisha’s feet, basking in the even, hypnotic
vibe. We are sitting in antique Indian furniture, crafted
for the British plantation owners of that day. She tells me
that it was in India that she learned how she would die, but
the spirits are sometimes stingy with that information. So
I might not get the answer to that question: It is the psychic
equivalent of putting out on a first date.
off my other questions to her. She jots them down on her notepad.
Some of them are kind of personal. It is a little odd to be
asking a complete stranger things I would be embarrassed to
bring up with anyone but my close friends. The questions you
ask are necessarily intimate; they deal with what you suspect
to be the specialty of the residents of the ether: death,
passed relatives, past lives, your future. I was warned that
I was supposed to meditate on these questions beforehand;
as Faubel states in hint No. 9, “No spirit claims to have
an answer on the spur of the moment.” But I didn’t. My spirits
are getting a lead time of 20 minutes.
has always had this talent, she says. Spirits deliver her
words, phrases and full sentences, sometimes images. These
have meaning about the possible future and past lives, even
pressing dilemmas. It can be a unsettling talent, disruptive
even, and she worked to repress it as a teenager, but in college,
as an art student, the cathartic process of painting resurfaced
the talent and she hasn’t looked back. She clutches my wallet,
my keys, my wedding ring, closes her eyes, and “gets in her
of the time I won’t look at you. I need to focus on what I
am hearing and seeing,” she says. “It’s pretty astounding.
You will be amazed. I know this because I am amazed by it
me questions in an even voice. Her ice-blue eyes shut softly.
Words come out at a regular clip. If I say no to a word, she
moves on. If I say yes, she builds on these words, seizing
hold of synonyms that build in intensity, attempting to form
a fuller image. Sometimes the words are wrong, completely.
She backs off. Sometimes they are too strong, or nuanced to
mean the wrong thing. She backs off from those, too, dropping
through the thesaurus entry to the next applicable word. At
the worst moments, she is moved by the spirits to a completely
different train of questioning.
trouble in your marriage?” she asks.
a little affronted. It is a marriage, after all. I pause.
Not because I am going through the issues of my marriage,
but because I am starting to wonder why the hell I have put
myself in this position.
I say with an unnerved grin.
getting a phrase,” from the spirits, presumably. “What lies
lies beneath? It’s a marriage! An entire encyclopedia of personality
conflicts and quirks lie beneath. The skeptic in me is shaking
and your wife fight?” she asks.
Fight is a strong word,” I say.
she stops and looks at me for the first time in a half-hour.
are a writer, and I am a writer,” she admonishes. “We have
too refined our words,” as though it is my pickiness that
has stumped the spirits.
“Arguing . . . makes it difficult for the medium to function
effectively. . .”
you both considered counseling?”
I say, now fully annoyed.
it goes for the next hour. The words hit or miss marks, like
any word can, but when she tells me the relationship between
my mother and I is calm, that’s it. Calm describes neither
my mother, me, or our relationship. For real, I have to force
myself to not chew on my own arm hair when I talk to her.
sum up: I am neither convinced nor entertained. At the end,
shaking her lithe hand, I feel violated and kinda hungry.
But I’m told I am lucky, because the spirits and I went all
the way: I am going to die from head trauma when I am 80.
It will be a car wreck, not my fault, and it will be instantaneous.
Make the Cowboy
the best—or most ill-conceived—Halloween costumes
(and on deadline), I queried a number of friends and colleagues
about their most memorable, or infamous, Halloween costumes.
I heard first from Susan, an old college pal: “I guess it
would be freshman year at Fredonia, when Annie and I dressed
as bananas. . . . I guess the reaction we got was one of laughter.”
have thought it was the time the two dressed as Adam Ant and
Boy George. Or maybe I was just hallucinating; it was the
1980s, after all.
memories linger. As one colleague who had the wrong holiday
in mind wrote, “I insisted on being Mrs. Santa Claus when
I was 7. I was deeply hurt that I did not win a single prize
in the school parade.”
there are the bad ideas: “When I was in third grade, my best
friend and I found instructions in a brittle book in the back
caverns of the library on how to make a ‘Siamese twin’ costume
for two. We enthusiastically brought our genius costume idea
to our incredibly sweet mothers, who were doing their best
to raise us in the all-encompassing spirit of tolerance and
political correctness of young liberal parents in the mid-1980s.
