Collecting Animated Halloween Figures

Battery-Powered Halloween Figures

I started collecting these figures a long time ago.  A Dracula in the bargain bin at one of my local department stores was the inspiration for this “adventure”.  For me, in the area that I live, it seems to be getting more and more difficult each year to get a new figure to add to my collection.  But, I do the best I can.

Anyway, let’s take a look at just a few of these adorable collectibles, shall we?

Dracula Standing at Tombstone

This is the grooviest disco vampire. He sings and moves his hips in motion with the music. A very simplistic animated figure, but still a cute little guy to have in one’s collection.

Frankenstein Motionette

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This Frankenstein is made by Telco and is from 1992. He is, as you already know I’m sure, part of the Universal Monsters series. Like his other kin in this series, he is battery operated and about 17 inches tall. He growls, his eyes light up red and he is ready to break his chains and make his getaway.

Rocking Frankenstein

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This Frankenstein dances to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. He is dressed in bright colors we don’t usually associate with Frankenstein, but that is because he isn’t interesting in scaring anyone, he just wants to PARTY!! His arms moves up and down, his head moves side to side and his eyes glow a ghostly white as he mouths the words to “Thriller”.

Frankenstein Animated Halloween Figure

He is a Universal Monsters Studios animated figure. He dances to “Monster Mash”, his hips swing back and forth, his head turns, and his eyes flash green in time with the music. This is one handsome Frankenstein that is for sure and is made by Gemmy Industries.

Universal Monsters Wolfman Motion-ette

He is a Motion-ette from Telco and he stands 17 inches tall. He is the Wolfman from the classic Universal Monsters series of movies. His eyes glow, his arms are poseable and his head turns. There is also a howling soundtrack. He is motion activated or you can flip his switch and allow him to run all the time, but the howling gets to a person after a bit. 🙂

Wolfman With Guitar

He is a sharp dresser and he would make the perfect lead guitar in a “hair band” that is for sure.  This cutie pie wolfman plays a rock song (but I can’t recall which as I don’t have batteries in the little dude to test him out).

Animated Cat

Not all of my animated Halloween figures are monsters. This cute little guy is, of course, a black cat. He arches this back, his eyes light up and he also makes other cat sounds. He is a charmer, for sure.

Pirate Skeleton

Pirates aren’t the most friendly of people or so he likes to spout off. He says several phrases and dances to the song “Get Down Tonight”. This little guy is made by “Gemmy Industries”

Zoot Suit Animated Skeleton

He sure is handsome in his zoot suit and he knows it. He swings his chain of skulls and dances (moves his hips) to the hip beat of “Sing Sing Sing” by Louis Prima. As you can see, he has never been taken out of his box.

Grim Reaper

What Halloween collection would be complete with the obligatory Grim Reaper. This cute little guy sits on a tombstone and plays an eerie tune on his violin. He laughs a evil laugh and his eyes light up red as do those of the skulls at his feet.

Well, there you have it, just a sampling of some of the cute figures I have in my collection.

© 2016 Glory Miller

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John Bellairs: Author of Gothic Fiction For Kids

john-bellairs-booksThe late John Bellairs (1938-1991) was an author of Gothic fiction aimed at the young adult reader using his creations,  Lewis Barnavelt, Anthony Monday and Johnny Dixon, three young boys who found themselves involved in all kinds of mysteries that usually involved ghosts, demons, magic spells, wizards, zombies and more!

His first book for the young adult reader was The House With a Clock In It’s Walls, which had originally been written as an adult fantasy novel, but was eventually retooled as a book for the young adult reader.

From 1973, until his untimely death of heart disease at age 53 in 1991, John completed 18 books that enthralled young and adult readers as well… and they still continue to do so today.

After John’s death, his son contacted author Brad Strickland and asked if he would take on the task of finishing some of the unfinished manuscripts and flesh out a few more of the outlines left behind by John. He readily agreed and became a wonderful “guardian” to John’s characters, even using a few of them in his own creations. Thank you, Mr. Strickland!

The House With a Clock In Its Walls: (A Lewis Barnavelt Mystery) Lewis Barnavelt is orphaned after losing his parents in car accident. He is sent to to live with his Uncle Jonathan Barnavelt, whom he had never met before, in the small town of New Zebedee, Michigan. His uncle lives in a house once occupied by evil wizard who created a doomsday clock and hid it in the walls of the old house, but he died before he could activate it. Now all the clock does is sit and wait and tick off the minutes until someone can put things in motion. That someone is Serena Izzard, the long deceased wife of the evil wizard, who is resurrected accidentally by Lewis when he tries one of his uncle’s magic spells. Edward Gorey did illustrations for many of John’s books. He had the ability to bring to life the words on the page.  Gorey and Bellairs made a wonderful pairing. In 1979, The CBS Library showed their adaptation of The House with a Clock in its Walls. Severn Darden was cast as Uncle Jonathan and Michael Brick was cast as Lewis. We are introduced to Rose Rita Pottinger at the end of this book. The book won New York Times Outstanding Book of Award and the American Library Association Children’s Books of International Interest Award.

