Deb Sarah’s new column about baby health and nutrition debuts this month in the November issue of American Baby! But, but, but, the big news is that … drumroll please … Sarah’s debut novel, The Violets of March, has a cover! What do you think? (Sarah is smitten!)
Booklist loves Deb Eleanor’s The Weird Sisters! “There are no false steps in this debut novel: the humor, lyricism, and realism characterizing this lovely book will appeal to fans of good modern fiction as well as stories of family and the Midwest.”
Deb Kim’s book will be released tomorrow, November 1st! Celebrate with us here, and at The Divining Wand, where you can enter to win one of TWO copies of All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa.
Friends of the Debs…
Upcoming Deb guest Melissa Senate‘s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School is available now!
We’re still reeling from Jennifer Crusie’s thrilling visit to The Ball last Saturday! Huge congratulations to Thea, who won a signed copy of Crusie’s TELL ME LIES, and to Sure Thing, who won a signed copy of MAYBE THIS TIME.
Deb Dish — What The Spooky Debs Are Doing For Halloween
Halloween is family night! We always get together with my husband’s family, go trick or treating with the kids, have wine, chocolate, great conversation… what could be better?
To me, Halloween is all about kids. As an apartment-dweller, I don’t tend to get trick-or-treaters, but I’m lucky enough to have friends who live in kid-filled neighborhoods who let me come visit so I can ooh and aah over the costumes. I’ll be manning the candy dish at a friend’s house so they can take their little ones out and I can play the wacky, yet doting, neighbor. Come on by – I’ll get you all hooked up.
My younger two children still trick or treat. So we’ll join with a friend whose son also has autism and make the trek from house to house. Last year I put Bella into a wagon and pulled her around. But I dumptrucked her right onto her bottom off the curb. This year I think I’ll let her walk…
I’ll be hanging with Spiderman (my 3 year old) and a monkey (my 1 year old), passing out candy to the neighbor kids and sipping spiced apple cider.
Deb Tawna just misread what Deb Sarah wrote and thought she said she’d be spending Halloween “passing out.” She was momentarily concerned for the health of the unborn baby.
Deb Tawna would also like to point out that no matter how many times you do it, the barfing jack-o-lantern never stops being funny.
The Debutante Ball is delighted to welcome Julie Klam! Her new book is You Had Me At Woof. She is the author of Please Excuse My Daughter. She lives in Manhattan with her people and dogs.
Julie joins the Debs in talking about a good…or maybe not so good…scare!
Early in my relationship with my husband, when he was still charmed by my quirks, I invited him to join me the night before Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve Eve) at the Merchant’s House Museum for a talk called “The Ghosts of Merchant’s House.”
Built in 1832 on East Fourth Street, a few blocks from Washington Square, the Merchant’s House Museum is a unique survivor of old New York. It is New York City’s only family home that is preserved intact – inside and out – from the 19th century. Members of the Tredwell family, Mr. Seabury Tredwell (isn’t that a fantastic name?) a wealthy merchant, his wife, Eliza, and their eight children lived there from 1835 to until the youngest, Gertrude, died there in 1933. The interior is filled with the family’s furniture and belongings, clothing and costumes, along with opulent decorative accessories. Personal possessions – unfinished needlework, family photographs, a shaving mirror, and sewing boxes – which the brochure says “leave the impression that the family is still living there and has just stepped out for a moment.”
They are also the basis for Henry James’ novel Washington Square, which spawned the play and the great movie The Heiress with Olivia De Havilland.
The story of Washington Square is of a rich, intelligent widow, Dr. Austin Sloper ,who thwarts his plain and dull daughter Catherine’s chance at marriage by telling her the guy she wants to marry (handsome and charming Morris Townsend) is only after her money and by the way, he will cut her off without a penny if she goes through with it. (He doesn’t want her to marry anyone because she takes care of him and then he’ll be left alone.) She decides she will go through with it anyway, but Morris pulls out at the news of no inheritance, he probably does love her, but he doesn’t have any money and the prospect bums him out way too much. Her only reasonable good Victorian plot line is to becomes a very bitter spinster with untweezed eyebrows, refusing even legitimate marriage proposals in the future. When her father dies, she finds out that he has left her only a portion of his wealth just in case Townsend reappears. She actually goes from bitter to black living her remaining days alone in that house.
If anyone’s ghost should be lurking about their ancestral home, Gertrude Tredwell’s seemed a perfect candidate. Unfinished business, unresolved anger, spinsterly, dressed in austere Victorian mourning clothes and the parted-down the middle updo with the braids on top of her head.
We arrived at Merchants House, bought our tickets and were taken into the parlor where a movie projector was set up. I kept squeezing Paul’s hand; I was so excited. He raised an eyebrow and quietly said, “take a look around.” It was a little bit of an eccentric looking crowd, vintage clothes and hats, just a wee bit out of step, but it was a ghost lecture after all. It definitely wasn’t an information session on a timeshare in Hilton Head Island.
