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A lot of people don't like cemeteries. You can barely talk my mom into going to one, only if she had to be there. Even the golf courses they call memorial parks that go out of their way to make burial places peaceful instead of creepy and military cemeteries that aren't particularly scary make folks uncomfortable.

Not me! Not that I'd go to a graveyard all by myself at night--please--but I love cemeteries. The more old-fashioned, the better. Years ago I did a video news project on local old cemeteries and found lots to admire about the 19th century monuments and tombstones. The Victorians put a lot of money into their monuments. The well-to-do had them made of the best marble and ordered statues made in Italy, all done within their lifetime so everything would be ready to go whenever the time came. I realized these monuments were the sole evidence that these people ever existed. They knew that and they made their monuments count.

I used to live in Virginia, where it's against the law to move a pre-existing burial ground for construction purposes. So there was a large cemetery dating back to the 1850s within walking distance of where I used to live. It was pretty cool.

But I have to say nothing impressed me more than my favorite cemetery, Pere Lachaise in Paris. I visited there in 1989 and it just blew me away. Shiny monuments to the famous were right alongside decaying and crumbling vaults. You could see inside some of them though I did not see any bones or rotting corpses, thankfully! The main attraction at Pere Lachaise is the final resting ground of Jim Morrison, which was very easy to find thanks to helpful directions scrawled on various tombstones and vaults. Morrison's grave is covered with grafitti as are those of his neighbors. I'm sure Jim's ghost spends a lot of time apologizing to them, heh heh. I'd love to go back to find stuff like Heloise and Abelard's burial site, which I missed that time. My mom was with us and she couldn't wait to leave.

Another great cemetery I've been to is the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. It's small but crowded with former residents of the Jewish Quarter, so much so the headstones--all engraved in Hebrew--are practically knocking against each other. Nobody knows exactly how old it is or how many people might be planted there (estimates are as many as 100,000) but the oldest known grave dates back to the 1400s.

Then there's Arlington National Cemetery with its history, the burial site of John F. Kennedy and Robert E. Lee, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the scores of heroes who gave their all for this country. More of a patriotic experience than a gothy one. Same goes for the cemetery at Gettysburg where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. It was kind of sad though to see so many unidentified people buried there.

Then there are the cemeteries that would be cool to visit that I haven't been to yet: La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Highgate in London, Normandy Cemeteries in France honoring those killed on D-Day, and Hollywood Forever, permanent home of showbiz royalty. Hollywood Forever hosts outdoor film screenings during the summer, where you can watch a movie projected onto the back wall of a mausoleum, often just mere feet away from where the film's stars and director are interred. People bring picnics. I almost went on a tour to see St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans but I did not have time. Oh well, they're not going anywhere.
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I admit, when it comes to these paranormal t.v. shows, I put a lot more stock in how-the-eff-did-that-happen video footage, photos, or recordings than somebody walking around and saying, “There’s a spirit here!” I figure anybody can pull a Deanna Troi and claim they “feel” something. It’s not evidence to me.

Moreover, there are some self-styled mediums like “Most Haunted”’s Derek Accorah who was exposed as a fake by one of the show’s cast members. There are plenty of fakers, people who might really think they are psychic who just have an active imagination, and some who have minimal talent but exaggerate their “findings” to look more impressive.

On the other hand, 15 years ago, I encountered a guy working a jewelry booth at a ren faire. The guy did not ask but stated, “You’re a Leo, aren’t you?” I was flabbergasted. There was no way he could have known that. I was not buying anything that indicated my astrological sign or birth month. He did not see my identification. I’d never met him before and he didn’t know any of my friends with me. A girl in my group was getting her palm read at a psychic tent nearby but she was a friend of a friend. She had never met me before and sure wouldn’t have known my birthday. She didn’t communicate with this guy at all. All I could ask was, “How the hell did you know that?” He casually said, “It’s in your aura.” So, okay, there are people out there who can discern the normally non-discernable.

Chip Coffey
Star of “Paranormal State,” “Psychic Kids” (Bio)
Trademarks: Buzzcut, glasses, and a Southern accent

Both PS and PK are out of production but they re-run regularly on Bio. Coffey tours, lectures, appears at horror cons, and leads his own paranormal investigations. Neither show really does a lot to back up Coffey’s “findings” and I’ve always felt the youngsters on “Psychic Kids” kind of build on each other during their investigations, but Coffey is good with kids struggling with having odd dreams, premonitions, impromptu visits from the dead, and the rejection of family and peers. He published a book earlier this year called “Growing Up Psychic.”
Contacts: @chipcoffey, chipcoffey.com, (on Facebook)


Amy Allan
Star of “The Dead Files” (Travel)
Trademarks: Black hair, eyeliner, Hello Kitty tats, and a creepy demeanor while in medium mode

Of everybody I’ve seen on t.v., Allan is the most credible for the kind of work she does. I guess the reason for that is the unique format of “The Dead Files.” It’s not your usual ghost hunting show where everyone is trying to capture evidence of spooks. What happens is a former NYPD detective will investigate claims of a haunting by interviewing witnesses and doing his own fact-based background research. Allan and her husband/cameraman will go to that location separately without interviewing anyone, and she gives her impressions on camera. Occasionally she’ll have a sketch artist draw what she has seen. At the end of the show, the detective and Allan report their findings to the property owners. It’s amazing how often what she discovers corroborates the detective’s research and interviews. She will then recommend to the property owners what they should do to alleviate the problem and if they follow her advice, it usually works.
Contacts: @amyallantdf, (on Facebook under Amy Apr Allan)


Theresa Caputo
Star of “Long Island Medium” (TLC)
Trademarks: Big hair, crazy nails, that Lon Guylandt ax-sent

