Happy Halloween

Kasteel de Haar
Halloween’s not really a thing here, unfortunately. I always loved it in the US and had a nice selection of decorations. Sadly, they were left behind and only our two black cats made the big move. They’re the best decorations year round, anyway.

Still, I can’t resist a quick post to wish everyone a fun Hallow’s Eve. I was going to post a few gargoyles, but then I remembered the Kasteel de Haar here in the Utrecht province. It’s a real castle! No vampires or ghosts, but there is a spooky doll in a window.
Pinocchio
Clouds Taste Metallic
Kasteel de Haar
The Castle
Spooooooky!

The Devil’s Stone

Duivelssteen

All day a storm had raged through Utrecht, with howling winds and driving rain. Roof tiles blew loose and the cart horses were skittish. By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted, cold, wet, and on edge.

In a house on the Oudegracht, roof tiles that had been damaged in the storm allowed water to drip into the living quarters of Henk and Ingrid. The constant but irregular drip stretched their already frayed nerves as they sat in the weak light of flickering candles, buffeted about by stray gusts of wind snuck into the home. The damp chill of the day had worked its way into their bones and they soon retired to their bedroom to huddle under the covers in the hope of bringing an end to this miserable day.

Yet sleep was elusive that night as thunder continued to crack overhead and the sound of the churning Oudegracht below poured itself into ears desperate for peace and silence. Henk and Ingrid tossed and turned, until finally they fell into a fitful slumber. As the storm finally began to dissipate, their furrowed brows began to ease and peace settled over Utrecht.

Suddenly, shortly after midnight, a crack louder than any thunderclap rent the longed-for silence. Henk and Ingrid bolted upright in bed as their ears rang from the loud noise. Before their hearts could slow their galloping pace, another loud bang split the air and shook the house. Henk lay paralyzed with fear, but Ingrid leapt from the bed and raced to the window.

Peering out through the cracks in the shutters, she looked down onto the street in search of the source of this terrifying noise, certain that she would see the streets and houses tumbling into the canal below. Nothing else could explain the awful noise and the shaking of the house.

As she looked upon the scene below her, she began to wish her first thoughts were true, for they were preferable to the unholy sight she saw instead. There on the street beneath her, the Devil and his minions played a horrible game of marbles. But rather than small glass balls, the feared creatures used massive stones and boulders.

Again the bone-shaking crack of the stones ripped through the night and Ingrid slowly backed toward the bed, her hands covering her face as if to block the image from her mind’s eye. As she whispered to Henk the horrible sight she’d seen, his face grew paler than the full moon that hung in the sky.

The devilish game continued through the night, and Henk and Ingrid sat clutching each other, whispering prayers that soon this nightmare would end. As dawn approached, the monstrous sport finally drew to an end and the Oudegracht once more returned to normalcy.

When everyone was sure the coast was clear, the people who lived along the canal carefully crept from their homes and began to speak in hushed tones about the devils they had seen and heard that night. A few more candles were lit in the local churches and prayers were fervently made in the hope that they would never pass a night like that again.

Yet as darkness fell once more, the residents withdrew into the darkened rooms of their home, unwilling to risk being seen by the ungodly game players. As midnight approached, people felt their pulses quicken and their breaths become shallower as their ears strained for the first sounds of the stones striking the ground.

Despite their anticipation, the almighty crack of the devil’s game of marbles still shook them to their core. For another night, the residents along the Oudegracht sat wide awake in fear of this demon sport that made sleep impossible. Bang went the stones, causing the houses to shake and the shutters to come undone, letting in the ghostly light of the moon that served as a lamp for the creatures down below.

The next day, unable to bear another night of terrified wakefulness, the residents turned to their priest and begged for help. The canny priest had the devil’s stone chained up, and called upon God to prevent the devils from breaking the chain.

That night, Henk and Ingrid and the other residents along the Oudegracht said their prayers and went to bed, hoping that they would finally be able to sleep. As the Domtoren struck midnight, they heard the rattle of chains, but the rock remained still. Soon the chains grew quiet and a sense of peace settled upon the street. One by one, Henk, Ingrid, and all of those who had been tormented began to drift off to sleep, as the stone and its chain remained firmly in place.

