I've spent much of my life drawn to things that are spooky and weird--like Janice Dickinson's reality show. (I think her most recent face, is probably the best one yet if by "best" you mean "frightful," and also graded like a mini golf green or the Whitefish Bay Sendiks parking lot) But how often do you stop and notice the presence of the occult in our children's every day lives? Here are Five of my favorite otherworldly children's activities, please feel free to chime in with your family occult traditions as well.
Ouija***** (that's a five star or five asterisk rating with Eblogger's limited symbol options)
We'll start with the Big Kahuna of board games, that which combines the genuine plastic reader to interpret messages from the Mystifying Oracle. Of course, the Ouija board. If you attended a sleepover at any given point during the 1970s or 1980s, you know that Ouija board is ten giant scary steps up from "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board," when it comes to contacting the dead or finding out if you're going to marry Shawn Cassidy. Marketing genius William Fuld holds the patent on the Message Indicator and the Talking Board design. He wants you to be aware of that fact so much that he slapped that enforceable Patent notification on the face of the game board not once, but twice. Not only did Fuld combine children's natural curiosity with witchcraft and neatly packaged it into a board game, but he spent the duration of his career shutting down hawkers of imitation inferior "talking boards" until Ouija was the Ma Bell of communicating with the dead.
Upon receiving his first Magic 8 Ball, my son tore open the package, vigorously shook it while pleading: Is God For Real??? (Answer was Better Not Tell You Now, another lost sheep looking for someone with a clue.)I guess our family occult night combined with the strict observance of the public schools not to acknowledge any religious holidays except for a heavy dose of Halloween tempered with the same public school exposure to all the major religions in a non denominational way has confused the boy a tad. Basically any mention of Church or God is usually followed by a panicky reply of "Do I have to wear a shirt with buttons?" In spite of that, he insists that "he likes Jesus, he just doesn't like to wear nice pants," and we accept his spiritual limitations because all the photographs I've seen of Jesus, he didn't wear nice pants or a button shirt either. Church rules don't always get you closer to God, just ask Jerry Falwell if he's feeling a little warm about now.
Edible Occult***(three stars)
Fortune Cookies: How freaky is it that so many of us are living a long and happy life and that we absolutely should "learn Chinese," in a nation becoming increasingly dependant on the Chinese takeout? Nothing gets my kids throwing down as the award of one of the two fortune cookies that come with our East Garden take out.
No Photo available 'cause offspring ate them all while I was looking for the camera.
Speaking of Chinese, Note re: blatant copyright infringement as it relates to Ouija boards and Magic 8 Balls: The Chinese versions of these games are similar in size and design, but have small clues that they are ripoffs of the real thing. For instance, the juice in the Chinese made Magic 8 is actually toxic mercury and the first reading the ball will give you is: "This ball is bound to leak Toxic Mercury all over you." The second reading is "Seriously kid, you'll need a skin graft." Don't believe me? Let's ask the Ball:
A: Without a Doubt
The Chinese version of "Ouija...it's only a game--isn't it?," boasts a board and genuine plastic message indicator, but it has not been endorsed by the Mystifying Oracle like the genuine Parker Brother's (not really brothers) brand. William Fuld's iron fist didn't reach to the Far East. Therefore your board will not be able to answer sample questions like: Will I ever be tall enough to slam dunk? and Does Tommy know I like him? Who told him? Will my parents let me go to the concert? What should I wear? Instead, your Chinese-made set will just have the plastic message indicator spinning into infinity. BTW, the Chinese also invented Infinity, but only to distract the rest of us from severe copyright infringement that is their stock and trade. Always look for the genuine American Made in Taiwan seal that shows your occult games are for real.
Occult in the cards** (two stars)
Indian: If you have small children and you haven't played Indian, you are missing out on one of life's greatest adventures. For those of you who are too politically correct to play a game so uncomfortably named, each player is dealt one card face down. Each player then holds the card to his forehead so that his opponents can see the face, but he can't. It is helpful to use duct tape if your opponents are really young or if they have greasy foreheads from eating a lot of Chinese food. Then, based on what you observe from your opponents, you are supposed to bet if you think your card is higher than theirs.
