On Growing Up with a Demon… The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI: Part 6

A haunted house filled with scary pumpkins was the subject of this carving at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.. The guy on the lower left would make a good demon! And check out the moon!


Demons, I decided, are adequately scary for my Halloween series. Today I will write about one that lived in our house when I was growing up.  The art-carved pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI will feature a potpourri of cartoons, historical and Hollywood based themes.

We all have our share of demons, memories of things we didn’t do but should have and things we did but shouldn’t have. They tend to hang around and haunt us long after their significance has passed. The demon I am writing about today was of a more corporeal sort, however, and came with black fur, yellow eyes and a twitchy tail.

She was the family cat.

Demon earned her name because she was as dark as a moonless night, not because of any diabolical traits other than massaging your body with needle-sharp claws. None-the-less, she spent a lot of time in the Graveyard next to our house, catching lizards by day and mice by night. We knew of this by the half-eaten prey deposited on our doorstep. I believe that she viewed this common cat activity as her contribution to feeding the family. My mother, who had little tolerance for Demon’s food preferences, gave me the chore of tossing them back in the Graveyard. I’d sometimes tie a string around a dead mouse and charge around the yard with Demon storming along behind. We both enjoyed the game; it’s questionable as to which one of us was more demented.


Demon in an old family photo. Given the look and fur, I must have been playing with her. That poised claw is just waiting for me to get within striking distance.


Remember how I said in my last post that the Graveyard looked like a jungle in the summer. I wasn’t kidding.

Depopulating the Graveyard of varmints was not Demon’s major contribution to the community, however; it was having kittens. She had them often and everywhere, including in the Graveyard. We were in real danger of becoming known as the Cat Family of Diamond Springs. I suspect that half of the cats in El Dorado County today can trace their lineage back to her.

Demon played a more important role for me, however; she was part of a team I recruited to protect me from the ghosts that lived in the Graveyard. I moved outside at a young age and lived in the backyard during the summer. It was ideal. I would go to sleep at night under the stars listening to frogs croak, and wake up in the morning listening to birds sing. If I had to pee, there was a nearby bush; if I was thirsty, there was a convenient hose. Plus, I escaped from having to share a room with my brother.

The only thing that marred my paradise was the Graveyard. There it was, across the alley, maybe a hundred feet away, and looming— a dark presence with white tombstones.  And, it is a well-known fact that ghosts tend to hassle little people. As soon as the sun went down, they came out. So, I hired the family pets— a greyhound, a cocker spaniel, and three cats (including Demon)— to keep them away. I paid them by allowing them to sleep on my bed. It was cozy, but seemed to work. I was never bothered by a ghost.

A problem occurred as I grew older and bigger. The ghosts no longer bothered me and the limited space on my cot became smaller. There was little room for five pets and Curt. It was at this time that Pat the greyhound had a midnight encounter with a skunk and snuggled up with me to share her misery. I got a good dose of skunk smell, the bedding was trashed, and I was forced to move back inside (a fact my brother objected to strenuously since no amount of scrubbing seemed to eliminate my new perfume). When I made it out again, I put the menagerie on notice. One more skunk-like incident and they were off. All of them. I began playing San Andreas Fault, rolling over rapidly to see how many animals I could dislodge. I felt a bit guilty about this, however, Demon was pregnant again and ballooning out.

One morning I woke up and my feet were wet. “What the…” I declared, looking down the bed. Demon, who was purring loudly, calmly looked back at me. No problem there. Then I noticed little black things crawling around, little replicas of Demon. She had delivered a litter of kittens at the foot of my bed and my feet were awash in kitty after-birth! I guess I should have felt honored…

King Kong pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

King Kong should serve to scare you on a dark night. But where is his sweetie?

Teddy Roosevelt and Teddy Bear at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

A number of pumpkins featured historical figures. Here we have Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt and his namesake, Teddy Bear.

Pumpkin carving of Depression era scene at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

I felt that this representation of a Depression era mother and her two children was the most powerful carving at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.