The Figure in the Shadows:  (A Lewis Barnavelt Mystery) Poor Lewis, who is an easy target for bullies finds himself being picked on, this time, by Woody Mingo, and he wished he had a way to defend himself and get back at Woody. (This doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it?).    While rummaging in Grandpa Barnavelt’s travel trunk, he finds a  “lucky” coin from 1859, and he is certain that is contains magic powers and will act as a talisman. But, once he starts to carry the coin with him strange things begin to happen, like the appearance of notes with the word “Venio” written on them. Then, of course, there is that mysterious shadowy figure that seems to be following him. Just what has Lewis awakened? This is the first book to feature Rose Rita Pottinger who we met at the end of The House With a Clock in Its Walls.

The Letter, the Witch and the Ring: (A Lewis Barnavelt Mystery) With her best friend, Lewis, away at summer camp, Rose Rita figures it is going to be a boring summer.Things get interesting when her friend Mrs. Zimmerman receives a strange letter from her cousin Oley who has just recently passed. In it he tells her about the strange goings on at his farm and that he has found a ring that he thinks has magical powers.Mrs. Zimmerman asks Rose Rita to accompany her to the farm to investigate things and together the two of them run afoul of an old witch Gert Bigger who is holding onto a grudge from 45 years ago when Mrs. Zimmerman stole the old woman’s beau (or so she believes.)  The old witch intends to get her revenge against Mrs. Zimmerman and Rose Rita, too. While this is classified as a Lewis mystery, I always thought that Rose Rita should have gotten the credit as it features her more prominently that Lewis.

The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn: (An Anthony Monday Mystery) Has Alpheus Winterborn, Hoosac’s eccentric millionaire, really hidden a treasure in the Hoosac town library? Anthony Monday is sure that there is something to the story and sets out find the treasure. But, he isn’t the only one who is searching for the old man’s millions, Hugo Phipotts, Alpheus’ nephew has his sight set on the treasure too and is willing to let Anthony do all the work and then when the time is right, he will just snatch the treasure away.This book doesn’t have many elements of the supernatural, but it is a very good mystery story.This is the second of John’s books to be turned into a TV special. It was shown on an episode of The CBS Children’s Mystery Theatre in 1980 that was shown under the title of The Mystery According to Sherlock Holmes.

The Curse of the Blue Figurine: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) One day while Johnny Dixon is looking around in the town church basement, he finds and old blue figurine called an ushabt (a funeral figuring used in Ancient Egypt) that has a message scrawled inside of it whoever removes these things from the church, does so at his own peril.By accident, Johnny takes the figurine home and odd things begin to happen. He calls on his friend and neighbor, Professor Roderick Childermass to help him figure out what is going on and how to put things right.

The Mummy, the Will and the Crypt:  (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) This book is also touted as a sequel to the “Curse of The Blue Figurine” and is the story of wealthy H. Bagwell Glomus’ and his missing will.There is a $10,000 reward that will go to anyone who can find it. Johnny Dixon wants the reward and believes that the clues to it’s hiding place is in Glomus’s diary but that is filled with strange and weird riddles that Johnny intends to solve.He also thinks that the clues to solving those riddles can be found in the old spooky Glomus mansion, so he decides to sneak in and look around. Once inside, a sudden bright flash of light stops him in his tracks and he discovers he is not alone in this mansion.

The Dark Secret of Weatherend: (An Anthony Monday Mystery) Anthony and his best friend, Miss Eells discover the diary of J.K. Borkman, a mad man who wanted to bring about the end of the world via a horrible ice age.In his diary, Borkman, had created a spell that he carefully hid in cryptic riddle form. When Anthony innocently solves some of the riddles, the ice age is set into motion. Anthony believes that a counter spell is also in the riddles, too, can he figure it out before the earth freezes!We are introduced to Emerson Eells in this book. He is Miss Eells younger brother and a lawyer by trade with a bit of a know-it-all attitude. He is scared of his big sister. He smokes pipes, cigars and cigarettes and likes to drink beer.

The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) Johnny Dixon and his friend Professor Roderick Childermass discover an old clock. Inside it, Johnny discovers a miniature room that is exactly like the room that a murder had taken place a long time ago.Inside this room, Johnny finds a miniature skull that has magical powers, but the minute he picks it up he unleashes demonic forces.Worse yes, his friend Professor Childermass has vanished and this leaves Johnny having to ask his best friend Fergie and the town’s priest Father Higgens to help him stop the diabolical plan set in motion by the Sorcerer’s Skull!This book is a direct prequel to “The Revenge of The Wizard’s Ghost”.

The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) Something odd is happening to Johnny, he is sleepwalking and simply not acting like himself at all and it seems the problem is that he has become possessed by an evil spirit and ends up in a coma. Can his trusted friend Professor Childermass save him?  This is the fourth Johnny Dixon book and is a sequel to The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull”. If you remember, in that book, an evil wizard was attempting to get revenge against the Childermass family for an ancient wrong that they committed against him.

The Eyes of the Killer Robot: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) Mad inventor, Evaristus Sloane’s baseball-pitching robot can only be activated by installing a pair of human eyes and it seems that Sloane has chosen Johnny to be the donor! When he is kidnapped it is up to his best friends Professor Childermass and Fergie to go rescue him.

The Lamp From the Warlock’s Tomb: (An Anthony Monday Mystery) Strange things begin to happen after Miss Eells purchases an antique oil lamp. Little does she know that it was stolen from the tomb of Willis Nightwood who dabbled in black magic. When Anthony lights the lamp, it unleashes evil forces.

The Trolley to Yesterday: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery). Professor Childermass discovers an old trolley that has the ability to transport people back in time and soon he and Johnny end up in Constantinople in the year 1453 as the Turks are invading the Byzantine Empire.