Seems straightforward, but here is where the occult comes in. You have to read the mind of your opponents in order to know if you have a high or low card. Comments like "Oh, I know I beat Daddy 'cause he's got a two," may lead you to an educated guess, but really, Patricia Arquette has the edge in this game. Don't rely solely on questions from your kids like "Mommy is your Queen higher than Sophie's ten?" They won't always be this naive. If you expect to win at Indian, you must clear your head, focus and try to read the minds of your opponents. Or, you can sit across from a window or a mirror and steal a peak at your card, but be discreet, that only works for a couple of years before they get wise.
Sentimental Occult Shout out to My West Allis Peeps--All Star Occult:
Haunchyville: Ahhh, these blogs will often ramble back to my youth in the bustling village called West Allis. It is common knowledge that kids from Muskego enticed us West Allis-ites out to their cornfields to visit what was known as "Haunchyville," a haunted cornfield populated with possessed gnomes or gremlins if you will, out for West Allis blood. Now, you might think that if we were old enough to drive, we were old enough to know better, but no, we went, hoping to catch a glimpse of a haunted little cornfed sprite running through the crops with a sickle. A few times we did get the B'Jesus scared out of us and a few classmates were known to have spotted one (little person, not a B'Jesus). More than one classmate spotted rows of shorty mailboxes as you can be possessed but well informed if you subscribe to the right literature.
As I mature, I often wonder if Muskegoans were mostly messin' with us in a desperate attempt to feel superior to our Ivy League feeder status but I can't discount the strong otherworldly vibe we all felt in the corn. I started to get suspicious when on one of our jaunts out to Haunchyville, we stopped at a service station and asked for directions. To Haunchyville. With a straight face. The counter dude smiled and said "are you kids from West Allis?" but happily pointed us in the right direction.
Haunchy Watching with My Kids:
Class of '88 quotes on Haunchyville:
Divina (Friendliest and Most memorable): "There was always talk (about Haunchyville) but I tended to back away from those conversations because I'm close to being a haunchytype: short and freaky in stature/nature. That is me."
Jill (Best Driver): "I sooooo remember driving out there several times with a carload of us, but can't for the life of me figure out where it is. I do remember trying to "back in" in case we needed a fast get away, but the cornstalks on both sides of the car made it too hard to see."
Curses being en vogue city folk unfamiliar with the height of September corn!! But check out that driving acumen. That was a well earned honor.
Toe (I'm a Girl and Most Obnoxious): "I remember a Children of the Corn feeling when we drove there. I think the vertically challenged people could have made it through the bondo on my Maverick."
Note to readers who didn't grow up to the sounds of Toe's mufflerless Maverick cruisin' the strip: Toe's Mav had no floor ala the Flintstones but if you wanted to add the thrill of motion sickness to your donuts in the school parking lot, no better ride to be had.
Jimmy B. (1/5 of German Five Five aka Deutsche Funf Funf): No official English comment from Jimmy, but during business hours, Jimmy located Haunchyville on a map and gave me the cross streets of Mystic Drive (oooohhhh, creepy) and Janesville Road. I'm going to speak in code to Jimmy B now: Guten Tag, Herr Breitenfeld. Danke und Guten Arbeit mein Freund. Wie geht's Fortunatus, die Haunchy auf Deutschland, auf Schwarzwald? Auf Wiedersehen und Gesundheit.Heather (Best Musician): I think I had viola practice when you guys were at Haunchyville. (Say it with me: Poor Heather!!)
Meredith (inappropriate pic on reunion website): "What do you mean you can't say midgets anymore?" and: "I definitely remember the "Children of the Corn" feeling, but never actually observed threatening little people to my recollection, but there were some squat mailboxes in the shadows of the corn. Even the petite need their Vanity Fair."
Micki (FL Wright's answer to Coco Chanel and 1/5 of German Five Five): "I remember a bunch of us psyching ourselves out thinking we wouldn't live to see another day if a Haunchy saw us in the corn. I remember small mailboxes too. To this day, I have not seen a Haunchy but would love to meet one for a latte."
Oh Mick, how high falutin' of you to offer a growth stunting beverage to a Haunchy.
One stray quote from the Class of '85, but its my sister Anja and you guys all love her stuff: "I never heard of Haunchyville. But one time a bunch of us went to the airport to see Gilligan come into town. That was before airport security was so strict so we went right to Gilligan's gate."
Note to class of '85: You guys were kind of a snooze, wholesome and sweet to be sure, but zzzzz...
see Journal Sentinel Travel Reporter Dennis McCann report on the true story of Haunchyville at http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=267593