(My) Top 10 List of the Best Horror Movies Ever

It’s Halloween, and to celebrate the holiday, I would like to share my favorite horror flicks of all time!

10. Salem’s Lot

This is where all the vampire movies stemmed from, I’m pretty sure. Don’t get me wrong.  The original black and white “Dracula” movie was pretty awesome, but adding color and a plot really helped get the vampire movie motif moving.

9. Nightmare on Elm Street

So many sequels….but still so scary.

8. Friday the 13th

What can I say? It’s a classic. But only the original. The sequels and the constant machete scenes kind of “killed” it. (lol)

7. Halloween

The music still creeps me out.

6. Poltergeist

I had nightmares for months after watching this.

5. Carrie

In my opinion, Stephen King is one of the best story tellers of all time. And while his stories may not always adapt well to the big screen, I’d say they do pretty well (Think It, Cujo, The Silver Bullet, Thinner, The Dark Tower and countless others.) For those who don’t know, “Carrie” was Stephen’s first book made into a movie.  I didn’t get to see it when it came out at the Iowa Theater downtown. (It was rated R, no one under 17 allowed and they carded everyone!) And I can see why. The prom scene was one of the best horror scenes of all-time. It’s right up there with the Poseidon Adventure’s New Year’s Eve scene, when the ship turned over. Scary stuff…

4. Child’s Play

An evil doll that comes to life and kills people who get in his way? What could be scarier? Bride of Chuckie was pretty good, too.

3. Dolls

More evil dolls come to life ….

2. Dolly Dearest

Beginning to see a pattern? I wonder if other people have nightmares about their dolls or toys coming alive ….

1. American Gothic

Rod Steiger and Yvonne DeCarlo at their scary best! I think what was so scary about this movie was that I had some neighbors just like them.

And there you have it; just a few of my favorite horror films, and certainly ones that made an impression on me.

Have a frightful Halloween!





The Witchless Kitten

Illustration by Scott Dolash









This past weekend, I was feeling a little creative and wrote a short story for my grandchildren in honor of one of my favorite holidays. The above illustration was done by my friend, and local artist, Scott Dolash.

The Witcheless Kitten

Once there was a kitten, who lived with his mother and brothers and sisters in a witch’s house. He was a very nice kitten and could catch mice better than any other cats around.

He had many, many brothers and sisters, who all grew up to become witch cats.
When the kittens were old enough to leave home, the witch’s friends came by to visit and to pick out a kitten. Soon, all of his brothers and sisters found homes with all the witch’s friends, except for him.

“He’s a funny color,” he heard one of the witches say.

“And he’s so tiny,” said another.

It was true; he was more brown, than black (all the witches wanted black cats), and he was the runt of the litter. But he was fast! He wished he could tell them that, but all he could do was meow quietly, as they walked by.

He was very sad. His mother and his mistress witch tried to cheer him up by telling him to be patient. “Someone will come by soon. You’ll see.”

But days passed, and the kitten began to give up hope of ever finding a witch of his own.

Then one day while he was outside playing in the yard, a little girl walked by. She stopped to pet him. “What a nice kitty you are!” she exclaimed.

The kitten liked that! He started purring and rubbing up against her leg. And when she bent down to pick him up, he didn’t try to get away like the other kittens did. He liked being held.

When the witch came outside to see what he was doing, the little girl became frightened and started to run away, but the witch smiled and called out for her to stay and chat.

“You don’t have to be afraid. I am a good witch,” she told her.

The little girl stayed and told the witch she lived on the other side of the hill. “Can I please come back and play with the kitten?”

“Of course, come anytime,” she told her. The little girl gave the kitten a hug and waved goodbye as she walked over the hill.

That night, the kitten told his mother all about how the little girl held him and how much he liked it.

“But she is not a witch, and we are witch cats,” he said sadly. “How I wish she was a witch, then I could go home with her!”

His mother smiled. “You really liked her, didn’t you? Well, it doesn’t matter to me if she is a witch or not. All that matters is that you are happy. If she comes back tomorrow, and you still want to go home with her, I won’t mind. I will miss you, but it will mean more to me that you are happy.”

The kitten was very excited and waited all day for the little girl to come by. It became late and the little girl didn’t come. He became very sad.

All of a sudden, he heard the little girl singing. He ran to the edge of the yard and saw her come over the hill. She smiled and ran to the kitten when she saw him sitting in the yard. She scooped him up in her arms and hugged him. He purred happily.

The witch looked out her window and saw the little girl holding the kitten. She went outside and told her, “The kitten likes you. You can take him home if you promise to take good care of him.”

“Oh yes, I will! Thank you!” she told the witch as she held the kitten close and skipped home.

That night, as the little girl snuggled with the kitten, he thought about his brothers and sisters and hoped they were happy with their witches. Because he was just as happy without one.