The Chessmen of Doom: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) Professor Childermass’s brother, Peregrine has passed away and left his substantial estate to his brother who has to go to Maine in order to collect it. Johnny and his best friend Fergie tag along and end up helping Professor Childermass solve a riddle that will prevent a mad man from destroying the world.

The Secret of the Underground Room: ( A Johnny Dixon Mystery) Johnny and Professor Childermass must help their friend Father Higgins who has been possessed by the spirit of an ancient knight bent on taking over the world with the help of seven ancient knights who he plans to bring back to life and release from an underground room where they are imprisoned.

The Ghost in the Mirror: (A Lewis Barnavelt Mystery) Lewis and his Uncle Jonathan have gone on a cruise leaving poor Rose Rita without a friend to do things with. She is happy to accompany her friend, Mrs. Zimmerman to the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch country where they duo are transported back in time to 1828. Mrs. Zimmerman loses her memory, and they are taken in by the kindly Weiss family who are battling a powerful evil wizard. (Finished by author Brad Strickland based on notes left behind by Bellairs after his death.)

The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder (A Lewis Barnavelt Mystery) Lewis Barnavelt and his Uncle Jonathan are in English visiting relatives. Lewis accidentally releases a demonic force that summons the ghost of an evil wizard that wants to destroy the entire Barnavelt family. Co authored with Brad Strickland.

The Drum, the Doll and the Zombie: (A Johnny Dixon Mystery) Dr. Charles Coote, a folklorist and friend of both Professor Childermass and Johnny brings back from his visit to New Orleans, a small black wood drum that when played releases the spirit of Madame Sinestra, a voodoo priestess who wants the drum to use with her cult. Co authored with Brad Strickland.

The Doom of the Haunted Opera: (A Lewis Barnavelt Mystery) When exploring an old abandoned theater, Lewis and his friend Rose Rita find an unfinished musical score title The Day of Doom. When stranger Henry Vanderhelm comes to town claiming to be the grandson of the opera’s composer, he convinces the town to put on a performance of the opera. Little do they know that he really wants to use the power of the opera enslave the world and awaken the dead! Co authored with Brad Strickland.

He Loved to Write Stories That Children Love to Read

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A few years back, I had the chance to visit, for the first time, the cemetery  (Greenwood Cemetery, 646 East Broadway Street,in Haverhill) where John is buried in Massachusetts. I have to say that if he had a hand in picking this cemetery, it seems to fit him well. It’s a quiet and restful place, off the beaten path.  There are no large tombstones or ornately decorated family crypts or mausoleums to be seen.  In some ways, it doesn’t appear to be the kind of place you would imagine an author of Gothic tales to be resting.

bellairs-gravesiteJohn’s grave is in the front of the cemetery, right along the main road.  Sadly, time has not been kind to John’s stone, the highlighting on the lettering is wearing off on the back which lists his books, making reading it difficult. On the front of the stone is John’s name, date and place of birth and the date and place of his death. As well as the Latin phrase “Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt” which has different translations, and the one by Vergil may be the one John preferred, “These are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart”. It’s a line from the epic poem, “The Aeneid” On the back of John’s stone is a listing of his books.

Buried beside John, is his son, Frank who died in 1999 at 29 years of age. Frank was instrumental in getting author Brad Strickland to take over the “guardianship” of the characters that John created.

© 2014 Glory Miller

South Central Pennsylvania Haunted Places

Living in south central Pennsylvania has afforded me the discovery of a multitude of myths, legends, folklore and my favorite…ghost stories.  Gathered here is but a small sampling of the stories of the rich supernatural life that permeates the nooks and crannies of the fourteen counties that make up this geographical region in Pennsylvania.