♠♠♠♠♠♠♠♠♠♠♠♠

OK, so I took some liberties with the legend of De Gesloten Steen (The Closed [Locked?] Stone), also known as De Duivelssteen (The Devil’s Stone), but the stone does exist and it is chained up at Oudegracht 364. The legend that devils were keeping residents awake with the boulder until a priest intervened was already in existence in 1520.

Seeing as today is Halloween, I figured this was a perfect time to tell the story of the Devil’s Stone. However, if you’ve got a nervous disposition and spook easily, just tell yourself the stone was put in place to prevent wagons from damaging the corner of the building and that it has nothing to do with devils. Just ignore that thump in the night.

De Gesloten Steen

Happy Halloween

Plotting, Interrupted
Sadly, Halloween isn’t much of a holiday here. I always loved decorating the house for Halloween, dressing up Pippo, and hoping that we’d have some of the good candy left over after the neighborhood kids came by. I don’t bother with the decorations here, but with two black cats, it’s always Halloween in our house. Especially when I catch them looking as if they’re plotting some sort of horror to inflict upon us. Take this afternoon, when my leg and chest became the location of their reenactment of major battles throughout history. Or maybe they were reenacting the Spanish Inquisition. Either way, I think I have some new scars.

Happy Halloween from Luna, Lola and my bloody self!
Heat Hogs

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween
Happy Halloween from our Black Cat Brigade! Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays in America. I like ghost stories. I love black cats. I love Edgar Allen Poe. I love black and orange. I love chocolate. I wasn’t really a fan of dressing up in costumes for myself, but I enjoyed finding costumes for Pippo. Really, what is there not to like about Halloween! I had all sorts of fun decorations for the house, but sadly, I left them all behind. Halloween is just another day here, really, although there have been a few Halloween-themed events this weekend.

Fortunately, it turns out a friend of mine is going to be sending me some candy corn, and I’ve always got my black cat familiars at my side, so all is not lost. I might read a few of my favorite Poe stories today, too. In the meantime, I wish you a happy and safe Halloween and leave you with a few photos of “the kids” Halloween-themed pictures.

Trick-or-Treat
Lola does her Dracula impersonation
Dracula impersonation

Which one is Luna and which is the decoration?
Cats checking out cats

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

That's gotta hurt!
It’s pumpkin season! In the US, I’d buy big pumpkins specifically to carve them up like this for Halloween. It’s tradition! However, I rarely actually cooked the pumpkin. Any pumpkin I needed I got from a can. Libby’s canned pumpkin puree to be exact. The recipe for pumpkin pie (the only way I ate pumpkin) was right there on the can’s label! Easy peasy!

Now I’m in the Netherlands and Halloween isn’t that big a deal. Neither is pumpkin pie. But pumpkin as a food stuff actually is quite common. Still, if you want pumpkin puree, you’ve got to make your own. There’s no canned stuff here. Well, the expat stores tend to carry it, but it’s about €7 a can!

As the weather has started to cool off significantly and the first scents of wood fires could be detected in the air today, I figured it was time to buy a pumpkin. Tis the season, after all! But this time I don’t plan on carving it up. I plan on cooking it up and making my own puree to use in a handful of recipes I’ve come across recently. So while I was at the store today, I picked up a pumpkin. It’s a bit smaller than usual, and I do miss the “pumpkin patch” buying experience (even if the patch was just the front lawn of one of the local churches). Still, just having it in the house makes me feel like autumn is really here. Now, I wonder if I have a knife small enough to do a quick carving.
Pompoen Seizoen

Foto Vrijdag 1.2


I’ve been a bit slack on sorting through all my Kasteel De Haar photos, but I figured I’d post a couple here in honor of tomorrow being Halloween. The fantastic clouds and light we experienced Sunday, along with the castle setting, made some of the photos look like they were scenes from old horror films.

One of the strangest and oddly creepy sights we saw that day, though, was this little Pinocchio-type doll sitting in a cobwebby window. The golf ball, however, saves it from being nightmare-inducing.