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Consumption Lounge: Spirits, Haunted Houses, Weed Witchery & More October Treats
Hop on your broomstick and fly with these dope picks for October
Just before the focus of the world turned to war last week, I found myself unintentionally giving spiritual travel advice to fellow writer about staying in a haunted property. After all, this is the time of year when we think of harvest and spirits and otherworldly, supernatural things as the seasons shift, turning the leaves of autumn to the cold deadness of winter. Haunted things seem to just go together with autumn like peanut butter and jelly, or even better: a pumpkin spice latte.
Since I’ve had the pleasure of writing about and staying in quite a few haunted places during my travels over the years, I figured I’d add my two cents—though I would never categorize myself as an expert on spirituality or anything, really. The writer in question had unknowingly been placed at a property that had been converted from some kind of asylum into a bed and breakfast. This bothered her for a number of reasons—mainly her deep respect for the dead. She was concerned that she had been unable to prepare and properly sage the space to honor these people. Meanwhile, my “live and let live” attitude made me think, “Well, that sounds like a good story!”
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From haunted trolley rides like the Trolley of the Doomed in Savannah, Georgia and Madame Morbid in Brooklyn, New York to walking tours in Charleston, South Carolina and Providence, Rhode Island, and the now-defunct haunted distillery tour at Buffalo Trace in Louisville, Kentucky, I’ve found myself discovering various cities through the lens of haunted travel. When I was in Edinburgh, I booked the Real Mary King’s Close, visited the bone ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czechia, and the Catacombs of Paris—with another haunted tour booked in the very same city right before Halloween.
When it comes to haunted things, typically I’ll avoid anything having to do with insane asylums or jails, mostly because I find them depressing and gauche as tourist attractions, and tend to think of historical sites of human travesty as reserved spaces for reverence and education. I would be appalled to see a ghost tour on one of those for that reason, even though they are surely haunted, too. Otherwise, I’m just in it for the colorful stories, like most people, and therefore a little unconcerned about accommodating the dead when I travel (particularly if the spirit has bad manners).
Embarrassingly, I have not yet been to Salem when the town is floods with tourists every October, which is shame because the actress Thora Birch is emceeing the 30th anniversary of Hocus Pocus this year. The event is sponsored by the local adult-use cannabis dispensary, Seagrass Salem—essentially what I envisioned as the future of weed travel. There is now a Marijuana Mansion in Denver, Colorado, as well as a haunted cannabis maze in Southern Minnesota at Willow’s Keep Farm. And of course, you can always just get high while staying somewhere spooky and have a seance since you’re already paranoid—which happens pretty often since I almost always have a vape pen on me.
I included a whole chapter just on haunted attractions in my book “Easy Weekend Getaways in the Hudson Valley & Catskills” because there were enough to warrant it. The Brae Burn Mansion in Glen Spey is among the most notable, not only for its annual haunted forest during halloween, but also its storied supernatural history making it an infamous destination for paranormal investigators and ghost hunters. It even has a ringing endorsement from Linda Blair of the Exorcist. Of note, the property has a closet filled entirely with rows of creepy antique dolls and a hoarder’s attic of antiques—a shared attribute among the many haunted properties I’ve visited—but also a great pool if you go during summer!
That said, going on a ghost tour is very different than trying to get a good night’s sleep in a haunted accommodation—particularly if this was not made clear ahead of time. It’s also fair to assume that you can’t always plan for a spiritual encounter.
One of these was at the bed and breakfast, The Dominion House in Blooming Grove, New York—a place that is arguably not haunted according to officials, but also where I had a semi-haunted experience. The property wasn’t even on my radar, but after a tornado unexpectedly swept through Orange County leaving widespread flooding and power outages, the whole thing turned into somewhat of a happy accident. The B&B was wonderful, and even had an outdoor pool and an indoor hot tub that was fun to dip into with a bottle of wine. But it's also situated down a very dark country road and having seen too many horror movies, I'll always have a twinge of anxiety over that.