  • Carson Long Military Academy (New Bloomfield): Founded in 1914 by Colonel Theodore K. Long. He named the school after his deceased son who had died at age 23 out west in a logging accident. The school had been in existence, under different names, for many years dating back to 1836 when it was first opened as a Latin Grammar School.  It is not unusual for a place as old as this to harbor a few ghost stories. Years ago, and no one will ever pin point the exact date, a woman, the wife of one of the school’s commandants, perished in a fire. It is reported by passersby and students alike that the sound of faint screams can be heard as well as the sound of crackling noise like is heard when a building is on fire.  One of the dorms on the campus has a blood stain that simply will not go away no matter how many times it has been painted over. It is said that years ago (again, no one has a specific date) a young cadet, while out enjoying a snow day, crashed his sled into the building and died.  Holman Chapel is said to be haunted by Colonel Edward Holman. There is a portrait of the Colonel that is rumored to have eyes that will sometimes glow red as fire. Also, above the main door to the chapel is an ornately carved eagle that also has a case of the red eye glow from time to time. No explanation is ever give for either of these occurrences.
  • Frankenberger Tavern (Mechanicsburg): Built in the early 1800′s, Frankeberger Tavern served as a stop point between Harrisburg and Carlisle. Weary travelers could partake of a drink, rest their weary bones and horses and get a meal and a room, if needed.  One day during a heavy rain storm, the the Susquehanna River overflowed it’s banks, making roads impassable. A cattle driver took refuge from the storm at the Tavern and after having a few too many drinks, began to brag about his successful sale of cattle the day before. He was also showing a large sum of money. After retiring for the evening and sometime during the night, someone relieved him of not just his money, but his life as well. The Innkeepers found his body in their herb garden the next day. No one was ever charged with the crime and it is theorized that it is his ghost who is sometimes spotted looking forlornly out of the upstairs windows in the old tavern and some have claimed to see the ghost of a man sitting on the roof near the chimney.
  • West Perry Senior High School (Elliotsburg): No one knows his name or the date of his death, but the West Perry High School has a persistent story about the phantom janitor who fell to his death while attempting to clean the windows in one of the rooms on the second floor. Students and staff have reported hearing the sounds of glass breaking and a man screaming before all goes silent. The room number often associated with the story is 118, but since in most buildings, the rooms labeled in the 100’s tend to all be on the first floor, it might be a little difficult for anyone to fall to their death from a window. Maybe room 218 is a better candidate? Do I believe this story, well, no, not really, as with all tales like this, there might be a smidgen of truth mixed in, but as the story is told and told again, it takes on a life of it’s own.
  • Dickinson School of Law (Carlisle):  William Harrison Hitchler became the dean of Dickinson School of Law in 1930. It was a job that soon became the love of his life and perhapsTricket Hall explains why he never married, he was simply too enamored with the college to have time to court anyone. He was respected by both his peers and students and often described as being a man of impeccable character. He wasn’t one for the traditional kinds of fun that might be found on a college campus, as he disliked the habits of smoking and drinking and basically anything that could be considered enjoyable…in other words, he was a bit stuffy. Sadly, he diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1952 and eventually came to the realization that his illness would prevent him from continuing his duty as dean. He retired from his position in 1953 and finally succumbed to the disease and its effects in 1959. Since his passing over 50 years ago, its not uncommon for staff and student alike to report seeing a man who fits his description appearing in what was once his apartment on campus as well as in various other buildings, too. The sound of footsteps pacing the halls in Trickett Hall have also been reported and of course when investigated no one is to be seen and many attribute this to the former dean still being active and caring for his beloved school.  A few years ago, Tricket Hall underwent a series of major renovations after almost falling victim to the wrecking ball. Public outcry was so strong that the college agreed to remodel the building, I can only wonder what Dean Hitchler thought of all that activity?
  • The Hotel Hershey (Hershey): During the Great Depression of 1933, Milton Hershey decided that he wanted a hotel that would rival any that could be found in big cities like Paris or New York, so he set about building one! While other businesses were closing their doors, cutting work forces, basically anything to save money he was doing just the opposite; he spent money! He decided that his grand hotel would be built atop Pat’s Hill, which is now known as Prospect Heights. The haunting associated with the hotel is the smell of cigar smoke, and since this is a smoke free premises, those who experience this phenomenon just assume it’s Milton, who did enjoy a good cigar from time to time, checking things out and making sure the guests are enjoying their stay.  It is reported that two ghosts have been seen, one resembling Milton and the other his wife, Kitty. Perhaps, even spirits need a vacation from the other side and staying at your own hotel just makes good business sense.
  • The Pioneer Cemetery (Landisburg): The Pioneer Cemetery, in Shaffer’s Valley, is all that is left of the settlement called Pandemonium that was bordered on the north by Bowers Mountain and on the south by Blue Mountain.  At it’s peak, Pandemonium boasted about 100 homes, two sawmills, a tannery, a stave mill, and a church. The community eventually began to shrink in it’s size as residents died, or moved way in an attempt to find a better life.  Legend has it that the little cemetery is haunted by the ghost of an escaped slave who was accidentally shot near the cemetery. No one knows her name or anything about her life and it is believed that she entered into the community under the cover of darkness, catching the attention of nearby dogs. She must have thought that her pursuers had found her and fearing for her life, she climbed a tree in an attempt to hide. She never realized that the barking dogs were simple from a nearby house. When the owner of the dogs came to investigate, having only a kerosene lamp to see by, he figured the large shape in the trees was that of a bear. The woman, apparently too terrified to cry out, was shot and killed. She is buried outside of the cemetery gate.  It’s not uncommon for reports of strange lights being seen in the cemetery (perhaps the faint glow of old time kerosene lamps). The state police have been called and have investigated but never anything out of the ordinary has been found.
  • The Walking Statue (Lancaster): This is a story that has really gotten some embellishment over the years and while many claim (even the Bitner family) that it’s not true in any way, it is still a classic kind of ghost story that allows us to believe the idea that love never dies. Augusta Bitner was young, beautiful and in love and she intended to get married. Her family did not haunted_walking_Statueapprove of her choice for husband material and tried numerous times to change her mind. Aside from being beautiful and young, she was also a bit head strong and would not pay any attention to their concerns. On the day of her wedding (some stories say the night before), Augusta visted her family once more in hopes of getting them to change their opionion of her intended and to get them to attend the wedding. A horrible argument ensued, and she raced out of the family house and tripped falling down a set of stairs breaking her neck. There would be no wedding for Augusta, instead her funeral. The haunting associated with this story centers around the statue that marks her grave. It shows a lovely young maiden (it may be her likeness, but I doubt it as I am certain I saw a statue similar in design in a cemetery in or near Winchester, Virginia years ago) walking down a set of stairs. Beside her is a broken column often used to signify someone who has died young. On the anniversary of her death, the statue comes to life and takes a calm slow stroll through the cemetery, in what some say is the eternal search for her true love, who, by the way disappeared into that annals of time. No one remembers his name or what happened to him.
  • Cashtown Inn (Cashtown): The small community of Cashtown is about eight miles from Gettysburg on Old Route 30 which is sometimes called The Lincoln Highway. During the time of the battle of Gettysburg, this road was used by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as a way to get into Gettysburg, so troops marching up and down this stretch of road was a familiar sight. The Inn, was in business at this time and in fact, several of the Confederate generals would meet there to plan their battlefield operations.  For several decades the Inn has had a history of ghostly happenings. Reports of soliders in uniform, strange and unexplained noises in the attic, doors opening and closing on their own and even in Room 4, hearing mysterious rapping on the room door and when opened no one is there.  But, the noises and strange occurrences aren’t just centered inside, guests have reported hearing what sounds like horses snorting and pawing at the ground. Of course, when investigated, nothing can be found.

