The Ultimate Scary Camp Fire Story

When I was in grade school, I was lucky enough to go to summer camp. I made great friends, loved all the activities; swimming, boating, crafts (especially wood carving), cooking over a camp fire, and best of all, telling scary stories around a camp fire late at night. We would toast marshmallows and burn our lips on them, all the while listening what we felt were the scariest stories in the world. No one would dare to say that the stories frightened them; I think that we all feared that if we admitted that they scared us, the stories would end for good, and we just couldn’t risk that.

So, for your Halloween enjoyment, I present to you a classic horror tale from those magical days of camp fires in the dark, “The Hairy Hand.” Enjoy….

The Hairy Hand

Legend has it that during the Civil War, a Rebel officer was fighting hand to hand with a Union soldier named John Jacob Machlin, both armed only with knives. They were the last survivors of one of the bloodiest battles in the war, and bodies lay all around them. Both were near exhaustion when Machlin cut off the Rebel officer’s right hand. The men fell panting to the earth; the Rebel soldier was rapidly bleeding out.

Machlin watched as the Rebel soldier grew pale. Suddenly the man gripped his sleeve. He said, ”The ring on my right hand was given to me by my wife, Matilda. Please see that she gets it back.”

He saw Machlin staring at the thick gold ring with greed in his eyes. He said, “if you do not give the ring to my Matilda, there will be a curse upon your entire family. All of your children and grandchildren will be killed and your line will die out.”

Machlin snorted in derision, and the Rebel officer died, his eyes staring at him. Machlin wound the severed hand in the Rebel soldier’s cravat and placed it into his rucksack, but not before he had removed the ring. He weighed it in his hand, and thought of how much money he could get for it.

When he returned home, he sold the ring. With the money from it, he built a beautiful house on a hill, and brought his new bride to it. They had a long and happy marriage, five healthy children, and, later on, seventeen grand-children. The house was dubbed Machlin Manor.

Every so often, he thought of the Rebel soldier and how he had taken the hand away and never bothered to find Matilda and give her the ring. For some reason, he kept the soldier’s severed hand in a locked box, tucked away in the attic.

On Machlin’s 30th wedding anniversary, all his children and grandchildren were in the house for the celebration. Champagne flowed like water, and all the tables groaned under the weight of roasted turkeys, hams, roasts of beef, fried chicken, tureens of fresh vegetables, several gallons of soup, also cakes, pies, cookies and pastries. After eating all he could, Machlin’s favorite grandson, Wilbur, went up to the attic and found the box. He was a clever boy, and had an engineer’s mind. He wanted to know how everything worked, and spent a lot of time taking things apart and putting them back together again.

When he found the locked box, he thought to ask his grandfather what was in it, then decided to pick the lock himself. When the box was opened, all he saw was the old and frayed gray and gold cravat, covered with rusty stains. Curiously, he pulled at the material, and the dried hand, covered in thick dark hair, tumbled out.

Wilbur screamed, but at the first sound, the hairy hand flew to his neck and quickly strangled him. The hairy hand pulled itself along the floor like a giant spider. When it came to the stairs, it fell to each step with a thunk. It crawled into the large room where all the other grandchildren lay sleeping. One by one, the hairy hand strangled each one.

Quietly, it crept into the largest guest bedroom where all the ladies were lying across the huge bed, dozing. The hairy hand quickly and quietly dispatched each one.

The hairy hand crawled into the drawing room where Machlin and his sons and sons-in-law were lazily smoking cigars and talking politics. The hairy hand flew to Machlin’s neck and began to squeeze the life out of him. Shouting, the men jumped to their feet and tried to pull the hand off the man’s neck, but could not.

They watched helplessly as Machlin was strangled. The hairy hand flew to each man, and nothing could stop it from killing each one.

Its dreadful work done, the hairy hand went back up the stairs and into the attic. On the wall just above the baseboard, it scrawled this message in the dust: “The Machlin line is dead.” It crawled into the box and pulled the lid down over it. When all the bodies were discovered, the house became known as the Machlin Mystery Murder House.