The executive director of the house introduced the lecturer, a Dr. Manuel Santiago, an expert from the Paranormal Society of New York. He had a thick Spanish accent and an apparent vast knowledge of ghostly situations. Not, unfortunately, at the Merchant’s House which he’d only just come to for the first time about twenty minutes before us. That didn’t stop him from showing a lengthy slide presentation that included pictures of crucifixes, “floating orbs” and illustrations of women in the Victorian era in white dresses about which he would say, “One searching for a ghost in the Merchant’s House might see an appareeshun of dees nature.” Mmm hmm. Note to self: if you see a very sheer lady in a Victorian nightdress, it just may be a ghost. I watched him go through slide after slide of different examples of the paranormal. I wondered if he’d show us Casper or the Sta-Puff Marshmallow man.
I just want to see a ghost. Is that too much to ask? I grew up in a 250 year old house a few steps away from where first Chief Justice John Jay lived. The whole time we were there we never saw or heard anything. When my parents sold he house in 1992, something strange happened. The walls looked like rain was coming down them. It was like the house was crying. No one could explain it and before long my parents were in their new passive solar house far away.
After the less than informative talk, he opened the floor to questions. Pretty much every hand but Paul and mine shot up.
“Um, I smell burning toast sometimes in my house, I’m wondering if you think it’s haunted.”
Paul whispered, “I heard if you smell burning toast it means you have a brain tumor.”
“Hi, I feel a cold chill right by a drafty window in my home, I feel like it might be a ghost of Isadora Duncan. Do you think I should try and get rid of her or welcome her?”
“If I encounter a ghost and I don’t have holy water on me, can I use Evian?”
And on and on and on. Paul was in stitches, I thought he was going to pee in his pants. I was kind of mad and incredulous. After hearing this idiotic excuse for a ghost lecture, the people were not only not put off, but encouraged enough by Dr. Santiago’s vast knowledge to ask him what to do about their particular haunting situations. (They all seemed like they needed to up their doses.)
We were all invited to walk through the house after. Paul kept faking that he was being possessed or sensing ghosts. A woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder smiling and I thought she was going to chuckle with me about the charlatan, but no, she wanted see if I too felt the presence in the house. I didn’t feel a presence, I felt an absence… of the twenty bucks I paid to get in.
Thanks for dancing at the Ball, Julie! If you have comments or questions for Julie, join the conversation below!
You Had Me at Woof is the often hilarious and always sincere story of how one woman discovered life’s most important lessons from her relationships with her canine companions.
Everyone knows it’s not really camping unless someone tells scary stories around the campfire, and storytelling duties always fell to my dad.
His version of scary stories always came with a humorous twist. A terrifying tale about a zombielike voice snarling, “I need eyes” turned out to be a camper with a burnt hand demanding “ice.” When we camped near Oregon’s Green Peter Dam, Dad’s story featured a punchline about a Martian and his “Damn Green Peter.”
(If you’ve been wondering where I got my juvenile sense of humor and fondness for risqué jokes…um, yeah. Hi, Dad).
My brother and I grew accustomed to the groan-worthy comedic twist at the end of each story. On a trip to the Oregon Coast, Dad began weaving an elaborate tale about a family being chased by something they feared was a giant, man-eating crab. I snuggled into my sleeping bag, preparing myself for the inevitable giggle at the end.
The tale culminated with the terrified family barring themselves at the top of the Astor Column while something flung itself against the door.
We waited for the punchline. A venereal disease joke about crabs, perhaps? Some pun involving butter and lemon?
“In the morning, the family eased open the door,” my father whispered. “And there on the stairs was a giant crab claw.”
My brother and I sat in stunned silence. We waited, thinking maybe Dad was taking his time with the joke.
But no, that was it.
I am not ashamed to admit, it scared the holy living pee out of me.
Later, my brother and I huddled in the tent and discussed this unexpected turn of events.
“I’m not scared,” he scoffed. “Giant man eating crabs don’t exist.”
“Duh,” I agreed. “Of course not.”
My brother was quiet for a moment. “I don’t think I want to go up the Astor Column tomorrow.”
“Do you think it’s OK to wear my hiking boots in the ocean?”
Don’t worry – after years of shock treatments and hypnotherapy, I’m over my fear of giant, man-eating crabs. My brother though – well, it’s a shame about the padded room.
Do you have a storyteller in your family? Can you remember any memorable tales from your childhood? Please share.
My local seafood restaurant is running a crab leg special. I’ve scheduled an appointment with my shrink.
I’m happy to report that my life has been pretty vanilla, but I do have a childhood story that still raises the hair on my arms … the time our family had a crazy, unexpected run-in with a serial killer. Turn the lights down low, put on some spooky music, and read on …
When I was about 11-ish, my mom came home from the grocery store a little spooked. A bizarre man had backed into her car in the parking lot of Safeway, nearly missing my baby brother in the backseat. My mom exchanged phone numbers and insurance information with the man, the usual procedure, but she noticed that he was a little “off”–I think she used the word “deranged,” to describe his behavior/demeanor. He stared at her too long and seemed skittish. In short, she got a bad vibe.
Fast-forward to the next day. The phone rings. It’s the police. “Mam, why is it that so-and-so has your phone number in his wallet? We’re trying to locate him. You see, he left his wallet behind after killing four people.”