It all sounds good in theory

I spent the past two weeks preparing for a Halloween party for my grandchildren. It was going to be our first “real” holiday party, and I wanted it to be special.  I threw parties for my kids all the time when they were little. But this time was different. This time I had the internet to help, and I turned to Facebook and Pinterest for ideas about how I could make this the best Halloween party ever.table2

I printed off recipes and photos of all the cool things I wanted to do. I bought all the necessary ingredients and props, and I worked diligently to make sure it went off without a hitch.

But as we wanna-be perfectionists already know, it all sounds good in theory.

I imagined that everything would go as planned; the food would be perfect, the decorations, the music, and the activities would run themselves. But with 6 energetic children ranging from 5-11 years old running around, each going their own way, it was chaos.spider-cookies

After years of trying to throw the perfect party, I should have know better. And even with my party planner in hand, there were still a few mishaps. (For those who do party planning for a living, I salute you!)

The cake balls turned to mush, because I added too much frosting (and you can’t “Undo” something like that.) The spiders on the cookies didn’t get their legs piped on, because I ran out of time. And the “Pop the Pumpkin” game was scrubbed because I couldn’t get it stuck to the wall.(It was difficult to make,anyway.) And I forgot all about “Stick the Spider on the Web” game until after the party was over.popcorn

The banana ghosts and apple mouths were okay, but didn’t turn out like the picture. I scurried to get the mummy hotdogs out of the oven and get the meat eyeballs in before the guests started to arrive. Lack of time became an issue, and I found myself getting stressed out.

Next year I will take an entire day to get ready, instead of just a few hours.

So why was this party important to me? For the same reason I had a lot of parties for my kids when they were little. Kids aren’t little for very long, but these memories will last a lifetime.

I still hear from my adult children, “Remember when …?” And the smiles and laughter that follow tells me I did a good thing.

And when Lori laughed and asked me if I had ever seen the pictures of “Pinterest Fails,” I smiled, because I knew it was true. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. Otherwise, it’s no fun.

The ruined cake pops and the other mishaps didn’t matter. No one ever knew I had forgotten a few things and there was plenty to eat and everyone had a lot of fun.

I created a good memory for my grandchildren. They know I’m not perfect but love me anyway. I can’t ask for much more than that.

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”

You’re never too old for Halloween

I love Halloween. Ever since I opened my bag and uttered the magical words, “Trick or Treat,” for the first time, I was hooked.haunted house

No matter if it was raining or snowing or blowing like a typhoon, I was determined to go trick or treating every year. For a little kid who was addicted to candy, it was a holiday that ranked right up there with Christmas.

The year I turned 13 was a little disappointing one. True, becoming a teenager should have been thrilling enough, but the way I saw it, it meant I had to grow up. And when my mom told me I was too old to go trick or treating, I was beyond disappointed. I got over it, though, when I realized I was now old enough to do other fun things on Halloween, things like terrorizing little kids, TPing trees, and ….

Haunted Houses!

Every year for as long as I can remember, Cedar Rapids had at least one haunted house that would terrify the pants off me. But as I got older, the thrill began to wear off.

But there was one time when I realized I wasn’t as brave as I thought. It was 1980 or ’81, and my boyfriend  at the time took me and his little sister to a haunted house, which was said to be the best yet.

“According to who?” I asked in defiance.

“Everyone I’ve talked to,” he said, trying to build it up as best he could.

“Well, I’m not afraid,” I told him as we stood in the line for our turn to get in. After nearly an hour, it was our turn. We stepped into the purplish-green light and came face to face with a mummy (with a horrible make-up job).

I turned to Bruce and said, “Told you it would be lame.”

He didn’t answer, but walked ahead me. I grabbed his hand, and then Deanna’s, and we made our way through the dark rooms, lighted only by occasional grim scenes, played out by bad actors. Fake, fake, fake, I said to myself as we wandered through the rooms.

As we went through one door, the lights suddenly went out.  I felt Bruce pull me along, but then he let go. I could hear people upstairs and in the next room banging on the walls, chains rattling, moans and shrieks sounding throughout the house.

Deanna grabbed my arm with both hands and screamed, “I need to get out of here!”  And then she screamed as loud as she could, “Let me out! Let me out!”

She pushed past me, though the door, and shut it on me.

“Wait!” I called to her but she was gone. I was on my own.

Okay, don’t panic, I told myself. My heart started to pound in my chest, as I felt my way along the wall in the dark, not really sure where I was going. I called for Bruce and Deanna but they didn’t answer.

I saw light flicker in the shadows, and I knew I was almost out. I finally found the door and opened it. But as I did, I came face to face with an ax-wielding monster!  He was about ready to bring the ax down on me when I pushed him as hard as I could, screaming so loud I could feel the muscles in my throat being stretched. For a split-second, I lost my grip on reality, and shut my eyes to the horror I was experiencing.