The house stood vacant for years. One day, a young family came to see it. The price had been lowered year after year, and it was a price that the young family could afford. They fell in love with its old-fashioned grandeur, and were thrilled that there were so many bedrooms, as they had six children.

As they signed the paperwork with the realtor, they smiled to each other, happy with the purchase. The realtor shook all their hands, saying, “Welcome to your new home, Machlin family!”

Happy Halloween, everyone!

What Are YOUR Definite Yes and No Issues?

The Kindness Blog recently published a thought-provoking topic called “What issue is black and white for you?” It made me think. Many things were listed, some of which I agreed with and some not. Overall, it made me think of what my own personal “black and white” issues are. Here are some of mine:

  1. When you think of getting married, it should be all about the person you are marrying, not the trappings of the ceremony; the dress, flowers, ring, reception, cake, etc.
  2. Infidelity is a deal-breaker–period.
  3. Children are not cute accessories, they are adults in the making. Raise them as such.
  4. Pets are to be treated with love and respect, given proper veterinary care (especially spaying and neutering, and necessary shots), and cared for as a dear family member.
  5. You don’t get something for nothing–there is always a price to pay.
  6. Always use your turn signals. Other people on the road can’t read your mind.
  7. Don’t litter–please.
  8. If something is just too good to be true, it most likely isn’t.
  9. There is no excuse for rape.
  10. Good manners are always in style.
  11. Let rumors and speculation about people you know die with you. Instead, pass on good things.
  12. Politics and religion are private issues–you don’t need to hammer me with yours, and I don’t need to hammer you with mine.
  13. We can respectfully agree to disagree.
  14. Interrupting people while they are talking is RUDE.
  15. Choose your battles wisely.
  16. When dressing, please remember to check how you look from the back. Enough said.
  17. When someone gives you a gift, thank them face-to-face. If not, send them a handwritten thank-you note.
  18. It is cowardly to shout something offensive to someone from your car and then drive off. If you are going to be rude to someone, have the guts to face them and take the consequences.
  19. Tell your loved ones that you love them each and every day, even if you are temporarily mad at them.
  20. Be your best YOU.

So–how about you?

Why “No Problem” is a Problem

As an English major, grammar nazi and word snob, I have yet another axe to grind with the steadily devolving English language. This gripe is about the too-common response, “no problem.” When someone says “thank you,” the appropriate response is simply “you’re welcome.” Easy–thanks given and thanks acknowledged. Responding with “no problem” sounds like “yes, it was definitely a problem to help you. My ‘no problem’ response really means, ‘Don’t bother me again–or we’ll have real problems.'”

And then there was this on the news recently: the anchors on a popular news station were talking about a football player raising his hand to the heavens to acknowledge his thanks to God for scoring a touchdown, which in this case was a “hail Mary.” The verbiage stream at the bottom of the screen below the anchors referred to this as a “Hail Marry.” Uh, guys? It’s actually called a “hail Mary,” meaning thanks to the Virgin Mary. It has nothing whatever to do with marriage.

Now I realize that the journalists most likely have nothing to do with this mistake, but sheesh–wouldn’t you think that someone somewhere working for the TV station would know better? Lest you think that I am the only ex-English major and grammar snob that all this bothers, check this out from

Since and Because

“Since” refers to time. “Because” refers to causation. e.g., Since I quit drinking I’ve married and had two children. e.g., Because I quit drinking I no longer wake up in my own vomit.

Disinterested and Uninterested

Contrary to popular usage, these words aren’t synonymous. A “disinterested” person is someone who’s impartial. For example, a hedge fund manager might take interest in a headline regarding the performance of a popular stock, even if he’s never invested in it. He’s “disinterested,” i.e., he doesn’t seek to gain financially from the transaction he’s witnessed. Judges and referees are supposed to be “disinterested.” If the sentence you’re using implies someone who couldn’t care less, chances are you’ll want to use “uninterested.”


Unless you’re frightened of them, you shouldn’t say you’re “anxious to see your friends.” You’re actually “eager,” or “excited.” To be “anxious” implies a looming fear, dread or anxiety. It doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to something.