This is the paranormal show a scaredy cat could love. While ghosts and cleansings occasionally crop up on the show, it’s mostly about deceased loved ones giving a shoutout to the living, via Caputo’s readings. There are lot of smiles, tears, and heartwarming moments. If you’ve seen John Edward in action, Caputo pretty much does the same thing. She helps the bereaved heal and move on with their lives. What’s actually the most impressive about what Caputo does isn’t so much the private readings but the cold ones. Make no mistake: TLC is the home of contrived reality show situations. It seems like the only reason Caputo has to buy tires or head out for a spaghetti dinner is so that she’ll be able to read random people on the street. If you know somebody is coming over for a reading, you could always research that person on the internet. But coming up with detailed information about people you’ve just met and describing situations they've never shared with anyone is pretty amazing, not to mention coming up with quirks associated with someone you don’t know at all who has been dead for five years. Even if you don’t buy it, the Caputo clan is pretty entertaining.
Contacts: @Theresacaputo, theresacaputo.com, (on Facebook)

Kim Russo
Star of "The Haunting Of..." (Bio)
Trademarks: Big cross, Lon Guylandt ax-sent

Meet the new kid on the t.v. block, another Italian gal from Long Island whose work is closer to Amy Allan's than Teresa Caputo's, at least on "The Haunting Of." This show takes alumni from "Celebrity Ghost Stories" back to the locations of their paranormal experiences where Russo will fill them in on what's really happening. Russo was previously seen on a CGS special with Loretta Lynn, whose homestead in Tennessee is way haunted. Russo dropped the surprising news that Lynn's deceased husband is hanging around with the other spirits keeping an eye on the place.
Contacts: @THEHAPPYMEDIUM, kimthehappymedium.com
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That aren't "Monster Mash" or "Purple People Eater" for that matter.

Of Monsters And Men "Little Talks"



Get past the Scandinavian accents and the song's about a widow speaking to her dead husband who may or may not be there.

Concrete Blonde "Ghost Of A Texas Ladies' Man"



Based on a supernatural experience Johnette Napolitano claims she had in a hotel while on tour in Austin, TX.

Zak Bagans vs. Praga Khan "Room 20"



The recently released "NecroFusion" album puts the "Ghost Adventures" star's greatest EVP hits to a beat the dead can dance to. This one is supposedly the EVP of an actor who hanged himself in a Vegas hotel room in 1997.

Oingo Boingo "Dead Man's Party"



Hey, remember this song in "Back To School" with a very young Robert Downey Jr.?

Redbone "Witch Queen Of New Orleans"



'70s swamp rockers' tribute to voodoo queen Marie Laveau.

Siouxsie and the Banshees "Voodoo Dolly"



As long as we're on the voodoo theme...

Warren Zevon "Werewolves of London"



I still associate this with Tom Cruise's billiards epic "The Color of Money"

Book Of Love "Witchcraft"



More witches...

Coil "(Unreleased) Theme From Hellraiser"



Seriously, one of the most disturbing tracks ever. It's just creeeee-py.
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It’s Halloween party time. You’re short on time, money, talent, and imagination. You’re not a cosplayer so that’s out the window. You don’t feel like getting into a fist fight at Party City or Spirit over that last costume. You don’t want to go as a “cereal killer” again. Ladies, you want an alternative to looking like a hooker or a stripper. So, what do you do?

Well, here are some cheap and easy Halloween costume ideas. Remember, you’re not trying to win a prize here, just get a costume together fast.

1. Zombie/Undead

This is simple because you don’t have to look like an extra from the “Thriller” video, just look creepy. All you need to do that is cover your face with white powder or flour, mess up your hair, and smudge black kohl eyeliner or eyeshadow around your eyes. Make sure your clothes are as disheveled as possible.

2. Con Goer

This will only work if you’re going to a non-fan function. Put on your badge, get your swag bag, and put your favorite fan tee on. Did you get any freebie hats or pins at the last con? Wear those too. Spoof the con a little. If you’re going as a DragonCon attendee, carry an empty booze bottle or drink out of a flask. If you’re going as a Comic Con attendee, make a sign that says “LINE STARTS HERE.” Or wear a “FREE HUGS” sign around your neck.

3. Disney park tourist

A variation of the time-honored tacky tourist, all you have to do is gather up your mouse ears, your Disney shirt of choice (better yet if you have a shirt from one of the parks), a lanyard with your favorite trading pins, and whatever wearable Disney paraphernalia you have. Be sure to wear shorts and a fanny pack. Bonus points if you wear a Disney World rain poncho. If you’re doing a group costume, have everybody wear tee shirts in the same color, like you’re one large family at the park.

4. #1 Fan

Whether you’re into sports, gaming, some pop star, or something fannish, just load up the paraphernalia (all from the same thing): hats, jerseys/tees, shoes, socks, pins, those foam #1 hands, whatever. The more the better.

5. Person Of Wal-Mart

Be inspired by the popular website People Of Wal-Mart! Gather up those Wal-Mart shopping bags lying around the house and put together the tackiest outfit you can from your sweats, pajamas, lounging shorts, etc.. If you dare to hit any costume store, snag a mullet wig or some rub-on tattoos. (Note: I shop at Wal-Mart all of the time and have never seen any of the kind of shoppers featured on POWM. I guess I don’t go to the right stores at the right time.) Variation: Person of Whole Foods…get some hippie gear and some Whole Foods recyclable bags.

6. Paranormal Investigator

All this requires are some Affliction-type tees, hoodies, jeans, a flashlight, and whatever you want to use as your investigation equipment. I think there’s an iPhone app that’s an EMF meter.

7. Vampire Slayer

All you have to do is swing by Home Depot, pick up a stake from the garden department, and put on a cross necklace or crucifix.

8. Rosie The Riveter

I saw this on another website. All ladies have to do is put on a denim shirt, blue jeans, and a red kerchief around the head. Bring some tools along.
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Back in July, I took the Ursula Bielski Haunted Chicago tour.

Prior to that, I’d only been on one ghost tour, if you can believe it. It was on the Queen Mary in 2006, which was included with general admission. They took you around the dark, creepy corners of the ship and mentioned the odd things as well as the tragic things that occurred in decades past. I saw the mystery wet spots in the indoor swimming pool area and there was one young Japanese tourist for whom the dark and creepiness of it all was too much, but no actual ghosts came out to say hello.

