Because I'm passionate about all things undead, my column this week consists of ghosts, zombies and opportunities to scare yourself silly.
Local author Paul Leone will be giving a presentation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" at locations throughout the county in the weeks prior to Halloween. His presentation at the Fenton History Museum in Jamestown tonight is already booked, but Leone will come to the Labyrinth Press Co. on Friday at 9 p.m. and the Barker Museum in Fredonia at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday to perform his oration of Poe's spooky story. "The Cask," a tale told by a murderer planning to kill his friend, was chosen because of the connection between the grapes and wine in the tale with our region.
The Jamestown-based author also penned "Chautauqua Ghosts," which contains the stories behind eight haunted local legends. After working with the Fenton History Museum for many years, Leone became interested in the county's history. Many of the narratives, he explained, began as stories he told orally. With All Hallow's Eve just around the corner, I spoke to Leone about where to find a ghost in the county and about living with an apparition.
What is the most haunted place in Chautauqua County?
Oh, every place is haunted. One would be the hill in Mayville where Mayville High School used to be, across the street from the courthouse, because that's where a public hanging was performed in 1835 of a man who murdered his wife, Joseph Damon. It was a public hanging and it was a big event, so people came from all over the place to witness it... That was the last public hanging. After that, execution by hanging was still done but it was done within jail confines.
I read in the brief biography on wnybooks.com that you live in a Victorian house with your family, two cats and a ghost.
I live in a Victorian house on Lakeview Avenue in Jamestown. Had two cats, neither of them are with me any longer, but the ghost is still here in the house.
What is the history behind the house?
It's a century house - (built) in about 1890... It's a very interesting family house, it belonged to Mr. W.T. Falconer, from the family for which Falconer, N.Y. is named. They were early mercantile people in the south county. ... It's a great big, Queen Anne Victorian house.
Do you know who might be haunting it?
Well, we have a name for our ghost but our ghost sort of stays to himself. He's a male ghost, he lives up in the attic, which is way up on the third floor - a great, big, huge attic. He sort of stays by himself and tolerates us and we don't bother him. There's not much interaction other than noises in the house and misplaced things, and various other happenings that one can't explain.
What advice do you have for local ghost hunters?
If you're going to see a ghost, you're going to see it by chance and you're going to have to want to see a ghost. You're going to have to have a vivid imagination, too. For me, a ghost is not so much a being that has died and returned - that's what a ghost is, but for me, whether or not those beings exist sort of doesn't matter. What matters to me is the memory of the event. For me, that's what ghosts are. Like (in Mayville), the event was that this man was hanged. So, I see the memory of that event as existing and it will continue to exist forever. To see a ghost... what you want to do is frequent a place where ghosts are likely to be, if there were such a thing as ghosts. There are a couple of cemeteries in Chautauqua County in particular that are known to be harborers of ghosts - Guernsey Hollow in Frewsburg ... it's a small cemetery in the woods. ... There are plenty of little rural cemeteries that I really like. I like the cemetery in Laona - it's a nice little cemetery on the hill and I'm sure there are ghosts there.
Where "Jennifer's Body" failed as a zombie comedy, "Zombieland" succeeds. First, and most importantly, the jokes were actually funny, and not just sufficiently entertaining, but hilarious. Like "Shaun of the Dead," "Zombieland" may just become a classic in the genre.
While being one of the sole survivors in a world wholly infected by the zombie virus might be kind of depressing, for our antisocial main character (who we only know as "Columbus") it's really not so bad - he never much cared for other people, anyway. He manages to remain unscathed by living by his rules of survival, such as cardio (as he said, fatties were the first ones to go) and being sure to always check the backseat - zombies tend to pop out of there unexpectedly. On his way to Columbus, Ohio, to find out if his parents are still alive, he encounters ruthless zombie slaughterer Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and two scheming sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). To avoid becoming emotionally attached, they never exchange names and use their desired destinations as aliases. Of course, Columbus becomes attached anyway, as he becomes enamored with Wichita - lucky for him, the last eligible female on earth is attractive.
One noteworthy difference between "Zombieland" and other zombie films is that instead of slowly stumbling toward their victims, the undead move at breakneck speed. While some may consider this blasphemous, I don't think it takes away from its credibility. In fact, when you really think about it, it seems more likely that zombies would move more expeditiously. They're ravenously hungry.
I don't want to give all of "Zombieland's" surprises away, but I will say that there is an outstanding guest appearance that's not to be missed and some truly awesome battle scenes. If zombies are your thing, get yourself to a theater faster than a ghoul on a quest for flesh.
"Ghostbusters" and "Ghostbusters II" will be on AMC today, with the first at 3 p.m. and the sequel at 5:30 p.m.
A film that contributed to many sleepless nights, "Poltergeist" (1982) will be on Turner Classic Movies at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday. Trust me, it's better to watch it in the middle of the afternoon (for the brave, it will air again on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m.). Also on TCM this weekend, "The Blob" (1958) starring the ridiculously foxy Steve McQueen, on Sunday at 8 p.m. and later that night, "Nosferatu" (1922) at 12:30 a.m.
On "Off Beat Cinema" this Saturday at 2 a.m., see "The Last Man on Earth" (1964).
Halls of Hysteria will be held at the former School 6 on the next two Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 23, 24, 30 and 31, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. There are three floors of fright, with live actors and a giant maze. Admission is $5 per person. Halls of Hysteria is not recommended for young children.
At 41 West this weekend, live music will include Gypsy Meadow starting at 10 p.m. on Friday and Randy and Mike, 1/2 Heard of Buffalo, on Saturday at 9 p.m. The 41 West Halloween party will be held Oct. 31.
Terror With the Walls is held Oct. 23, 24, 30 and 31 from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Pintagro Building, 14 E. Second St. in Jamestown. Admission to the haunted house is $5, with $2.50 of each ticket going to the Make a Wish Foundation.
April Diodato is an OBSERVER Staff Writer. Tell her what's happening - especially if it's Halloween-related - at firstname.lastname@example.org.