Different Than and Different From

This is a tough one. Words like “rather” and “faster” are comparative adjectives, and are used to show comparison with the preposition “than,” (e.g., greater than, less than, faster than, rather than). The adjective “different” is used to draw distinction. So, when “different” is followed by a  preposition, it should be “from,” similar to “separate from,” “distinct from,” or “away from.” e.g., My living situation in New York was different from home. There are rare cases where “different than” is appropriate, if “than” operates as a conjunction. e.g., Development is different in New York than in Los Angeles. When in doubt, use “different from.”

Bring and Take

In order to employ proper usage of “bring” or “take,” the writer must know whether the object is being moved toward or away from the subject. If it is toward, use “bring.” If it is away, use “take.” Your spouse may tell you to “take your clothes to the cleaners.” The owner of the dry cleaners would say “bring your clothes to the cleaners.”


It isn’t a word. “Impact” can be used as a noun (e.g., The impact of the crash was severe) or a transitive verb (e.g., The crash impacted my ability to walk or hold a job). “Impactful” is a made-up buzzword, colligated by the modern marketing industry in their endless attempts to decode the innumerable nuances of human behavior into a string of mindless metrics. Seriously, stop saying this.

Affect and Effect

Here’s a trick to help you remember: “Affect” is almost always a verb (e.g., Facebook affects people’s attention spans), and “effect” is almost always a noun (e.g., Facebook’s effects can also be positive). “Affect” means to influence or produce an impression — to cause hence, an effect. “Effect” is the thing produced by the affecting agent; it describes the result or outcome. There are some exceptions. “Effect” may be used as a transitive verb, which means to bring about or make happen. e.g., My new computer effected a much-needed transition from magazines to Web porn. There are similarly rare examples where “affect” can be a noun. e.g., His lack of affect made him seem like a shallow person.

So you see, it isn’t just picky old me that gets bothered by these things. There are entire web sites devoted to what I call the crappification of the English language. And if nothing else, it keeps us word snobs happily harping and griping.

A Great Halloween Poem

I’m a big fan of the poet and humorist, Ogden Nash. This one, called “Adventures of Isobel,” is a  perfect poem for Halloween. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, ‘Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!’
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.
Once in a night as black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
The witch’s face was cross and wrinkled,
The witch’s gums with teeth were sprinkled.
‘Ho, ho, Isabel!’ the old witch crowed,
‘I’ll turn you into an ugly toad!’
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry,
She showed no rage and she showed no rancor,
But she turned the witch into milk and drank her.
Isabel met a hideous giant,
Isabel continued self -reliant.
The giant was hairy, the giant was horrid,
He had one eye in the middle of his forehead.
‘Good morning, Isabel,’ the giant said,
‘I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.’
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She nibbled the zwieback that she always fed off,
And when it was gone, she cut the giant’s head off.
Isabel met a troublesome doctor,
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor’s satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
‘Swallow this, it will make you well.’
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concocter,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.”

Just Take the High Road…

Quite a while ago, I received a gift card with the amount listed on the card as “$42.00.” I thought that this was an odd amount, but hey, a gift card is a gift card, and I was grateful for it. (Note: let me say right here that I do not understand people who think that gift cards are a crappy gift ‘that requires no thought.’ Are you kidding?! It’s free money! That’s the best kind of money there is!!)

So I went into one of my favorite stores (favorite because they have lots of jewelry), and checked out the rings. I found a lovely one in my size; a faceted morganite-colored crystal set in an intricate sterling filigree setting. It was reasonable, too; only $29.99. Happily I presented my $42.00 gift card, and the woman behind the counter smiled and said, “Thanks–now all you owe is $5.99.”

HUH?!? Why did I owe $5.99? The gift card was for $42.00! But it seems that the “$42.00” was actually “$24.00.” Looking back on it, I don’t know if this was meant to be  a joke or simply an honest mistake. Which then of course made me think of many of the dumb and senseless things I have done over the years….sometimes you just don’t think of the effect your action has on others. I thought briefly of doing the same thing to the person who gave me the gift card–briefly. But if  it truly was an honest mistake, that would be an awful thing to do.