When I went to Chicago to see my new niece, my brother asked if I wanted to go on the ghost tour. I said, “Sure!” My dad came along too. We decided to go on the early evening tour to get back at a decent time, since my brother did not want to wake up the little nieces. The pickup/drop off spot was in downtown near the former rock ‘n roll McDonalds. The tour was on a converted school bus that was painted black and covered with gothy décor. It was allegedly air conditioned, but it was 98 degrees and really humid that evening, so I didn’t notice all of that much. There had been some rain and thunderstorms that day so maybe that would awaken some paranormal energy! Wooooooo.

Our tour guide was a young guy who was an avid paranormal investigator, a podcast host, and a scout for t.v. shows looking for haunted locales. Over the next two hours we went all over the city as our guide cheerfully pointed out the dark, morbid, and violent history of Chicago. He pointed out that just about every neighborhood was a bad neighborhood at some point or another, filled with tales of mayhem and murder. What he liked to do was at stoplights was open the bus door and shout something out to passerby like, “And the guy was murdered RIGHT ON THAT SPOT!”

Our first stop was at the site of the Iroquois theater in Chicago’s Theater District. Today there’s a theater with a different name (the Oriental) on the same site and for those of you who watch “Celebrity Ghost Stories,” this was the theater mentioned in the segment with Ana Gasteyer, who was appearing in “Wicked” at the time. What happened was in 1905, the newly opened Iroquois had a Christmas-themed show and there was a matinee for moms and kids. Unfortunately for those poor folks, the theater was a death trap. An arclight spark set fire to a curtain. There was supposed to be a fire curtain made of asbestos that was supposed to contain stage fires to protect the audience. But the guys making the curtain made it out of burlap and other flammable stuff to save money and the “fire curtain” went up like a Roman candle. A panicked person backstage opened a door, creating a backdraft that turned the burning “fire curtain” into a giant flame thrower. Those audience members not incinerated tried desperately to escape. Many were trampled in the stampede. To prevent people from sneaking into the theater, several of the doors were locked from the outside. People on the upper levels tried to flee through the fire escapes, but there was one problem…they hadn’t finished the fire escapes, leaving about a five-story drop to hard brick pavement below. Bodies were piled six feet high in the alley behind the theater. Patrons trying to get out through the front doors were jammed in the doorways. 800 people, mostly women and children, were immolated, trampled, crushed, succumbed to smoke inhalation, or fell to their deaths. Worst of all, crooks were first to arrive on the scene, stealing money and jewels off of the dead and dying, even chopping off fingers to get to stubborn rings. Think that place is haunted? The guide said once a tourist taking photos in the alley managed to capture a woman’s legs and skirt, clearly from the early 1900s, in midair. You do get a weird feeling in that alley where people fell from the fire escapes. I’d hate to be there alone late at night!

The next stop was the site of the S.S. Eastland’s sinking on the Chicago River. In July 1915, more than 800 people heading out to a Great Lakes cruise/company picnic drowned when the top-heavy, overcrowded boat capsized in dock. The ship’s top deck was made of cement and in response to the Titanic’s sinking a few years earlier, had *too* many lifeboats. They thought if they piled on the lifeboats, it would be safer to pile on the passengers. Not only were unlucky passengers trapped or crushed by heavy furniture when the boat tipped over, those thrown in the river were dressed in 1915 garb, which meant wool coats (yes, in July), petticoats, boots, long dresses, and so forth that would have weighed down anybody in the water. It’s one of the worst civilian maritime disasters in U.S. history; entire families were wiped out. Of course, the site is said to be haunted, with witnesses hearing cries for help and occasionally seeing people flail in the water. The guide said that on one cold winter night when he was conducting a tour, they all saw a woman’s arm come out of the water and reach over to grab onto some ice on the river. Then the arm just faded away. Bodies from the 1915 disaster were taken to makeshift morgues, one the site of Oprah’s Harpo Studios (Harpo employees have a lot of stories, apparently) and the other the current Excalibur nightclub, recently featured on “Ghost Adventures.”

We drove onward, past the site of the Haymarket Riots to our next location, Hull House at the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. Hull House is the former HQ of urban reformer Jane Addams and supposedly, it was haunted even when Addams moved in back in the late 1800s. The garden right next to the house is also haunted. The guide said that on one tour, there was someone sensitive to spirits who ended up chucking her cookies after visiting the garden area. Maybe it was something that person ate, heh heh. Anyway, I was very grateful for the stop because I was able to use the restroom and get a cold bottle of water in the campus bowling alley nearby.

The tour went back across town to a site from the bestselling book “Devil In The White City.” Now it’s an empty lot in an industrial-looking neighborhood but in the 1890s, it was home to a “glass bending” business owned by H.H. Holmes, a real-life con-man/serial killer. The guy’s claim to fame was a hotel of horrors he built near the site of the World Columban Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair, in 1893. He might have killed as many as 200 people and it’s believed that the “glass bending” business was a front for body disposal. The site of the long-gone hotel is in the South Side, home to many contemporary homicides, so we couldn’t go there. Originally the lot was just part of the “Devil In The White City” tour until odd things started happening. A series of crows showed up with dead doves in their mouths. A light over the lot would flicker at the mention of one of Holmes’s suspected victims. A tourist caught a photo of a shadowy man with a coat and a hat. Then the tour guide himself said he’d encountered a woman in a dark dress wandering too close to the bus as it was backing up. When he opened the door to make fun of her, she was gone. Nothing that spooky happened but vacant lots are creepy anyway. I saw a lot of antique brick in the ground. Of course, what was above the lot? A Twilight billboard.

As we trundled on toward Chicago’s North Side neighborhoods, the guide entertained us with EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) picked up on various expeditions and stories about some of the 7-hour long investigations around town. He talked about another serial killer/con-man who used to marry women, kill them, and collect their money. Eventually said criminal was hanged and buried out in a potter’s field. At this potter’s field our bus driver, a no-nonsense tough gal, was wandering around with the group near where this man is buried and some unseen hand grabbed her ankle. She refuses to go back to this place and the guide teased her about the crook looking for his next wife. Oh and we saw the building used for exterior shots on that ‘80s classic sitcom, “Perfect Strangers.” It looks exactly the same.