© 2014-2017 Glory Miller All Rights Reserved

SpongeBob SquarePants Life Lessons

Photo source: wailu.us2013 (Ebay)

Photo source: wailu.us2013 (Ebay)

A few years back, I used to write at a place called Squidoo which has since closed its doors.  Before it closed down, I was sure to save all my work,  packed it away with the idea that I might want to publish it again at some point in time.  So, since I need some “meat” here on this blog, I thought I would share with you that old article about the life lessons that the cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants offers viewers of all ages.  In this old article,  I use just a few of my favorite episodes of the series, giving a brief plot synopsis and then offering up the lessons that I got from the episode.  Of course, life lessons are subjective and what I got out of the episode might be totally different than what someone else got.

So, here is just part of the article , I think there is enough material here for a two part series.  We will just have to see what time brings.  🙂

Bubble Stand (Season 1, Episode 2)

In this episode SpongeBob builds a bubble blowing stand in front of his pineapple home and plans to open a bubble blowing business.  He intends to charge each customer one quarter to blow bubbles. Of course, next door neighbor, Squidward, thinks the idea is silly and wonders who in their right mind would pay to blow bubbles. Well, as luck would have it, the first customer is Patrick, who, on a borrowed quarter from SpongeBob, attempts to blow bubbles, only to discover he is “bubblily challenged”. This inspires SpongeBob to offer up a bubble blowing lessons for just one quarter per lesson and Patrick is happy to partake of the lesson (having to use another borrowed quarter from SpongeBob). The secret to blowing good bubbles goes like this; “first go like this, spin around. Stop! Double take three times. One, two three. Then pelvic thrust. Whooooooo, whooooooo. Stop on your right foot, don’t forget it! Now it’s time to bring it around town. Bring-it-a-round-town. Then you do this, then this, and this, then this, then that, then this and that, and then” you proceed to blow wondrous bubbles of all shapes and sizes like boat bubbles, and elephant bubbles and duck bubbles using this tried and true SpongeBob technique. Of course, Squidward gets into the act after one of SpongeBob’s bubbles floats into his Tiki house and promptly pops. Going outside he eventually attempts to blow a bubble only to discover he is as challenged at it as Patrick was. But, with a little help from SpongeBob’s technique he manages to blow a giant round bubble and discovers that bubble blowing isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Lets take a look at some of the lessons from this episode.

1) Different Strokes For Different Folks
Fun comes to different people in different ways. What appears to be childish or silly to one person might not appear that way to another. I for one love the idea of blowing bubbles. Squidward, of course, would look at me kinda funny if he was here I am sure. The point is to not lose sight of the kid in all of us. How many of the problems in this world, be it emotional, mental, physical could be eased or maybe even eliminated if more people took time out to be silly. It is said that laughter is the best medicine.

In the real world we have hot dog stands, lemonade stands, news stands, so why not a bubble blowing stand. I wonder how much fun people would have, if someone actually (and maybe they have) set up such a stand in a busy place, like a street corner or maybe a city park? If you happened upon a stand like that, would you take the time to blow a few bubbles?

2) Life Is Full Of Opportunities
Opportunities can present themselves in different ways. For one thing, SpongeBob decided to open his own business providing the service of bubble blowing. When he realized that his customers (Patrick and Squidward) were lacking in skills necessary to blow bubbles, he saw another chance to earn more money by offering bubble blowing lessons. During our life time, we will see many places where there are voids that need to be filled. Maybe we can fill some of those by becoming an entrepreneur like SpongeBob in this episode, and offering our services for a price. But, there are other places that have voids that simply require our time and effort. Maybe in your community the local food bank is in need of donations, so you could start a food drive, or maybe there are abused, neglected and abandoned animals that need a second chance at a happy home and some form of animal sheltering is needed, or maybe there are homeless or hungry people in your community who need a hand up. The point is, life holds many voids, many areas of lack that can be filled either through a business or charitable activities. Granted, you might not up end saving the world, and your work might be small in size, but just think, if you got a lot of people offering a little bit of help, that sure can add up over time. If you are a charity and you need $1,000, it is sometimes a lot easier to get 100 people to donate $10 each than it is to get one person to donate $1,000. “Never underestimate the power of “small”.   Little and often make much.

3) Just Because You Can’t Blow Bubbles, Doesn’t Mean It Has to Be That Way Forever
When Patrick discovered he couldn’t blow bubbles, he was willing to learn how and took lessons from SpongeBob.   Just because we find that we can’t perform a certain task at all or as well as we would like, it doesn’t mean that it has to be that way forever.    We have the options of finding ways to improve our skills–we can read a book, watch a video,  or even take lessons like Patrick did.