So  I decided to just let it go. It is so much easier to overlook things like that these days. I spent way too many years of my life feeling resentful or hurt or upset or put upon–and probably many of those feelings came simply from the old “poor me” syndrome. Carrying those feelings around with me was a ginormous waste of time and energy. These days it is SO much easier to just move on and not sweat the small stuff–and take the high road. For me this means to just let go of any anger or resentment or hurt–I’m willing to bet that most of what we perceive as hurtful to us personally is not that way at all.

It’s a whole lot easier to take the high road and not add one more thing to our “*gripe bag.” Bottom line: if that gift card was meant as a joke, then hardy-har-har. If a mistake, so what? In the words of someone who shall not be named, “At this point in time, what difference does it possibly make?”

*Gripe bag: an unseen (but very real to the holder) bag of ancient-to-recent hurts, slights, dirty deeds and so on. This bag grows heavier each day, and the weight of it makes us sour and cranky, much like poor Jacob Marley (from “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens) lugging his yards of chains around.

The Comfort Basket – Another One of Mom’s Great Ideas

As Mom, Dad, the Crankee Yankee and I go through these precious days of spending time with my mom, who is dying of metastatic breast cancer, we find we talk of many things. Most of them have nothing to do with death and dying, but ways of helping people, bringing people together, the world in general and also ideas about making things easier on Hospice patients and their caregivers.

Since the end of August, Mom can no longer walk, but Dad or I or the Hospice nurses can get her around the house on her “sit down” walker. Other than that, she spends a lot of time in bed, resting, dozing, enjoying visitors and callers, as well as keeping her mind sharp.

Over time, we started putting together a small basket of items that Mom likes to have near her; tissues, lip balm, phone, pen, her calendar, and so on. When her “Lemon Sorbet” room spray ran out, I looked downtown for a replacement, and found a delightful citrus-y scented spray. Mom loved it, so we added “room spray” to the list of “comforters.” When you are in one room for long periods of time, the air can get stale, so a spritz of a good-smelling room spray is a welcome change.

So, after careful consideration, this is what we came up with for the contents of Mom’s own “comfort basket:”

  • room spray
  • tissues
  • wet wipes
  • eye drops
  • lip balm
  • daily pocket calendar and a pen
  • white board and dry-erase pen
  • breath mints
  • eye glass case and cleaning cloth
  • tooth floss
  • hand cream
  • sanitizing gel

…and of course, the phone and newly-installed “*panic button” are close at hand. All these things are in a small easy-to-reach basket. Of course, depending on the person, the contents of a comfort basket will vary, but these are the things that Mom prefers.

The white board (her idea) has become an essential part of Mom’s day. In a hospital room, there is always a white board stating that day’s date, the name of the assigned nurse and doctor, meal-time, etc. Mom likes having her daily information up on the board so that she can glance up at any time to see what each day will bring.

As you may or may not know, often meds will affect the patient’s memory or thought process. So having that white board and calendar are essential links to life for some patients. For Mom, this is her lifeline to the world, and it’s important to respect what she (or any person in her situation) finds comfortable and convenient.

So, just one more idea born of this time in Mom’s life. We hope that you find it helpful and something to make someone in Mom’s situation a bit more happy and comfortable.

*Local “first alert” type system just in case.

Comment on My Comment—?

I recently sent a complaint to the local and corporate offices of a popular fast-food restaurant. It read something like this:

“Not only is the service slow, but it seems that this <franchise name> is run by twelve year-old kids. The restaurant area is dirty, with napkins and old french fries on the floor, and what can be seen of the kitchen looks twice as dirty. As you approach the drive-up window, you can’t help but notice a window high up on the side of the building that features an ancient fly-strip loaded with dead flies. If we can SEE this from the drive-through, then how bad must the rest of the place be?

There have been several times that we have waited in the drive-through so long that we just turned off the lights and the engine, along with several other “waiters.” Evidently one delay was caused by a shake machine malfunction, and that seemed to slow down the entire restaurant.

Whenever there is a long wait, I have yet to hear an apology–just some scared-looking kid at the window shoving a greasy bag at you. Each and every time we have to ask for napkins as well. I don’t know if these kids have been told that humans actually prefer having a napkin or two; many of us don’t stick our heads in the bag and wolf down our food.