Near where my brother lives is the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The property is now owned by a seniors’ assisted living facility and they don’t allow paranormal looky-loos but you could see from the street the precise location of where the massacred Irish mobsters met their fate. It’s easy to spot because it’s a patch of dead grass and according to legend, grass has never been able to really grow in that location. And if it snows on Valentine’s Day, you’ll find the outlines of the dead on the ground, bwahahaha.

The last stop was at Lincoln Park just as it’s finally dark. The tour guide informed us that it was against the law to bring ghost tours or go ghost hunting in cemeteries located within the city but Lincoln Park was once a huge cemetery. As the city grew around it, local government decided life was for the living, so the dead were evicted and moved to other locations. But every time they dig up anything there, they manage to find more “undiscovered” graves, so it’s feasible there are still plenty of permanent residents in the park. They did leave for some unknown reason a large tomb belonging to the family of some store magnate from the 1850s. It’s still there for you to look at. A tree has grown through the roof of the tomb and it seems to be a favorite crashing spot of homeless guys. On the way back, we breezed by another park, home to the bohemian and radical crowd of the late 1800s. The guide talked about an expletive-filled EVP he got there one time.

So, no ghostly encounters on this tour but it was a lot of fun and very informative. I was inspired to read “Devil In the White City.” I couldn’t believe somebody wrote a book about a diabolical, genius-level killer and nobody told me about it! Actually, much of the book is also devoted to the tribulations of building the World’s Fair, interesting in its own way. Next time you’re in Chicago, there are tours based on the book and the same crew that put on the haunted tour also has a mob tour.
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Like I said, this one's a little different.

Rated PG )
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Long after Life's director calls, "Cut!" some celebrities can't help but try to stay in the spotlight. I fear what will happen once today's tech savvy famous pass on; will Kim Kardashian keep Tweeting from beyond?

At least the spirits of yesterday's stars were talented.

Celebrity Ghost Stories )
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I haven't trick or treated in a really long time but I still love Halloween goodies. In limited amounts of course.

(By the way, if you end up with a lot of leftover Halloween candy, visit http://www.soldiersangels.com, which is taking donations of candy to send with care packages to the troops overseas.)

As a kid, I loved Pixy Stix, basically flavored sugar in a straw-like tube. Now, to me it looks like a marketing tool to sell kids on cocaine. Dum-Dums lollipops and Tootsie Pops were favorites as well. Never had the patience to see how many licks it took to get to the center.

But my absolute favorites were of course the small chocolate bars. None of them suck. This is still the only time of the year I will ever eat a Reese's peanut butter cup.

Going on to the other traditional treats, caramel apples are fine but boy are they hard to eat. Especially the newfangled ones with about 20 layers of stuff dumped on the apple.

I do however love steamed apple cider. Preferably without the potpourri.

I also love pumpkin bread. There was a bakery in Vienna, VA that made awesome pumpkin bread. I used to buy it every fall.
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On the way to work today I heard on the radio several callers reporting odd incidents after using Ouija boards (I recalled some years back a scary experience a college friend had with a dark spirit after using one) or playing games like "Bloody Mary" and "Light As A Feather Stiff As A Board." As a veteran of many slumber parties in the '70s and '80s, I can tell you that nothing strange or spooky ever happened to me after playing "Bloody Mary." I wouldn't do it now though :O. But there was one strange thing that happened after a round of "Light As A Feather Stiff As A Board" when I was 13. I was having a Halloween slumber party with friends from school and dance class. Of course late at night, it was time to play "Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board." I think it was my friend Heather who volunteered to be the body, but whoever it was, my friend Noelle "presided" over the faux funeral. Being the class cutup, she of course made the whole thing jokey, making our volunteer laugh. But then we got all serious with the "light as a feather, stiff as a board" stuff. When we lifted up the body, we not only managed to lift her above our heads, we were holding her up by our fingertips! Not too long after we all started gasping that we were barely supporting this girl, she suddenly had weight again and we had to catch her. Frea-ky.

Which brings me to the original topic I'd planned, the local legends everybody has heard, no matter where they live. Generally I discount these stories because they are so prevalent but it could be that a common legend is used to explain an ongoing odd, unexplained occurrence.

"Ghost Hill"/"Mystery Handprints"--There's a famous ghost hill in South Florida, near Lake Wales, and there are a LOT of "ghost hills" in SoCal as told by the book "Weird California." These are spots where if you throw your car into neutral it will seemingly roll uphill by itself. Part of the reason why the Lake Wales one gets so much attention is because there are no real hills in much of Florida. But these ghost hills are optical illusions. You're just rolling along because your car is neutral.

Related to the ghost hill stories are the "mystery handprints." The story always goes like this: back in the (fill in the long-ago decade), a train smashed into a stalled school bus stuck on the tracks, slaughtering several innocent school children. The ghosts of the children (I guess not the driver, who must be on a supernatural union-mandated break) hang around the tracks to assist stalled cars get across so that they do not meet the same fate. To "prove" the helpful little ghosts exist, people drive down to the tracks, roll across while in neutral, and then dump baby powder on the trunk. The powder reveals...handprints!! Hold on though; the handprints likely belong to the living. People either closing their own trunks or hatches with their hands or people touching the car left those prints, which you don't see until you put powder on them. Many of these places where this legend persist have no record of tragic train wrecks involving school buses.

"Crybaby Bridge"--A lot of suburban and rural communities have a "crybaby bridge," a place where women once tossed their unwanted babies into the river to drown; sometimes they tossed themselves as well. Supposedly if you go down to these old bridges late at night, you can either hear the cries of the dying babies or of the remorseful women. There never seems to be any evidence of this sort of thing happening anywhere yet the stories crop up all over the place. They seem to be inspired by the Latin American "La Llorona," a female spirit who wails over the children she drowned but harms any living child she comes across.