My mom told him about the accident at the grocery store, and the police officer suggested that we “go into hiding” for a few days, just in case this creep showed up at, I dunno, our doorstep.
Yeah, can you even imagine the terror my mom must have felt after hanging up the phone that night? There she was, alone, with four children, waiting for my dad to get off work, and concerned that a killer could be on her doorstep.
So, we moved into my grandparents house for the next two days (their house was empty while they were traveling to Europe), and in a crazy turn of events, a major storm hit. The wind howled. Tree branches fell on the roof in big, violent thuds. The lights flickered then went out entirely when a tree fell, and I distinctly remember hearing scratching noises outside of the bedroom window. We were all certain: He was coming to get us. A real boogie man, after our family!
But, a day later, we got another call from the police. The suspect had been found–dead. He had taken his own life shortly after his murderous spree.
I’ll never forget that feeling of terror as a child. It was the first time I truly felt afraid–to my bones. Maybe this explains why I can’t watch scary movies?
How about you? What was the scariest moment of your childhood/life?
I have had my share of scares. Some pretend, like at the local haunted house as a kid or seeing a movie like Silence of the Lambs (one of my favorite movies.) Some real – like when we lost my daughter Mia at Liberty Airport in Newark NJ and feared she’d gotten onto a train to the next terminal. She has autism and that would have ended very, very badly. Last Spring, we were robbed while I was home alone. I could tell you about it, but you can watch a video and see for yourself. I shook like a leaf as I called the police…
I am easily spooked, so it makes absolutely no sense that I love scary books and movies as much as I do. With a book like The Ruins or Heart-Shaped Box, I’ll be curled up in bed (feet covered, because the monsters like toes, don’t you know) until the wee hours, too terrified to turn the page, too terrified not to.
With a scary movie, a really good one like The Others or White Noise 2 (how creepy is EVP? Yikes!), we’ll turn off the lights and curl up together on the sofa, where I’ll spend half the time shrieking at every surprise and the other half covering my eyes.
Here’s the real problem with letting myself get scared – when I get nervous or scared, I have to pee frequently. But because there may potentially be monsters hiding in the bathroom, I can’t go in alone. So when I’m good and terrified, despite the fact that I am thirty-something years old, J.C. has to go into the bathroom first, turn on all the lights, check behind the shower curtain, and then stay in the bathroom while I pee.
And, God love him, he does it.
Why do I do this to myself? Why do we love spooky books and movies – even people like me, who fall apart at the first strains of ominous music?
By this I of course mean that he is a horror movie icon, one of those super evil villains that makes teen girls scream and grip bruises into their boyfriends’ arms. He’s the kind of guy who gets mobbed at Fangoria conventions, and has spooky action figures made of him.
In the interest of privacy, I won’t say who he is, but trust me, he’s big. And scary.
I had no idea about that when I moved in. I’m not a horror movie fan, so I didn’t recognize my neighbor for the star he is. He was just a guy who seemed nice, and we had the occasional neighborly chat which I enjoyed tremendously.
Then he revealed his true identity. And he gave me his movie to watch.
There’s a reason I don’t watch horror movies. THEY SCARE ME! I watched it all alone, late at night. The story made no sense, but my neighbor? Terrifying. There was this one scene where my scary-as-hell neighbor is looming over the bed of the main character, glaring down at him, arms outstretched as he prepares to drag the poor guy off to his hideous doom.
The next day, my grandmother came to visit for her birthday. We saw my neighbor, and in the light of day he was nowhere near as terrifying. I told him I’d watched his movie, and that he was terrific. We chatted a bit, I introduced him to my grandmother, he said happy birthday, we went our separate ways, and all was well.
Until that night.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Okay, it wasn’t stormy, but it was around two in the morning, so it was very dark. I was the only one awake in the house. I sat at my computer, my back to the window.
Then I heard a scratching immediately behind me, and my blood froze. My office window looks out to the front porch. If there was a scratching behind me, it could only be someone outside, perhaps trying to claw their way in.
My imagination is not always my friend, and this was a prime example. My heart started racing, because I suddenly sure — positive — that my terrifying neighbor was right there, right behind me, looming just like did in the movie.
I couldn’t look. I couldn’t bear to see what I knew was there.
But I had to look.
I turned… and he was right there!!!
Somehow I tamped down the bloodcurdling scream that rose up in my throat. The demon from next door hadn’t yet seen me, and I knew it would spell my doom if he did. I watched as he remained crouched over my window another moment, then stalked away into the night.
I took a few moments to catch my breath, then went to bed, lucky to escape with my life.
Once again, the morning light brought reason to my senses. I had a hunch… and I walked outside to the porch. I peeked inside my mailbox, which sits just outside my office window…
…and inside was a lovely Hallmark card, festooned with dancing flowers. It was addressed to my grandmother, wishing her a Happy Belated Birthday. Love, My Next Door Neighbor.
So much for my horrific brush with doom.
Anyone out there had any terrifying encounters that turned out to be nothing at all? Please share… if only to make me feel not quite so ridiculous.
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