My advice would be to get someone older than 12 to supervise and run this particular <franchise name>. It used to be convenient to pick a cheap meal there, but based on what I’ve seen lately, I’ll wait and eat when I get home.”

I feel I was pretty dang clear about the problem, and having said (well, written) what I did, I considered the matter closed.

But no. After posting this review, I received two phone messages from, you guessed it–the franchise. They wanted to talk with me about my comment. Now, is it just me, or does it make any sense for me to regurgitate my comment to someone on the phone? The ball is in their court, and if they care about their restaurant, they will take the necessary steps to make improvements.

As I see it, my job is done. I don’t want any coupons, free meals, apologies–I want them to clean the place up before someone gets food poisoning and dies face-down on a dirty floor with ancient french fries in their hair.

So all-in-all, no need to comment on my comment, know what I mean?


The Angels Are With You

The angels are with you wherever you go–

Whether by your side or when the winds blow.

They fly in to attend us,

To help us, to mend us–

They are there with you for your very first cry,

They are there with you as you pass on with your last sigh.

As we are born, they help bring us through

The mists of time and space where our souls once grew–

They are given to us as a gift born from love

They stay with us always, below and above.

They love us, keep us safe and protect us,

Guide, help, influence and direct us

Through life’s hardest passes and places,

And silently wipe the tears from our faces.

When things are too hard, and life seeks to confound–

Their wings wrap ’round us in comfort with no bounds.

They remind us that life is a gift whose ribbons reach far,

From our birthplace, our home and our brightest star.

You are never alone, so never fear–

Because all of your angels are always near.





Just For Today…

Just for today:

  • Let us try to be kind to one another
  • Let us forgive ourselves for not being perfect
  • Let us let the small stuff slide
  • Let us remember that those whom we love are just as fallible as we are
  • Let us show love and accept love
  • Let us keep an attitude of gratitude in our hearts and minds
  • Let us realize that though we may be imperfect, we are worthy of love
  • Let us imagine the best about others
  • Let us believe and understand that we are never alone, no matter how alone we may feel
  • Let us give ourselves a break from time to time
  • Let us forgive and truly forget

Finally, I keep the following message by Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements,” right at eye level at my desk:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

We can do this, folks–we really can.

Another Spooky Halloween Story

 To help get us all ready for the spookiest day of the year, here is another great Halloween story!

“Dancing with the Devil,” a Texas Ghost Story retold by S. E. Schlosser

The girl hurried through her schoolwork as fast as she could. It was the night of the high school dance in the town of Kingsville, Texas. The girl was so excited about the dance, and had bought a brand new sparkly red dress for the occasion. She knew she looked smashing in it! It was going to be the best evening of her life.

Then her mother came in the girl’s room, looking pale and determined.

“You are not going to that dance,” her mother said.

“But why?” the girl asked.

“I’ve just been talking to the preacher. He says the dance is going to be for the devil. You are absolutely forbidden to go,” her mother said.

The girl nodded as if she accepted her mother’s words. But she was determined to go to the dance. As soon as her mother was busy, she put on her brand new red dress and ran down to the K.C. Hall where the dance was being held.

As soon as she walked into the room, all the guys turned to look at her. She was startled by all the attention. Normally, no one noticed her. Her mother sometimes accused her of being too awkward to get a boyfriend. But she was not awkward that night. The boys in her class were fighting with each other to dance with her.

Later, she broke away from the crowd and went to the table to get some punch to drink. She heard a sudden hush. The music stopped. When she turned, she saw a handsome man with jet black hair and clothes standing next to her.

“Dance with me,” he said.

She managed to stammer a “yes,” completely stunned by this gorgeous man. He led her out on the dance floor. The music sprang up at once. She found herself dancing better than she had ever danced before. They were the center of attention.

Then the man spun her around and around. She gasped for breath, trying to step out of the spin. But he spun her faster and faster. Her feet felt hot. The floor seemed to melt under her. He spun her even faster. She was spinning so fast that a cloud of dust flew up around them both so that they were hidden from the crowd.

When the dust settled, the girl was gone. The man in black bowed once to the crowd and disappeared. The devil had come to his party and he had spun the girl all the way to hell.