"Hitchhiking Ghost"--There's an untold number of versions of this story; so many that there are folklorists who collect them. It usually goes like this: someone's driving down some lonely by-way and sees (usually but not always) a young woman on the side of the road. The driver picks her up and she asks to be taken to a location. Occasionally she asks to be dropped off at a cemetery but usually it's a house. The girl gets out of the car, but usually leaves an item behind. The driver returns to the house to return the item and finds out from whoever's home that the girl is dead and had died in (fill in the tragedy, usually a car wreck) on that very same road. Now there are people who will swear up and down this has actually happened to them. The best-known alleged "true" incident was Resurrection Mary, the ghost of a young woman known to a Chicago suburb. Not only she was known to show up for dances at a nearby ballroom for years after her demise, she was once given a ride to Resurrection Cemetery, where she is buried. The ghost had disappeared, but had apprarently bent the bars to the gate to get back in. Somebody was desperate to make curfew. I think there's even a photo of the bent bars somewhere.
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I was dreaming last night and the last thing I remember about this dream was looking at some rings on my fingers when I heard a really loud noise, kind of like between an explosion and scraping metal. I snapped awake (at 4 a.m., bleah) and I half-expected to find something that woke me up: an alarm, a wreck outside, a quake, a thunderstorm, anything. Nope, it was all quiet. It couldn't have been a real noise because as loud as it was in the dream, it would have left my ears ringing in the waking world. Weird.
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I have seen a lot of horror comedies and that probably has to do with growing up in the 1980s, when there were horror comedies aplenty. So it was hard to come up with just five and I amended my list to include 10.

One caveat...I have not seen every horror comedy ever made, including "Shaun of the Dead." Since Simon Pegg is on my poop list, I probably won't see it any time soon.

1. Ghostbusters (1984)

I saw this in the theater as part of my friend Heather's 15th birthday party and things like the StayPuft Marshmallow Man or "Where do those stairs go?/They go up" have been running gags with me ever since. I loved it then and I'm amazed at how well it holds up now. They're re-releasing it briefly this week and a third installment is on the way (sadly without Bill Murray). In my opinion, it's the funniest film featuring more than one SNL alumni.

2. Beetlejuice (1988)

The eccentric Michael Keaton was put to good use as the hyperkinetic supernatural troublemaker summoned to evict New York proto-hipster couple and teenage goth Winona Ryder from a home that once belonged to Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin. The part that makes me laugh the hardest though is when Ryder attempts to write a dramatic suicide note. Only Tim Burton could make something like that funny.

3. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

One of the funniest movies of all time, period. Sam Raimi basically re-made his "Evil Dead" with slightly more money and called it a sequel. What's great is how the film combines slapstick and gore. The best part is the incredible Bruce Campbell fighting his demonically-possessed hand.

4. Young Frankenstein (1974)

A Mel Brooks classic that spoofs Universal's old '30s horror films. There are too many great moments to name, but I especially loved Peter Boyle's visit with the blind old man and "Puttin' On The Ritz."

5. An American Werewolf In London (1981)

John Landis turned the guy from the Dr. Pepper ads (you can probably find them on YouTube) into a werewolf! Michael Jackson loved this movie so much, it was the reason why Landis was hired to direct the "Thriller" video.

6. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

How I miss Channel 6's Abbott & Costello Theater every Sunday when I used to live in Miami! In this one Abbott and Costello were encountering almost every Universal monster to great comedic effect.

7. Army of Darkness (1993)

The sequel to "Evil Dead 2" sends Ash to a strange medieval-type kingdom where he battles all kinds of creatures. When I saw this in the theater, I couldn't stop laughing. There are volumes of famous quotes from this movie. "This is my boomstick." "Hail to the King, baby." "Shop smart, shop S-Mart."

8. Gremlins (1984)

This movie came out when cute aliens/creatures were in vogue. You know, E.T. and Ewoks. This movie introduced the very adorable Gizmo who spawns destructive but hilarious ugly gremlins if you happen to get him wet, expose him to light, and feed him after midnight. Phoebe Cates's sob story about her dad's bizarre death was really funny until it happened in real life a few times :o.

9. Scream (1996)

A movie that's a slasher flick and a satire of a slasher flick all at the same time. The killer's mask has become a Halloween favorite ever since.

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

About the only movie that works for both Halloween and Christmas. Fun and twisted, as you might expect from Tim Burton, who wrote and produced this film.
lazypadawan: (Default)
I don’t care what anyone says. The best horror stories are real stories because unlike an improbable tale of an ax-wielding zombie vampire going exclusively after sorority girls in a spooky Victorian megamansion, stuff that happens to folks in real life emphasize that this stuff can really happen to you. I think that accounts in part for the popularity of ghost hunting shows on t.v..

One of my oddball hobbies is picking up paranormal-themed books wherever I visit. If there’s a book about a town’s or a certain location’s spooks, I want to read it. And I will also read anthologies about spooky happenings across the country and around the world. You can always find around now a pile of Hans Holzer’s many volumes about his investigations done many years ago. My only issue with Holzer’s stuff is because it was done before people came up with all kinds of cool toys to measure or capture possible paranormal activity, he had to rely almost exclusively on psychics to ferret out the spirits. And psychics alone don’t impress me.

Well, here’s the good stuff, with the best keep-you-awake-at-night true tales of eerie encounters.

Seeking Spirits & Ghost Hunting by Jason Hawes And Grant Wilson (with Michael Jan Friedman)

These two volumes are brought to you by the stars of SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters,” former plumbers extraordinaires, and leaders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society. Here they discuss what brought them into ghost hunting and recount investigations that weren’t on the show. They claim to have encountered not only ghosts but also elementals, demons, and possibly even an extraterrestrial—they referred that case to a UFO group. They mention a case where the occupants were caught trying to fake them out, another case with an atheist couple troubled by a ghost, and a hilarious debunking involving a woman who hears mysterious knocks and groans coming from the walls. But I have to say, there were a couple of stories that were really freaky. One case mentioned in “Ghost Hunting” involved a demon taking up residence in a Toronto apartment after a devil worshipper had been evicted--the mysterious ping pong balls are right out of a horror movie--and another case in “Seeking Spirits” was about a woman’s doppelganger. Those seriously creeped me out.

When The Ghost Screams/Coast To Coast Ghosts/Ghost In The Mirror /Ghosts Among Us by Leslie Rule

Leslie Rule is the daughter of popular crime novelist Ann Rule and she traveled the country to collect first-hand accounts of the paranormal, occasionally experiencing the phenomena herself. Rule would then dig into the location’s past, hoping to find clues and documented events to further explain the alleged haunting. Rule gathered enough material to put out many volumes over the past several years; there's one from 1995 I haven't read yet and there's a brand new one about angelic encounters. There tends to be a tragic tone to most of her ghostly tales but they're all very well-written.