We were told (tenderly of course) that ‘Siamese twins’ was
not a funny costume. It was, in fact, a horrible and often
fatal birth defect. The more appropriate term was ‘conjoined
the moms asked, “would we like to be instead?”
know if they were just done fighting, or if the PC irony was
truly lost on them, but our loving mothers spent many hours
sewing custom-made concubine costumes for their 9-year-old
a punch line, of course: “This is the Northeast, after all.
Over our billowy pants and half-shirts we were forced to layer
sweaters, puffy parkas, mittens, scarves and hats. All night
we heard ‘Ooh, look at the little Eskimos!’ ”
colleague had a more pointed memory.
grade I dressed up as Al Capone. I had a nice antique suit,
suspenders, bowler hat, etc. I also had my mother’s ancient
violin case and it was supposed to be full of guns.”
teachers were not OK with that. At all.”
ahead to the college years, Ashley writes: “Two friends and
I went to a series of college Halloween parties as the Beastie
Boys from the ‘Sabotage’ video. This is not embarrassing in
and of itself, but as the lone woman in the trio, I was dressed
with a brown comb-over wig, moustache, shoulder holster, and
baggy, ugly 1970s undercover cop clothes. An ex-boyfriend
(dressed as C.C. DeVille from Poison) didn’t recognize me
. . . not even my voice. Truthfully, his zebra spandex wasn’t
doing him any favors either.”
years later, she notes that the “same friends and more dressed
as the cast from The Royal Tenenbaums and rode all
over Cambridge, Mass., to and from Halloween parties on public
transit. People either loved us or didn’t seem to notice,
because we blended into the tweedy, professorial, preppy background.”
an ex-Metrolander relates a heartwarming tale from
the hipster capital of New York.
once invited to a friend’s party in Brooklyn and was heavily
leaned upon to come costumed. I relented, and went with a
really lazy version of a cowboy: a pair of boots and a snap-button
shirt with a slightly western vibe.”
was no one knew I was in costume and several of the guests
thought I was a hustler. Not someone dressed as a hustler,
mind you, a hustler.”
friendly fellas in Brooklyn.”
which we postulate the locations of local hellmouths
Ann Morrow dispelled the myth that Pinewoods Cemetery in Troy
is a hellmouth. And yet, it seems likely that there must be
at least one hellmouth in the Capital Region.
is a hellhole!” “Troy is a hellhole!” “Schenectady is a hellhole!”
These are things we, as Metroland staffers, hear far
too frequently. Being the intrepid reporters that we are,
we thought it only logical to attempt to locate these alleged
entrances to hell, or at least humbly suggest areas in our
great region where such holes could thrive. What is a hellmouth,
exactly? An area so troubled by the weight of past events
that supernatural activity is at a boiling point, resulting
in a spot where it is possible to walk into Hades itself.
So, in the spirit of Halloween and in the interest of locating
the most damned places in the Capital Region, we offer you,
our loyal readers, Metroland’s rundown of the top 10
places where you just might find a hellmouth in the Capital
been told by many old-timers that since Metroland’s
current offices at 419 Madison Ave., Albany, once served as
a police precinct, we should watch out for ghosts of departed
inmates who rattle around lost, eternally looking for a reprieve.
That is no real concern to most Metroland staffers,
as we refer them to the current Chief of Police, James Tuffey,
to plead their cases. What does concern most of us is that
having a place of such extreme ectoplasmic activity in our
basement means that all of our negative energy is stored there—we
learned that supernatural tidbit from Ghostbusters—and
as a result we are constantly on the lookout for green, ectoplasmic,
floating demons who squeal out headlines like “Metroland
Staffers Killed in Tragic Foam-Sword-Fighting Accident!”
of hellmouth: 7 out of 10
The Empire State plaza (all of it)
monstrosity has caused more static for New York’s capital
city than Roger Stone at a Spitzer family picnic. Plopped
down in the center of a lively neighborhood, designed without
considering the impact on the rest of downtown Albany at the
behest of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, this monstrous totem to
all that is bloated and corrupt in New York politics draws
evil into it. It is home to the ghastly hordes that make the
gears of our monstrous state government churn. (No, state
workers, we don’t me you; you guys are a-OK in our book!)