I could feel myself fall but couldn’t catch myself. With my eyes clenched shut, I landed on top of the would-be ax murderer. Suddenly, I heard squeals of laughter. I opened my eyes and saw Bruce and Deanna standing over us. Realizing I would live another day, I stood up and smacked Bruce on the shoulder.

“You jerk,” I told him, but I knew he got me.

The monster, who happened to be a friend of Bruce’s, stood up and took off his mask. I had to admit, they played a pretty good joke.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a really good haunted house, but there was always at least one haunted house in CR, where people could find a few thrills.

Until this year.  This is the first year in a long time since Cedar Rapids won’t have a haunted house within its city limits. Circle of Ash, located at 412 7th Avenue SE, has been around for the past 14 years, but won’t be in operation this year.  However, the website promises that it will return next year, “better than ever.”

But never fear-there are haunts that still close enough to drive to … if you dare.

Bloomsberry Farms, 3260 69th Street in Atkins, offers a variety of family activities by day and Scream Acres by night. At Scream Acres, which includes two indoor haunts-Curtain Chaos and the Slaughterhouse-and a Haunted Corn Field.

A few haunted houses are the north of Cedar Rapids, and might be worth the 45 minute drive.

Garrison’s Haunted is located in Garrison, halfway between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, but only opened on the weekends till Oct. 24.

Harris Haven Funeral Home, 3767 Lafayette Rd., Evansdale, is just outside of Waterloo. (I don’t know about you but the thought of a haunted funeral parlor is extremely tempting!)

The Heart of Darkness, 5111 Osage Road, Waterloo, is a haunt through a 22,000 square foot field.  It features a monster midway with games and entertainment, and tickets can be purchased online.

Panic Park Haunted House , 5932 North Union Road in Cedar Falls, which is home to UNI.

Dark Chambers is located at 121 E. 4th Street in Dubuque, northeast of Cedar Rapids. It also offers a lighted haunted house for a cheaper admission price.

Halloween isn’t even close to what it used to be, but it can still be pretty fun for the kids, and kids at heart, like me. And even if haunted houses are rare in your neck of the woods, you can still curl up with a great Halloween flick (many come to mind) and scare yourself silly.

Halloween is a young person’s holiday

I love Halloween. Or I used to, anyway. It’s still one of my favorite holidays, but as I’ve matured, it’s lost some of its luster.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Going trick or treating and getting my hands on all that candy was probably the biggest thrill, but my older brother is a master story-teller. His rendition of “The Golden Arm” had me shaking and running for the security of mom’s lap.

“Come back,” he’d call from under the makeshift tent in the living room. “I’m not done!”

But I didn’t care. After a while I’d peek around the corner in time to see the flashlight disappear under the sheet and hear Jim moan, “Give me my golden arm…”

I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds,” one Halloween after coming in from Trick or Treating. It scarred me for a very long time.  I think it was because I looked up at the TV, just as the birds were attacking the children, as they ran from the school. The close-ups of their eyes and beaks of the birds as they pecked the children traumatized me, and I had nightmares for weeks.

Even now when I see a flock of birds gathered on the wires or a jungle gym, I tend to quicken my pace. I’m not afraid of birds. There’s just something that’s triggered whenever they begin to gather in enormous numbers.

Other scary movies that I remember growing up include, “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen,” “The Exorcist,” “Salem’s Lot,” “Carrie,” and “Poltergeist.”  I usually woke up in the middle of the night and ran to my parent’s bed, where they’d reassure me there was no one after me, and yes, I could sleep with them.

I loved watching “Creature Feature,” too. This late night Fright Fest consisted of a collection of frightening movies that included such classics as “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Mummy,” and “The Werewolf.” These movies were old and cheesy, but they still gave me nightmares, too.

You’d think I’d learn my lesson, but the rush I got from being scared to death was exhilarating, and soon a lack of sleep didn’t faze me a bit.

But then something happened as I grew up. Real life got scary enough that I didn’t need the thrill of made-up ghosts and goblins. And the last Haunted House I went to scared me enough to last a lifetime.

I went to a haunted house with my boyfriend and his little sister the year I graduated high school. Deanna was a little daredevil and ran up ahead of us in the dark hallway. At one point, a man with a fake axe jumped out at us and we screamed and ran into a dark room, with only a faint light showing the way to the other side.

Eerie music surrounded us, and I could hear the screams of people on the second level. Bruce opened the door and went through, but as I followed him, someone pushed me back and the door was shut on me.

I panicked and screamed for Bruce to help me. I struggled to find the doorknob as the lights flickered. My heart started to race and I couldn’t breath. I pounded my fists against the door, still screaming.

Suddenly, the door burst open and there stood Bruce and Deanna,laughing. They had come up with a plan to scare me and were holding the door shut on purpose.

I was so mad I didn’t talk to them the rest of the night. And I haven’t been to a haunted house since.

But that’s all right. I’m content to taking it easy, passing out candy, and watching the neighbor kids enjoy the treats.

Halloween is a young person’s holiday, anyway.