Friday, January 14, 2011

Stephen King's Gate

Now here are some gates that speak volumes (pun intended) about the property owner. Horror author Stephen King's gates at his home in Bangor, Maine are a delight, with spiders and webs and creepy toppers of flying bat-gargoyle-dragon beings.
King and the appropriately-named Terry Steel of Steel Forge collaborated on the design, and back in 1982, Steel produced the iron gates and 270-foot long fence that surrounds the property. As artfully foreboding as the gates may seem, they aren't just decorative, as Stephen King has had his share of stalkers and intruders- why, I'm thisclose to being one myself. And of course, especially on Halloween, people want to visit. Stephen King and his wife Tabitha (that name Bewitches me, too) usually take out an ad in the local paper to let the town know they won't be available to trick-or-treaters that night (okay everyone, let's pout collectively.)

photo: SirFin

  One morning late last September, a 25-year old woman with a normal name drove her Dodge Neon into them, mangling a spider and ripping its legs off. She claimed she was trying to avoid (dodge?) another car that was in her lane (story here). Although that other car took off, I believe her- I'd be distracted by the gates too, and be likely to cross the lane divider. But far, far more likely, I'd park and take a gazillion photos from every angle and possibly even take measurements that would ultimately serve me no good. The story of the repair work, done by a fan of the author, is found here. Estimated cost of repair? $100,000. But that includes the faux-painting to make to make the new parts look as old and weathered as the rest. Wait, I have experience aging things! I'm sure he just didn't have my number.
 Stephen King lives at 47 West Broadway, Bangor, Maine. It's a nice red Italianate house, originally built in 1856. It boasts 23 rooms and an indoor swimming pool. It's on the bus tour of Stephen King-related sights, but the bus does not stop there, it just drives past.
Here is a blog about a fan's visit to the area, with a few more pictures, including this shot of the new "office space" Mr. King is adding right next door:
photo: Jamie Cole
Can't wait to see the gates for that one.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Christmas Witch- La Befana

Would you substitute a witch for Santa? On the night of January 5th, Italian children, or at least the ones who have been good, are given gifts by a raggedy witch called La Befana. Like a spooky(spookier?) Santa Claus, La Befana flies down chimneys or through keyholes to leave presents after deciding who has been naughty and who has been nice. Children leave out stockings hoping to wake up to discover candy and small toys. The photo shows my version of La Befana, though the broom should be the traditional rustic kind witches are usually depicted riding and she shouldn’t be green. Though she’s left some presents, she’s deciding to leave coal for the bad child with the red stocking.

According to Italian legend, La Befana was a witch living at the time of the birth of Jesus. The three wise men were on their way to Bethlehem, when they invited La Befana to come along. She was busy with her housework and declined. Later, once she had finished her cleaning, she set off on her broomstick with toys for the Baby Jesus. However, she could not find the Three Kings and soon lost her way. Italian children believe that La Befana is still looking for Baby Jesus, and on the eve of the Epiphany (January 6th), she flies down the chimney of each house, and leaves gifts in the children’s stockings by the fireplace and looking for the Baby Jesus. But those Italians live the good life: instead of cookies and milk, families leave wine and fruit for La Befana.

There are festivals featuring La Befana, with with main one in the small medieval town of Urbania in central Italy. About 40,000 people flock to Urbania in the 2 weeks after Christmas to have their kids sit on the lap of a woman dressed up as an ugly old witch, while over 100 other women dressed as witches gather in the main square, handing out candy, juggling, stilt-walking, and otherwise dancing in the streets.

If this wasn't enough to encourage you to make the trip, note that Urbania also is home to Chiesa dei Morti, the Church of the Dead, where 18 mummies are on display.

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