As my photographer and I drove back to the property after dinner, chatting about how creepy and quiet the road was, she said, "Just wait, a lady wearing all white is going to jump out from the shadows, I swear." At that very moment, her headlights flashed over a statue of the Virgin Mary in the middle of the road and we both shrieked. Slamming on the brakes, we backtracked to realize that it was, in fact, just a road statue being used as a reflective surface to avoid crashing into a tree. Still, maintain that it was haunted! The whole house is essentially a well-preserved museum with original furnishings dating back to 1880 when it was owned by a local farmer. There's gotta be a spirit in that place. On the upside, if it turns out it isn't haunted, there’s that hot tub—so it's a pretty great place to stay.
Similarly, the Story Inn, a small inn inconveniently situated in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana doesn’t even need a disclaimer to tell you right off that it’s haunted. Can you imagine having your soul trapped in Southern Indiana? I’d be pissed, too, and moaning about it for eternity.
The village of Story was founded in 1851 and eventually fell into disrepair during the Great Depression until it was revitalized in the ‘70s before switching hands a couple times. Today, it exists as an unincorporated village with a population of maybe 10. Even then, I don’t think every one of those is actually a resident—maybe the ghosts are the honorary ones. But the village consists of the inn and nothing else.
At the time I visited, the property was very popular among ghost hunters, supernatural fanatics, and the haunted curious—a very specific demographic of travelers that I don’t mind pandering to. Though I hate haunted houses and avoid horror movies because the violence bothers me, I do enjoy the thrill of ghost story.
It’s common to find dozens of guest journals in these kinds of places documenting years of making contact or the disappointment of not. And should the right circumstances strike, you might wonder if that noise was just the rain beating against a tin roof or something more sinister. That said, a ghost infestation is not-so-good for business, which you’ll hear about the benign “Blue Lady” ghost and their wedding services, but you’ll have to chat up the bartender to hear about the unexplained events and other spirits lurking around the property.
Once again, a terrible thunderstorm struck that night. My two cohorts tried to determine who was less chicken to stay in the more haunted room. Miraculously, I had been placed in the only non-haunted room, where I slept soundly until the middle of the night when I heard a banging on the door. I bolted up to find my friend waiting outside asking if she could crawl into bed after getting creeped out from the ominous noises. In the morning, she chalked the whole thing up to a metal roof and old pipes as I gave her side-eye and insisted that we add our accounts to the journals.
I thought about all of these past experiences as I considered the ideological perspective of someone who thinks about death and spirits through a very different lens than I do. The writer seemed to be more insulted that she was put into a position of having bad manners and afraid for her soul. Meanwhile, I liked thinking of ghosts as an unwanted hotel amenity, maybe because I am convinced that I live with one.
The West Village is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New York and my building is 150-years-old, so I automatically assume that it’s haunted by some depressed writer. During the pandemic, I felt reassured being an interesting place in the event I died and get stuck for however many unforgivable offenses are on my existential tab. I always hope there are cool ghosts instead of tormented ones, particularly since I already promised my exes that I’d haunt them forever and that would be so lame. This is my neurotic relationship with ghosts and living people.
This past week has been really awful. It is impossible to look at horrific images without having some kind of existential moment of reflection. I also recognize that this conflict may go on for some time and would prefer to give myself a mental break from all of the pain. I’m pretty sure you could use it, too.
There are many rituals practiced by witches around the world that gather stones and candles for healing and light, including amethyst, rose quartz, rhondonite and lepidolite. In Judaism, yahrzeit candles are lit in memory of the dead; during Samhain, candles are anointed with essential oils and warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove; on Dia de los Muertos, candles may be lit as part of ofrendas to welcome the spirits back to their altars.
For many people, this time of self-care demands inspirations of joy, optimism, and humor amid moments of horror and grief. Immediately, I found myself racing to the bookstore and wine shop to stock up and get offline, desperate to believe in humanity, and realized that I needed to move forward producing this monthly segment with that in mind. I encourage you to find the rituals that give you meaning during these hard times while offering love to those who need it. Sending love and peace to all.
October Consumption Lounge
“Recipe for Disaster” by Alison Riley: “Can you name a low point, of any size and shape, and the food memory you associate with surviving it?” This is the premise of the new cookbook from author Alison Riley that includes 40 essays, interviews, and recipes of resilience from writers, chefs, and artists, including Samantha Irby, Sarah Silverman, Bowen Yang, Michael Twitty, Alice Waters, Chelsea Peretti, Tien Nguyen, Simon Doonan, Justin Vivian Bond, Brian Lehrer, and Thundercat. When I received this in the mail, I didn’t know I was going to need it a few days later, but it’s a beautiful anthology of pain, hope, and humor that heals.