Old West gunman faces scary water tower at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

Fast draw gunmen were a reality of the Old West. Now, whether they faced off against water tower monsters is another question.

Popeye and Betty Boop pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

Betty Boop admires Popeye’s spinach induced muscles. Eat your veggies, kids.

Halloween pumpkin reflections at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

Today’s group photo. I suspect that there are several demons here. And aren’t those eyes up above a bit spooky?

Scary and happy pumpkins at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

More demons plus Smiley. I challenge those of you who are carving pumpkins today to match the mouth of the top pumpkin.

Demon pumpkins ay Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

And a final view of toothy pumpkins, especially the big one on the left!


NEXT POST: Tomorrow… Halloween! I’ll conclude with a few final pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island and Peggy and I will square off against each other in our annual pumpkin carving contest. You’ll be the judges! 🙂

A Spectacular Spooktacular… The Jack-o-Lantern Show of Providence, Rhode Island

Imagine 5,000 pumpkins at one show. This photo provides an idea of what the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular held annually in Providence, Rhode Island is like. Over the next seven days, I will feature pumpkins from the show as I do a count-down to Halloween.


Our son Tony and daughter-in-law Cammie had sent us photos last year of the pumpkin carving show in Providence, Rhode Island at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. And we had been impressed. It included some 5,000 carved pumpkins. They were everywhere— along the trails, out in small lakes, and up in trees. They ranged in size from small fellows that would easily fit into the palm of one hand up to gigantic guys that would require several grunting weight-lifters working together to pick up. And what a job of carving! While most were traditional, as those featured above, others were works of art.

This year, we were visiting Tony, Cammie and our grandsons at the time of the show and the kids were eager for us to go. They knew that we had hosted family pumpkin carving contests for over 20 years, that we loved to get up to our elbows in pumpkin seeds, and that we had a box full of carving tools. They also knew that I loved everything pumpkin: pumpkin pies, pumpkin scones, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies— you name it!

There was no hesitation on our part and the show was everything we hoped for— and more. Over the next seven days, I will feature pumpkins from the show. It was definitely a Spectacular Spooktacular. Happy Halloween!

Laughing skeletons welcomed us to the show.

Pumpkins ranged from this spectacular Saber Toothed tiger…

Fiery pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence

To this more traditional carving.

Dinosaur pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence

The art-carved pumpkins were divided into themes starting with dinosaurs..

Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular dinosaur series

Dinosaur series at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

This winking, toothy character caught my attention…

As did this goofy skull.

My partners on the pumpkin path… Our son Tony, Peggy, and grandsons Cooper, Chris and Connor. Tony’s wife, Cammie, was visiting with her dad in South Carolina.

NEXT POST: We will journey off to Egypt and meet a scary mummy.







The Attack of the Graveyard Ghost… Happy Halloween


It's that time of the year when my sister and I get together with my wife Peggy and Nancy's husband Jim for our annual pumpkin carving contest.

It’s that time of the year when ghoul

I had lunch with my sister Nancy and her husband Jim yesterday. With Halloween a day away, my thoughts turned to the the Graveyard we grew up next to. While my brother Marshall and I had a healthy respect for its inhabitants, my sister Nancy Jo’s fear of dead people bordered on monumental. This tale relates to her encounter with the Graveyard Ghost as a teenage girl. I trot it out every couple of years for Halloween on my blog, so you may have read it before.

My sister was seven years older than I and lived on a different planet, the mysterious world of teenage girls. Her concern about ghosts makes this story a powerful testimony to teenage hormones. It begins with Nancy falling in ‘love’ with the ‘boy’ next door, Johnny.

Johnny’s parents were good folks from a kids’ perspective. Marshall and I raided their apple trees with impunity and Mama, a big Italian lady, made great spaghetti. I was fascinated with the way she yelled “Bullll Sheeeet” in a community-wide voice when she was whipping Papa into line. He was a skinny, Old Country type of guy who thought he should be in charge.