This thing has so many tunnels and winding corridors that
we are fairly certain if you walk down the wrong one you may
end up pressed against the dark lord’s bosom.
of hellmouth: 9 out of 10
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium
has it that Joltin’ Joe Bruno went down to the crossroads
and sold his soul to be a famous boxer, but he signed the
devil’s contract without reading the fine print. Instead of
the life of a famous pugilist, the dark one traded Bruno a
life as a political party boss and tough-guy state senator.
Joe has never since forgotten to read the fine print. “The
Joe” is just one of the spoils of Bruno’s long reign as Republican
power broker. As legend has it, the stadium was built on top
of the grounds where Bruno first met the devil himself, and
if you are quiet and approach the stadium just past midnight
during a full moon, you can catch Bruno meeting with Lucifer
in the baseball field, trading information, bashing Spitzer
and making deals to get pesky investigations and allegations
swept under the rug.
of hellmouth: 8 out of 10
Albany City Hall
City Hall has produced a long line of obscenely powerful mayors
who rule with little regard to the populace of the city. They
hoard and build political power that they use only to further
the interests of their political allies, friends and family.
If you believe the stories, there is an elevator in the mayor’s
chambers that allows Albany’s patriarch to pay visits to his
dark master. Word is that mouthy council people sometimes
find themselves fed to the hounds of hell—or at least at the
wrong end of a pitchfork. Be afraid! Be very afraid!
of hellmouth: 10 out of 10
on top of the Pine Bush, Albany’s unique, endangered habitat,
the buildings shift in the sand they were built on, this consumer
paradise swaying to the revolt of Mother Nature. The mindless
hordes driven there to spend leave soulless and barren. Their
spirits haunt the place, moaning through Hooters, wailing
past Victoria’s Secret, rattling their chains as they lament
their loss of humanity.
of hellmouth: 5 out of 10
suburban hell on earth. Soccer moms beware. Drive your oversized
SUV with care. There is no escape from this hollow landscape
once you become part of it.
of hellmouth: No question about it!
America’s fly-trap for Johnny Q. Suburbia, staffed by hordes
of drones who “are here to help!” and guarded by a “private
security force,” these do-it-yourself armories are now positioned
strategically around the region, driving independent stores
into bankruptcy, and waiting to lead Satan’s charge against
heaven. Haunted by the ghosts of taste and banshees of gaudiness,
Home Depot is undeniably a form of hell, but a manmade one.
of hellmouth: 1 out of 10.
The Times Union Headquarters
that those unfortunate enough to poke their heads into this
guarded fortress of solitude, built with Hearst money, are
rarely the same again. A chilling specter of the corporate
media that controls the flow and spin of our daily news haunts
Wolf Road. Nothing against the Times Union here; they do good
work when Beeezelbub isn’t looking.
of hellmouth: 1 out of 10.
The Remains of GE in Schenectady
has it that General Electric is the private corporation of
Satan himself. When locals caught on to it, the company all
but abandoned the once-thriving city. Word is if you dig deep
enough you can still find a back door into hell.
of hellmouth: 9 out of 10
Nanotech Center at UAlbany
long feared what he cannot understand, and most of us here
at Metroland are totally freaked by that nanotech junk.
Have you seen the building? It looks like something out of
Battlestar Galactica. Anyway, we got an e-mail from
the anti-technology club we belong to the other day that suggested
that the good folks over there might be working on a portal
to hell! That’s what smart scientists do, right? I mean, we
see it everywhere in popular culture; see Doom, the videogame,
for proof. So who is to say those smart folks haven’t ruptured
some sort of time-space continuum and brought hell to Earth?
of hellmouth: We don’t understand enough about this nanotechy
thing to know.