4) Solution Oriented
SpongeBob was solution oriented in his outlook. When he discovered that some were not able to blow great bubbles, he didn’t simply throw up his hands and shrug his shoulders and say, “well, that’s the way it goes” and then went on about his business. No, indeed, he realized he had a skill to offer and was willing to teach others how to blow great bubbles. He saw a “negative” situation (people who wanted to blow bubbles, but lacked the skill) and he was able to offer up a solution to their problem.  Solutions don’t always have to be complicated and convoluted.  Sometimes simple is the best way to proceed.

MuscleBob BuffPants (Season 1; Episode 11)

MuscleBob BuffPants Ok, so it’s safe to say that SpongeBob is never going to be a world class weight lifter, but when he tries to follow Sandy’s exercise routine and his arms keep falling off…something has to be done. Watching TV, he sees an ad for “Anchor Arms”, inflatable rubber arms that fit over your own  like gloves and by adding air, they grow to incredible sizes, like, “normal, meaty and hairy for the ladies”. SpongeBob immediately orders a pair and when they arrive he can hardly wait to try them out. When folks see him they are amazed at the changes and Sandy invites him to take part in an anchor toss. Of course, you know that things aren’t going to go well for our little sponge, when it comes time for him to toss his anchor, the air in his arms begin to inflate different parts of his body..his teeth, his eyes, his butt, well you get the picture, till finally the pressure becomes to much and they explode.

Let’s look at some of the lessons that this episode teaches me.

1) Be Proud of Who You Are
This is a valuable reminder for us all to be proud of who we really are and to do our very best according to our true abilities. Each one of us is unique (just like everyone else, eh) and as such we need to find our true “strength” in the basis of our uniqueness. There is a saying that goes, “spend your time being a first rate you, and not a second rate someone else” and this seems to fit so well here.

2) No Easy Way To Reach A Goal
There is simply no easy way to reach a goal. Sandy and Larry the Lobster are able to lift and toss heavy anchors, because they have exercised and strengthened their bodies. There is no quick way to get physically strong like Sandy or Larry, that is something that takes time, eating right and exercising.

Any goal that we have in life requires real effort; most of the things we want are not going to be handed to us on a silver platter. If we want a new car, a different job, a bigger bank account, a new house, or whatever, it requires thought, planning, effort, research, etc. There are no quick fixes in life, accomplishing a goal takes time.

3) What You See Isn’t Always What You Get
In this case, Anchor Arms promised SpongeBob that he would look big and strong, and he certainly did at that, but when he tried to participate in the anchor tossing contest he simply couldn’t do it. Those big fake muscles did absolutely nothing in helping him have the strength necessary to accomplish his goal. In the end, they were simply filled with nothing but hot air. People, politicians, civic leaders, companies, our friends, and even family members can tell us things that sound really good, but on closer examination we discover they are lies. The concept of Anchor Arms, with it’s huge muscles, made it appear on the outside that SpongeBob would have tremendous strength, but when he really needed to use them to lift the anchors, he couldn’t do it. Appearances can be deceiving.

4) Misplaced Confidence
SpongeBob at first realized that his Anchor Arms were simply full of hot air and he didn’t want to participate in the anchor toss. But, there came a point, when he was in front of the crowd getting ready to take his turn, the he actually believed that if he inflated the arms to their maximum size, that he could pick up the anchor and throw it the way Sandy and Larry did during their turns. Of course, it didn’t end well for our favorite little sponge. Unfortunately, SpongeBob’s confidence was misplaced, as his arms exploded under the strain of trying to lift such a heavy item. That happens in life, too, at times we can be very aware that a thing (even a person, sadly) is not worthy of our confidence, but yet we want to think the best, we want to be proven wrong in our assumptions. Happily sometimes we are pleasantly surprised and other times…not.

5) Lying Can Get You Into Situations You Don’t Want To Be In
When Sandy saw how huge SpongeBob’s muscles were, she was so impressed that she signed him up for the anchor toss, even though he didn’t really want to take part. If he had been honest with Sandy from the start, he wouldn’t have had to humiliate himself in front of all of those people when his arms simply exploded.  But, of course, we wouldn’t have had such a fun episodes to watch.  🙂

6) Giving Our Best Effort
Even though SpongeBob knew deep down inside that his arms were just for show and offered no real improvement in his physical strength, when faced with taking his turn to toss the anchor, he decided that he would give it his best effort.

© 2016 Glory Miller

 

Fun Reads From My Childhood: Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators

three investigators haunted mirrorSome time ago, while gawking at a yard sale, I found several Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigator books. For a time during my childhood, I was into reading series books like Nancy Drew and one of my all time favorites, Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators.

The books I got at the sale are paperbacks released through Scholastic and I got them just so I could read them again. When I bought my copies years ago as a kid, I got them at my local bookstore and they were hard backs then.  But, anyway, these little church finds were so much fun to read again. It was so cool to connect again to Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw. Three teenage boys (probably about 13 or 14, I don’t think the books ever really gave an age for them) who had opened a private detective business in Rocky Beach, California. What I loved as a kid was that many of the titles of the books had a spooky or supernatural tone, titles like: The Mystery of the Talking Skull, The Mystery of the Green Ghost, The Secret of the Haunted Mirror to just name a few. I also loved the fact that the headquarters for the three was an old beat up trailer that sat in the Jones Salvage yard. It had been hidden behind lots of junk and Jupiter’s uncle had forgotten that it existed. To get into the trailer, secret tunnel entrances were used. I thought that was so cool back when I was a kid. (And to be honest, here I am an adult and I STILL think that’s cool!)