Canna Style’s 2023 Halloween Collection: This might actually be the most Weed Witching Season appropriate—nay, essential!—collection of wares, including a cauldron stash jar, ghostly cones, and even a witch hat pipe.
Kush Queen’s Hallowellness Collection: Whether you’re treating yourself to a Black Magic CBD Bath Bomb for your bubble cauldron, boosting your immune system for the months ahead, or lubing up to get fucked over by a ghost, Kush Queen has all plenty of Halloween treats to help you rest and rest. Check out the Pipe Dreams podcast episode with founder Olivia Alexander.
“My Little Dark” by Born Days: Bookmark this conceptual dreamwave goth-pop new album from Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist singer, songwriter, and producer Melissa Harris. Candidly vulnerable and emotionally complex, “My Little Dark” draws inspiration from the realm of confessional poetry to sonically explore and narrate Harris’s struggles with mental illness, trauma, destructive cycling, love, innocence, and beyond. Her distinctively soft and sweet voice is saturated with otherworldly essence that explodes into apocalyptic crescendos and escapes into ghostly innocence.
“Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch” by Rivka Galchen: Galchen’s book was actually released in 2021, so I recognize this is not a new book. But it is also one based on real historical documents about an illiterate widow on trial for witchcraft in Leonberg, Germany during the 17th century amid widespread fear and suspicion as the plague spread during the Thirty Years War in the Holy Roman Empire.
HALLOWD drag show at Work n Roll: In New York City this week? Put on your finest costume and head to Work n Roll for their sickeningly queer Halloween event on Wednesday, October 18 6:30 p.m.-11 p.m.to enjoy 6-Queen Drag show, shop LGBTQ owned brands, get a flash tattoo, grab a drink at their open Cann bar, hit a Studenglass dab bar, and mingle the night away under one roof.
The BIG HotBox Comedy Show: Not so long ago, I finally visited Bar Orai, a Japanese whiskey and listening bar situated on 52nd Street, when I noticed something. Was that…weed? I didn’t think much about it until comedian Danit Sibs invited me to her cannabis-friendly comedy show, The Hot Box, at Room 52, which I realized was directly downstairs with a complimentary hot box that is essentially a dry herb vape sauna. On October 22, she’ll be hosting a fundraiser for the recent tragic events, and a Halloween show on October 31 with plenty of free goodies for ticket holders.
Wine is Confusing Zine: This actually has nothing to do with Halloween, but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this tiny zine from wine writer Kara Daly who runs the eponymous Substack you can subscribe to here. For only $3, you can get the latest issue that takes a look at 3 bodies of water that define the vineyards around them: Seneca Lake, The Pacific Ocean, and the Loire River, delivered right to your doorstep.
Wild World Festival: This coveted natural wine festival returns to Red Hook, Brooklyn again on October 30, where you can hang with fermentation nerds and enjoy the fruits of natural wine, beer, cider, mead, sake, and kombucha and all of the best fermented foods for only $45, plus bites from Le Chateaubriand, Paris available for purchase.
Different Leaf’s Last Issue (For Now): Another one bites the dust—at least until mid-2024. Cannabis culture magazine Different Leaf goes on hiatus after their fall 2023 edibles issue that features profiles and pro-tips on the best infused edibles, including contributions from Fruit + Flower’s Christina Wong, food writer Chala June, and a look at what’s happening over at Beak + Skiff since we last visited.
Above The Fold Breaks Into Print: I didn’t think I could have been more excited than when my former colleague, Leah Mennies, decided to launch a Substack devoted entirely to dumplings, but then she stole my heart taking it to the next level with a RISO print magazine on the way! Subscribe to her newsletter!
“Camille Pissarro: The Audacity of Impressionism” by Anka Muhlstein: As an art history geek, I was thrilled when Other Press reached out to see if I’d be be interested in reviewing the galley of this fantastic account of celebrated painter Camille Pissarro who inspired Impressionist masters while existing as an experimental outsider Caribbean-born atheist Jew in France defying the expectations of the art world.
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Pipe Dreams By The Weed Witch is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.