Dark World by Zak Bagans and Kelly Crigger

Bagans is the host and lead investigator of Travel Channel’s mega-popular “Ghost Adventures” show and this new book is now a New York Times bestseller. One of the things I liked about it is that the co-author managed to capture Bagans’s voice so well, you’d think he’d just slammed down a Monster energy drink and told you everything he believes about investigating the paranormal. Which is what watching “Ghost Adventures” is like. Bagans describes the ghostly encounter that got him into all of this and how he met his GA cohorts, then he dishes on what happened behind-the-scenes of his more memorable investigations. Bagans says he’s had to pay a price for picking fights with demons and returning to places over and over to confront them…but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Then he finishes with several mind-bending scientific theories that could explain at least some kinds of hauntings and how they could find practical applications. Personally, I don't see EVP testimony admitted into evidence any time soon (ask your evidence law prof. how that would work with hearsay) nor do I think you can fully convince everyone of spiritual matters with scientific evidence. The best you can do is capture phenomena people claim to experience. Still, even with Bagans's quirks and occasional logical inconsistencies, it's an entertaining and even thought-provoking read. Moral of the story: you just don’t need to visit places like Poveglia, Italy or Bobby Mackey’s Music World in Kentucky. I’ll stay away from them, kthx.
lazypadawan: (Default)
The annual Fright Fest kicks off tomorrow as we celebrate the greatest holiday of the year, Halloween!

This year's topics include:

*My favorite (non-fiction) paranormal books

*More great Halloween tunes that aren't "Monster Mash"

*Celebrity ghost stories: famous people who can't stay out of the limelight even though they're dead

*The five best horror-comedies ever

*Favorite Halloween/fall treats

And other fun stuff. Stay tuned!
lazypadawan: (Default)
Costume Party
Rated PG for punch-spiking
Starring: Han, Chewie, Luke, Leia, et al.


I have to admit I got the idea from some of the responses to last week's poll, especially those of [livejournal.com profile] milady. Thanks for the plot bunny!

Now I haven't done a lot of revision on this, so I apologize if it's a little rough...

It was only because of a lot of browbeating from Chewie that Han Solo was even at this thing. Han was not one for parties, especially ones that involved costumes or dancing. Unfortunately, this one had both. The Alliance top brass decided a costume party to celebrate the autumnal harvest--on the Core Worlds of course--would be a welcome morale boost. The party was held in one of the base hangars. Space was cleared for a dance floor and there were improvised decorations. The Kid and, weirdly enough, the Princess were all excited about it as soon as it was announced. They weren't there yet, so Han skulked over by the punch bowl and watched various Rebels in silly improvised costumes dance poorly to loud music.

Han didn't wear a costume. Earlier, when he'd bumped into Wedge Antilles--dressed as a "cereal killer," i.e. hanging mangled mini cereal boxes from the mess around his waist like trophies--Wedge had asked, "What are you supposed to be?"

"Mr. Nice Guy," Han quipped with a shrug. Chewie had found an old rug and draped it over his body. He'd said that if someone was going to call him a big walking carpet, why not go as one?

Han took out his flask and was about to sip his contraband booze from it when he got an idea. He could at the very least make the gathering a little more tolerable for everyone. He poured the flask's contents into the punch, looking as innocent as possible while doing so. He stirred the punch with a ladle, then helped himself to a drink. It was pretty good. He'll have to remember that jawa juice tastes great with Corellian moonshine.

He was on his second cup when Chewie came by with Luke in tow. He almost didn't recognize the Kid. He was dressed almost like that wacky old wizard Obi-Wan. Han had to give the dead old man credit for his bravery and for his sacrifice, even if he did convince Luke he had magical powers or something.

"Hey, you made it!" Luke exclaimed with a big smile, playfully slapping Han on the arm. Luke's charm was guileless and infectious. Han had to admit Luke Skywalker was a damn impossible guy to dislike.

"Wouldn't miss it for all of the spice on Kessel," Han said. "Let me guess, you're a Jedi, right?"

"You guessed it!" Luke said. "I'd found some old archives of how the Jedi looked prior to the Clone Wars. There was some surplus raw silk fabric lying around and got one of the uniform makers here to sew it up for me. And well, finding a cloak was a snap. I figured I already have a lightsaber, why not go for the whole thing?"

"Did Jedi really wear dark brown like that? I usually think of sand-colored robes."

"I guess some did," Luke shrugged. "With the fabric, beggars can't be choosers anyway. Hey, have you seen Leia yet?"

"Believe me kid, if I'd run into Her Worship. She would still be standing here arguing..."

Han trailed off when he saw a petite woman walking into the hangar dressed in an elaborate red dress with an impossibly elaborate headdress. Her face was coated in white. Threepio and Artoo were right behind her.

Many of the other party goers turned to look because it was easily the fanciest costume at the event. Han stared increduously. "Is that...?" His question was answered when the woman smiled and waved in their direction.

"Wow," Luke muttered. "That's amazing."

Leia sauntered over to the punch bowl and it was at this point Han could see the red dots on her cheeks as well as the strange lipstick job on her mouth. "Luke, you look great," Leia said. "Turn around, let me see it." Luke cheerfully modeled his Jedi outfit while Artoo took holos.

"Look at you though," Luke said. "How did you put that together?"

"It took a whole month," Leia said proudly. "You wouldn't believe how creative I had to be to find some of this stuff."

"What are you supposed to be, a floor lamp?" Han asked. Baiting Her Royalness was as natural as breathing. She frowned and crossed her arms.

'What are you supposed to be, a nerf groomer?" Then she added, "For your information, I'm dressed as a Queen of Naboo. There are many brave heroines who served as queen, including my father's friend, the late Senator Amidala."

Artoo tweedled.

"Oh, and Artoo very nicely helped with ensuring the costume's accuracy," Leia said. "Who knew he was an expert on the topic?"

Just then, Hobbie--who served as Master of Ceremonies and a dj--announced over the comm a couples' dance as he spun a soft romantic ballad. The lights went low except for a single light focused on a spinning shimmer ball hanging above the impromptu dance floor.