Robert Arthur Jr. created the characters back in 1964 and had a great idea in getting permission to use the name of Alfred Hitchcock. He believed that attaching a famous name to the books would attract attention and get folks interested in reading them, and he was right. Hitchcock had nothing to do with the stories and the introductions that were attributed to him were actually written by the authors. Hitchcock did have veto power of the cover art, I suppose he wanted to make sure that the images used, since the books did bear his name and likeness, were tasteful. I don’t know if he ever had to use that veto power or not.

Anyway, 11 of the books  were written by Arthur himself. All told, there are 43 stories in this series. There was to be a 44th, but that was either not finished or simply not published. Eventually, Hitchcock passed away and from what I had read some time back (and it might not be accurate), the estate of Hitchcock simply wanted too much money to use his name and likeness, so eventually the series simply became The Three Investigators. A new person in the guise of Hector Sebastian would do the introduction.

There are lots of websites that have much more detailed information about the series, the authors and more. So, I don’t really need to go into any kind of detail here.

You would have thought that the books which have been so popular for so long would have seen at least a few adaptions for television at least.  A few years ago, in Austria,  The Three Investigators did make it to the small screen when The Secret of Skeleton Island was released and in 2009 The Secret of Terror Castle was filmed.  These two films did adopt some of the story lines from the books, but also made some significant changes, too.  I do remember seeing, at least parts of one of the movies on Nickelodeon or Boomerang?  I don’t think the films were that successful and from what I have read and most folks who are fans of the books and who have watched the movies say they stray too much from the books. I wonder why studios do that, take a popular series of books or a popular TV show, turn  them into a movie and then go about changing the characters and back story so much that they no longer resemble the much loved and successful books or TV show.  And, then what is amusing, is that they have no idea why the movie tanks at the box office or in the ratings and gets really bad reviews?  Oh well, that is life, eh?  🙂

© 2016 Glory Miller

Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery Comic Books

Richie Rich Vaults of MysteryI recently was going through a box of my old comic books that I have had since I was a kid.  Mixed in among issues of Wonder Woman, The Flash, Ghost Rider, Superman, The Green Lantern and other popular comics of the day, I found some old Richie Rich issues.

Now, I will admit that there was a period of time when I was really into Richie Rich but for the life of me, as I look at the majority of these comics, I have no clue what it was about him that I found so appealing at that time.  I can actually remember buying these issues at my local Giant grocery store.   The story lines in most of the Rich comics weren’t all that exciting and in reality were pretty bland and boring, at least to me now as I glance through them.

There is one issue that I know exactly why I purchased it, it was an issue in the Vaults of Mystery franchise. It has a really cool title The Seance at Spectro Castle and of course as you can guess, it had a spooky house and ghosts.  I was hooked as at the time I was reading spooky stories written by authors like John Bellairs, Richard Peck, Scott Corbett and more, but hey these guys are material for a later posting, I’m sure.

Richie Rich The Vaults of Mystery began in November 1974 and lasted until September 1982 with a total of 47 issues.  At the time I bought the VOM issue,  I didn’t know that it was part of an ongoing series and indeed just found this out when I decided to do a little bit of research into this lone issue I have in my collection.  I am sure if I had been aware of the other issues, I would have been trying to get copies for my collection as some of the titles do sound really cool.

I did manage to create a list of all of the titles from the Vaults of Mystery series and I guess I will publish it here as a courtesy to anyone else out there who has an interest in this series.

Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery Title Listing

(01) The Statue Cast A Curse Upon The Riches… That Couldn’t Be Destroyed! (November 1974)
(02) The Frankenstein Gang (January 1975)
(03) The Golden Caller (March 1975)
(04) The World of Germs (May 1975)
(05) The Condor’s Castle (July 1975)
(06) Ghost of Rich Castle (September 1975)
(07) Atoman (November 1975)
(08) The Mystery of Trebor (January 1976)
(09) The Mystery of the Googol (March 1976)
(10) The Voodoo Meanace (May 1976)
(11) The Power of the Youth Maker Can Make Babies of Us All (July 1976)
(12) The Mini Mansion Caper ( September 1976)
(13) The Seance at Spectro Castle (November 1976)
(14) The Fantastic Weapon (January 1977)
(15) Lord Kookley’s Castle (March 1977)
(16) The Land of Shirik (1977 May)
(17) The Great Museum Robbery ( July 1977)
(18) The Man in the Iron Vault (September 1977)
(19) Pirate Ship (November 1977)
(20) Convac (January 1978)
(21) Intruder ( March 1978)
(22) The Haunted Room ( May 1978)
(23) Lightning Robberies (July 1978)
(24) The Moon is Stolen (September 1978)
(25) The Lava Monsters ( November 1978)
(26) Greymoor Castle (1979)
(27) No Lights!  (March 1979) (Not certain of the title for this issue)
(28) The Hot and Cold Running Man (1979)
(29) The Rich Mansion Invaded By Ghosts (July 1979)
(30) Where’s Everybody (September 1979)
(31) Far Far World (November 1979)
(32) The Toy Factory Was a Destroy Factory (January 1980)
(33) The Good Old Days (April 1980)
(34) The Great Game (June 1980)
(35) Turnabout (August 1980)
(36) Money Bugs (October 1980)
(37) The Golden Wizard of El Dorado (December 1980)
(38) The Haunted Fortune (February 1981)
(39) The Big Crime Wave (April 1981)
(40) Four Doored Vault (June 1981)
(41) The Black Light ( August 1981)
(42) The Incredible Shrinking Rich Kid (October 1981)
(43) The Dream Machine (December 1981)
(44) Back in the Stone Age (February 1982)
(45) The World’s Worst Weather (April 1982)
(46) The Vanishing Mystery (July 1982)
(47) Our Millions Are Missing (September 1982)

Well, there you have it, a listing of the Vaults of Mystery Comic books for Richie Rich.