I use the terms love and boy somewhat loosely since Nancy at 15 was a little young for love and Johnny, a 22-year-old Korean War Veteran, was a little old for the boy designation, not to mention Nancy. Our parents were not happy, a fact that only seemed to encourage my sister.

Her teenage hormones aided by a healthy dose of rebellion overcame her good sense and she pursued the budding relationship. Johnny didn’t make it easy. His idea of a special date was to drive down the alley and honk. Otherwise, he avoided our place. If Nancy wanted to see him, she had to visit his home.

It should have been easy; his house was right behind ours. But there was a major obstacle, the dreaded Graveyard.

Nancy had to climb over the fence or walk up the alley past the Graveyard to visit. Given her feelings about dead people, the solution seemed easy… climb the fence. Marsh and I had been over many times in search of apples. Something about teenage girl dignity I didn’t understand eliminated fence climbing, however.

Nancy was left up the alley without an escort.

While she wasn’t above sneaking out of the house, Nancy asked permission to see Johnny the night of the Graveyard Ghost attack. She approached Mother around seven. It was one of those warm summer evenings where the sun is reluctant to go down and boys are granted special permission to stay up. Marshall and I listened intently.

“Mother, I think I’ll go visit Johnny,” Nancy stated and asked in the same sentence. Careful maneuvering was required. An outright statement would have triggered a parental prerogative no and an outright question may have solicited a parental concern no.

Silence. This communicated disapproval, a possible no, and a tad of punishment for raising the issue.

“Mother?” We were on the edge of an impending teenage tantrum. Nancy could throw a good one.

“OK” with weary resignation followed by, “but you have to be home by ten.”

What we heard was TEN. Translate after dark. Nancy would be coming down the alley past the Graveyard in the dark and she would be scared. Knowing Johnny’s desire to avoid my parents, we figured she would also be alone. A fiendish plot was hatched.

At 9:45 Marsh and I slipped outside and made our way up the alley to a point half way between our house and Johnny’s. Next we took a few steps into Graveyard where weed-like Heavenly Trees and deep Myrtle provided perfect cover. Hiding there at night was scary but Marshall and I were operating under inspiration.

Marsh stripped the limbs off of one of the young trees, bent it over like a catapult, and draped his white T-shirt on the trunk. We then scrunched down and waited.

At exactly ten, Nancy opened the back door and stepped outside with Johnny. Our hearts skipped a beat. Would he walk her home? No. After a perfunctory goodnight, Johnny dutifully went back inside and one very alone sister began her hesitant but fateful walk down the alley.

She approached slowly, desperately looking the other direction to avoid seeing tombstones and keeping as far from the Graveyard as the alley and fence allowed. At exactly the right moment, we struck. Marshall let go of the T-shirt and the supple Heavenly Tree whipped it into the air. It arched up over the alley and floated down in front of our already frightened sister. We started woooooing wildly.

Did Nancy streak down the alley to the safety of the House? No. Did she figure out her two little brothers were playing a trick and commit murder? No. Absolute hysteria ensued. She stood still and screamed. She was feet stuck to the ground petrified except for her lungs and mouth; they worked fine.

As her voice hit opera pitch, we realized that our prank was not going as planned. Nancy was not having fun. We leapt out to remedy the problem.

Bad idea.

Two bodies hurtling at you out of a graveyard in the dark of night is not a recommended solution for frayed nerves and intense fear of dead people. The three of us, Nancy bawling and Marshall and I worrying about consequences, proceeded to the house. As I recall, our parents were not impressed with our concept of evening entertainment. I suspect they laughed after we went to bed. Sixty years later, Nancy, Marshall and I still are.

One of many pumpkins we have carved over the years.

One of many pumpkins we have carved over the years.

NEXT BLOG: Beautiful fall colors are surrounding our home on the Upper Applegate River in Southern Oregon. I will take you on a tour.