"Wanna dance?" Luke asked Leia.

"I would love to," she said, offering the Kid her arm. She turned and gave Han a sharp look over her shoulder as they walked off. He shook his head as he watched them make their way to the dance floor. When they started dancing in each other's arms, everybody stopped to watch. There were plenty of murmurs and whispers.

Han rolled his eyes. Luke and Leia were the golden kids in the Alliance and it was no secret a lot of people would like to see them get together.

Chewie growled out a comment with a Wookiee laugh. "No, I don't want to dance with you. I don't dance, period," Han said, sounding a tad bit more irritated than usual. He didn't know why it bugged him just a little to see Her Holiness dance with another guy, even if it was Luke. Han decided not to think any more about it and helped himself to more punch.

Then he noticed a thin woman with short red hair several feet away standing with other older Alliance leaders. She stared at Luke and Leia with a haunted look on her face. Han thought it was strange she'd look like that. Artoo was beeping and chirping excitedly as Threepio admonished, "I don't see what you find so funny about this."

After a while, the red haired woman came by the punch bowl, loaded her cup, and slammed it down with a speed that amazed and alarmed Han. She then quickly got a refill.

"Hey," Han said to the woman. "Are you all right? You look like you've just seen a ghost."

"Maybe I did," she said with a sad smile before rejoining the other Rebel poobahs. Han shrugged. He wondered who she was...

The song ended and the costume contest judging began. As it turned out, Leia won Best Costume overall, while Wedge won for Funniest Costume. Luke won a small prize--heck, they were all small prizes--as an Honorable Mention. A ground crew guy Han didn't know won a prize for Scariest Costume. He was a zombie trooper, cobbled together with blasted armor pieces and convincing makeup. It reminded Han, and likely Chewie as well, of an incident they both wanted desperately to forget.

After that, Han decided to call it a night.

Th'End
lazypadawan: (Default)
Some kids submitted this gender bending entry to American Apparel's Halloween contest where you have to use its wares in your costume. I bet American Apparel's owner is really disappointed it's not an 18-year-old girl in the slave Leia costume:

http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/index.php/2009/10/29/hipster-han-leia-costumes/

Aaand, starwars.com has a feature on those Ben Cooper plastic mask 'n vinyl smock Halloween costumes from back in the day. Believe it or not, I never had any of those costumes even though I grew up in that time:

http://www.starwars.com/vault/collecting/news20091030.html
lazypadawan: (Default)
f you thought the 1990s or the 1970s were the heyday of paranormal t.v., think again. For some reason, you can't turn the channel these days without finding a show on the topic.

A big part of it is the success of SyFy's (bleah, I hate that spelling) "Ghost Hunters." Now you can watch a solid night of creepy stuff on Bio, along with similar fare on A&E, Cartoon Network, Travel, etc.. Here's how the current batch stacks up.

Ghost Hunters (SyFy)--The show that spawned a thousand imitators, GH is itself inspired by long-cancelled fare like MTV's "Fear" that was in turn inspired by "The Blair Witch Project." The difference here is that instead of a bunch of goofball college students and attention whores tossed into an allegedly haunted location, it's a bunch of people who take the subject seriously and want to help scared people in need. What I like about it is that TAPS never assumes the place is haunted. They try to disprove the supernatural first. The show doesn't capture a whole lot of evidence and whenever it does, it's up to the viewer to determine if something unusual was caught on camera or on tape or whether there's an alternate explanation or if it's flat out a hoax. Scariest moment: You couldn't pay me to stay overnight at the Stanley Hotel or to poke around some insane asylum, but for me the freakiest thing was an EVP captured in New Orleans a few years ago. You can clearly hear a woman in distress and there was nothing around that could have produced that tape. Either it's a flat out hoax or…

Ghost Hunters International (SyFy)--The GH spinoff is a few seasons old already, featuring old TAPS members and new gallivanting around the world to investigate the supernatural. The guy in charge of it hardly ever wants to call it a haunting, which is just as well because I'm always skeptical about spirits in say, Hungary, being able to understand questions or commands in English. Do you get a Rosetta Stone course when you die? They usually put GHI on when GH is on hiatus. And fairly soon, the GH franchise will spawn "Ghost Hunters Academy" starring aspiring paranormal investigators. Scariest moment: Actually, the episode that inspired GHI, one where the TAPS crew investigated Leap Castle in Ireland. Any castle with an oubliette isn't going to have good vibes.

Paranormal State (A&E)--Penn State students, ex-students, and townies from University Park, PA go out and help people tormented by spirits. Narrated by their leader who does this "starlog" type voice-over, they always assume the locations are haunted and rely too much IMO on psychics. Demonology gets played up more on this show than most of the others and there's less checking for evidence. Usually they do some sort of ritual at the end and it seems to take care of the problem. Occasionally there's some controversy. Last year, one of their clients claimed the show confused one "bad" spirit with a good one, which they believe might have hurt the surviving family of the deceased person. Scariest moment: The aforementioned episode about the couple that had a dark figure walking around the house as well as the presence of another spirit inside. You don't see anything but the place has a creepy vibe and there's a tangible connection with a real person who had once lived there.

Extreme Paranormal (A&E)--A brand new show, I don't have too much of an impression of it other than it appears to have been inspired by the success of Travel's hit show "Ghost Adventures." A bunch of guys try all kinds of crazy stunts to rile up any restless spirits so they can perform for the cameras. The show plays up the "danger" of this kind of ghost hunting by claiming it cuts part of the "rituals" out of the show so some stupid kid doesn't invite demons into his home by imitating them.

MonsterQuest (Discovery)--A cryptozoology show where researchers use the latest technology and a whole mess of experts to look for everything from the mysterious big black cats that roam across the heartland to the Loch Ness Monster. Cryptozoology doesn't scare me, but it is interesting.