© 2016 Glory Miller

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters and Writing Letters

Hunt Sisters_Robinson_ElisabethSome time back, I read The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson.  Yes, it is true that the book has been published since around 2004, I am just really slow at getting my hands on books I guess.

Anyway, the book is based on a true story and is told using the epistolary style of writing, which simply means that it is written in form of letters and emails. It is the story of two sisters, Olivia and Maddie and how these two are so different in terms of wants, life circumstances and so on. Olivia is single woman, independent, a real go getter, and she works as a Hollywood producer. Maddie on the other hand is happily married and soon to become a mother for the first time. Sadly, tragedy strikes when Maddie is diagnosed with leukemia.

Olivia writes letters and emails to family and friends as she describes her job, her goals, her failures, and her childhood memories of her sister. Her letters also reveal how she feels utterly helpless, filled with anger and totally bewildered over her sister’s illness, which seem to be rather natural emotions to be experiencing under the circumstances.

While the book is a good read, sad in many parts, hilarious in a few others, it’s not so much the storyline that brings me to this post, but instead the idea of letter writing. I am not talking about emails, but real, “hold the pen or pencil in your hand, written on paper kind of letters” and then of course putting them in an envelope, addressing and stamping it and sending it off into the post, where hopefully within a few days, it will be delivered to its intended destination.

When I was a kid, during summer vacations, I remember how in order to stay in touch with my friends, we would exchange letters. This was years and years before text messaging and email when a person had to use pen and paper. Of course, we could have phoned each other, and I am not totally certain as to why we spent more time writing letters than talking on the phone, perhaps it was a parental thing, and not being allowed to use the phone, I really don’t remember.

I always looked forward to getting mail, especially from my friends. There was something very exciting to see your name and address printed on the envelope. I don’t know how it is in today’s world, whether kids find themselves getting unsolicited mail through the post or not. But, back in my childhood days, it wasn’t very common, or at least for me.

After getting the letter and reading all the wonderful information it contained, then came the task of writing the reply. I wish I had kept all my letters from childhood. How fun it would be to read again all those cool letters and to see bits of time stopped forever on the page. I admit that as I grew older, friendships changed and as I went into adulthood, I lost contact with my friends from school. That seems to be the way of the world, we change and go in different directions. That doesn’t mean our friends were bad people, it simply means they changed, too. But, that isn’t to say that one will never meet them again a little further down the line. Life can be unpredictable that way.

Back when I was dating my husband, he would send me letters. Now, computers had been invented and so had the internet, but neither of us had gotten into the computer scene, so good old standby of pen and paper did the trick. I do have a few of those letters he sent me, and it is very nice to sit back and relive those precious feelings and thoughts that come to a person when their relationship is in its infancy stage.

Now back the book, one thing that I really liked about it is at the end of it, Robinson writes some personal commentary of her own. I especially liked this: My sister’s letters are in a box under my bed, and from time to time I reread them, mostly just to see her handwriting on the girly pink stationery or the fringed lined paper ripped from a spiral notebook.  The part I really relate to in that statement is the to see her handwriting,  as you have probably gathered, her sister died and those letters from her became very special keepsakes, not just because her sisters wrote those letters, but they act as a connection to her even though she is no longer here.   In 1976 my grandmother passed away. But, before she did, she purchased an album by Judy Collins Whales and Nightingales for one song specifically, “Amazing Grace”, as she loved Judy’s version.  What makes this album so special to me is that on the front cover she had written some things in ink.  Now, here it is, well over thirty years since her passing and I can see her handwriting. I can run my fingers over the ink and feel the pressure point from the pen and I know she wrote this. I know she held that album in her hands.  It is, in a sense, a piece of her.  That little bit of writing on that album says to the world “hey, I was here”.    I guess that is why so many people are into collecting autographs (not just for the investment aspect). That signature is proof of that person’s existence.  It is a way for us, a member of the lowly unwashed masses, to connect with someone we hold in high esteem for whatever reason.

I wonder if anyone, besides me, is longing for the days when we actually received hand written letters?  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that technology allows me to write an email, hit the send button and within seconds it is waiting in my friend’s in box who is minutes or miles away.  I think that is awesome!  But, there is also something to be said for receiving a snail mail letter, too.  I am at the age now when I think those kinds of letters are awesome! I guess a person can take heart, the greeting card industry seems to be alive and well, people still seem to enjoy sending cards and maybe enclosed is a few words written on the inside.  I suppose that is better than nothing, eh?  I am hoping, though, that more people begin to miss writing letters with pen on paper and will take up that old “art” and keep it alive and well.   Sometimes, the old ways are the best ways and maybe letter writing will make a comeback.  I sure hope so.

© 2015 Glory Miller