Destination Truth (SyFy)--It's similar to MonsterQuest but their investigations cover ghosts and stuff too. Last year the Destination Truth crew found alleged evidence of the fabled Yeti and sometimes they capture weird stuff on camera. What's really entertaining though is watching the cast and crew's tribulations as they travel to their investigations. On one episode, the top half of a small plane came off at takeoff. Scariest moment: The visit to the eerie Isla de las Munecas in Mexico. The story goes that a little girl drowned several decades ago and to ward off her angry spirit, a local resident set up all of these dolls around the place, where they decay in the hot Mexican sun.

Ghostly Encounters (Bio)--I call this one "It's A Ghost, Eh." Terrified Canucks share their run-ins with the paranormal on this Canadian program that airs on Bio in the U.S.. They sit in a chair and tell their tales, with some cutaways of recreated events. Some of the stories are heartwarming reunions with lost loved ones, others are flat out freaky. Scariest moment: I think the grand prize goes to a young woman who traveled to Thailand with a friend and spent a scary night at a beach side bungalow. A woman tapped on the window outside and the narrator later woke up to find the woman standing over her trying to cover her face with a blanket inside the room.

Celebrity Ghost Stories (Bio)--Another new entry based on a Bio special from last year that featured the spooky true-life experiences of celebrities like Gina Gershon, Belinda Carlisle, and Sammy Hagar. Given that performers can be superstitious and often work in enviroments like theaters and old soundstages that have reputations for being haunted, it's not all that surprising they claim to have seen ghosts. The show featured a segment with Carrie Fisher a couple of weeks ago. Scariest moment: Joan Rivers's plastic surgery wasn't enough to scare away a hostile spirit from her New York condo.

The Othersiders (Cartoon Network)--Basically, it's a kids' version of "Ghost Hunters." Grade schoolers are unleashed upon haunted sites where they jump at every bump and analyze the evidence. Maybe one day they'll graduate to "Ghost Hunters Academy." I don't find the show scary at all since it's meant to ensure its young viewers won't wet their beds afterwards.

Ghost Adventures (Travel)--For my money, this is the scariest of the investigation shows and the one that racks up the most interesting stuff on camera. Zak Bagins, no relation to Frodo or Bilbo, leads the investigation with a second investigator and a hapless (and very scared) cameraman. Bagins describes his style as "extreme ghost hunting," where he will provoke a spirit to prove its there, sometimes even going as far as taunting the unseen. The hammy Bagins sometimes comes across as though he drank a lot of Red Bulls to stay up all night but even bigger laughs come from the scared cameraman. Poor guy. The scares come from the things they capture on camera: shadows, disembodied voices, strange mists, flying bricks, odd shapes moving around, etc.. There are also occasional EVPs. Scariest moment: That's a toughie. The original Ghost Adventures documentary was freaky but so were their investigations of Bobby Mackey's Music World and Ram Inn in England.
lazypadawan: (Default)
All kinds of scary things inhabit the nation's capital, and I don't mean the politicians and the lobbyists *rimshot.*

I've been to many of these scary sites and well, didn't encounter anything out of the ordinary. Still, the stories persist. Abraham Lincoln's ghost is to Washington what Marilyn Monroe's ghost is to L.A....there are multiple locations where Honest Abe is said to still roam.

The White House

Legend has it that (you guessed it) Abraham Lincoln still haunts 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with one famous incident where Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands was awakened in the middle of the night by Lincoln's ghost. Another famous ghost is that of former First Lady Abigail Adams, who hangs up laundry in the East Room because they didn't have dryers back in the early 1800s. Former First Lady Dolley Madison is known to have chewed out White House gardeners for messing up her rose garden, long after her death. Other ghosts in residence include Andrew Jackson, a British soldier, Willie Lincoln, and Grover Cleveland's wife.

Some local paranormal investigators believe that the White House hauntings have been overblown and even a few believe it's not haunted at all.

The Scary Black Cat

According to local legend, a mysterious black cat is seen either in the U.S. Capitol's "Crypt" or in the White House basement (depending on the version of the story) on the eve of a great tragedy. The story says it appeared the nights before such tragedies as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the 1929 stock market crash. Since nobody saw the cat before September 11, 2001, I'm calling b.s. on this story.

The Exorcist Stairs

The stairs aren't really haunted but they were the famous stairs used in the film "The Exorcist." It's a really long staircase that goes from a street in D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood to...a gas station. I'm not kidding. By the way, the true story behind "The Exorcist" originates in the D.C. area. A boy in suburban Maryland--the property where he lived is now a park--ended up possessed and was exorcised in St. Louis. Supposedly, William Peter Blatty read about the incident while a student at Georgetown University.

The Willard Hotel

The ghost of Ulysses S. Grant is said to be enjoying stogies in the lobby in defiance of anti-smoking laws. I've been in the Willard's lobby a few times and didn't smell anything.

The Old Stone House

I walked past this house dating back to the 1700s lots of times whenever I was in Georgetown but never really toured the place. It's run by the National Park Service.

The Octagon House

Featured on t.v., The Octagon was said to be haunted by a young woman who fell to her death on the stairs. I never toured the house, but I've heard that the hauntings seem to be winding down over the past several years.

The Stephen Decatur House

Located near the White House, this was also once featured on t.v.. Decatur died in a duel and his ghost was seen pacing around in the house.

The National Theater

I've seen a few shows at this venue but never saw the ghost of an actor murdered there in the 19th century.

Ford Theater

Another hangout of Abraham Lincoln's ghost for obvious reasons. He's also said to haunt the building across the street where he died.

The U.S. Capitol

Believe it or not, the Congress critters aren't the scariest inhabitants of the U.S. Capitol building. There are a number of ghost stories associated with it, ranging from the aforementioned scary black cat to statues that come to life on New Year's at midnight to a dead construction workers to John Quincy Adams attempting to finish a speech cut short by a stroke. Supposedly the Capitol Police have witnessed a lot of strange things at night.

Having poked around a lot of these places, including underground passageways that run among the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Senate Building, etc., I can see why someone would be creeped out walking around there late at night.

The Hope Diamond

In permanent residence at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, this cursed rock has hosed everyone who has owned it, except the Smithsonian itself.

And that's just the beginning. There's even a whole Wikipedia page on D.C.'s haunts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reportedly_haunted_locations_in_Washington,_D.C.

Tomorrow: other spooky places I've visited across the nation.

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