Clowns creep me out. They always have. Not the rodeo clowns with fun painted faces and red ball noses, but the clowns with masks and fixed artificial smiles, as well as the clowns that paint faces that are intended to scare or horrify. That’s probably a subjective statement, because what may be scary to me might make you laugh or the other way around. I always thought that clowns were meant to be cheerful or goofy, but that has not been the case in certain parts of the country in the last couple of months. When the cops have to get involved, definitely not laughable.
Now, most likely as an unfortunate reaction to recent horror movies, clowns are being used for nefarious reasons. Since the end of August, people dressed up as clowns have been reported luring children into the woods with the promise of money, heard banging on doors, and standing on the road in the dark, looking creepy to passersby. The police are taking the threats/reports seriously, and actively follow up on the leads.
Some schools have banned the use of masks and even face paint for this year’s Halloween celebrations, and many have banned clown costumes altogether.
Target and Wal-Mart have put away the clown costumes and/or masks for this year in reaction to the rise of menacing clown sightings. Their reasoning? Halloween is supposed to be fun, not dangerous, and neither company wants to fuel the actions of some misguided individuals. Other sources for costumes are selling out the clown outfits, however.
The clown craziness continues to make news as people posing as clowns take to social media, with tweets, hashtags, and Facebook pages that make threats, cause school lockdowns, and otherwise create havoc. Parents and school officials alike are perplexed as to the motivation behind the social media attacks, but are taking action to avoid any possible actual harm. Several arrests were made after people reported sightings or crimes involving a clown and they turned out to be hoaxes.
Law enforcement continues to investigate each new sighting, because as one officer said, “This is neither funny, nor cute.” Sadly, one teenager lost his life in a stabbing as a result of a clown related incident.
Stay safe this Halloween and be aware of your surroundings. As always, don’t send the children out alone, even in supposedly safe neighborhoods. A trusted adult should be in sight at all times.
Our town has a ‘no mask’ policy for the younger skeletons and princesses. That’s a great idea, because the little ones are less likely to trip and fall if they can actually see where they’re stepping.
Every year, our community center holds a Halloween party after school for kids who don’t walk the neighborhood. A couple of police officers stop by to help out and show the crowd that cops are the good guys. Some local churches now host gatherings for the families in their congregations. Children hear the hype on TV, see the candy in the store, and want to join in, so supervised parties can be fun in some areas that aren’t really right for trick-or-treating.
Best tip? Make sure the kids look both ways before crossing the street to get to the ‘best candy’ house on the other side. Getting hit by a car tops the list as the most dangerous thing that happens to children on Halloween.
*No clown photos included, on purpose.
It’s that season when all things pumpkin are the rage. Maybe it’s the hundreds of pumpkins calling to us at the stores/farmer’s markets or maybe it’s the crisp Fall air, but nature’s advertising compels me to try a new pumpkin recipe every year.
Sheila is right there with me and the challenge is not to come up with something new, but how to rein in our enthusiasm and just pick one to share.
We looked at the Kerrian recipe list and realized that there are no smoothies on it anywhere.
So, for your sipping pleasure, here is the Kerrian Pumpkin Smoothie. And, in keeping with our kitchen’s body-free policy, no people were harmed in the making of this great drink. Promise. 😉
Make another for your friend with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Find the Pumpkin Mookie recipe here.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
Have you ever been bitten by an insect? How about a snake? Or a frog? Or a snail? I’ll take a fire ant bite over the bites of some of the animals in this article any day.
I would bet that most of you have endured the after effects of a mosquito bite – the itchiness, the redness, the swelling, but rarely does anyone die from it. There are nasty diseases that a mosquito can carry – i.e., Malaria and the Zika virus – but the everyday, backyard variety generally just delivers an annoying couple of days of discomfort. We can’t tell the difference by just looking at them as they dive at us, so we use insect repellent to ward them off. There are couple of great products that golfers use to keep pesky gnats, horse flies, and skeeters away, but, there is no magic spray that works to chase away the deadliest animals that co-exist with us on the planet. We have to rely on treatment after the fact, or the best idea of all: avoidance.
Here are ten of the worst:
Some animals have developed neurotoxins to dispatch their victims. The worst spider in the world is found in Australia – just in Sydney, to be exact. The Sydney Funnel Web Spider can kill a human or a monkey within 15 minutes. Apparently, no other animal is susceptible to the poison. There is an anti-venom, but you’d have to be really close to the hospital to get treated in time.
The South African Spitting Scorpion uses three neurotoxins to protect itself – one to stun, one to paralyze and one to kill. It spits the lightest dose when chasing the victim away, but it only needs a billionth of a gram of the deadly dose to kill a small animal. Death is not pleasant, with tremors and convulsions that go on even after death.
The Lonomia Caterpillar is responsible for over 500 deaths in the past twenty years and kills by causing hemorrhaging near the site of the bite. The victim’s blood no longer clots and this condition spreads as the body tries to cope. Scientists don’t yet know the composition of all the toxins involved.
Unlike other poisonous animals, the Poison Dart Frog creates its toxin from its diet. Scientists have discovered that in captivity, the frog is rendered harmless by changing its diet. That means that even if the frogs in my photo above had escaped, they would have hopped around, doing no damage to me at all if they had touched me. Good thing, because one little wild frog from Central or South America has enough toxin to kill about ten fully adult humans. Hop, hop, hopping about, enticing us to touch its pretty skin, doing its worst by causing heart attacks.
The famed Puffer Fish carries a neurotoxin that is 100 times deadlier than potassium cyanide. What may not as widely known is that same toxin can zap you if you touch certain varieties of sea snails as well as the blue ringed octopus, a small but nasty bit of sea life. Contact with one of these unfriendly sorts can cause blindness, paralysis, and/or death. And while the Marbled Cone Snail may be gorgeous to look at, there is no known antidote for a strong enough dose of its venom. I’ve never been a strong ocean swimmer, but when I stick my toe in a wave at the shore, I expect to be alive afterward, pretty sea snails or not. Maybe I’ll forgo the next snorkeling trip. 😉
The Inland Taipan is among the deadliest snakes on Earth. Anybody that gets bitten by one of these can die within 45 minutes. It’s an Australian snake and there is anti-venom for the bite, but I wouldn’t want to count on getting back to civilization in time to get the treatment. If I was a snake handler Down Under or if I lived in the Outback, I’d think seriously about keeping a vial of the remedy on hand.
The King Cobra can strike fear into the heart of anyone that gets within spitting distance. Just a 1/4 ounce of its venom (about 7 ml) can kill a full grown elephant within minutes. To put that into perspective – about twenty grown men could die from that same 1/4 ounce dose. The good news is that unless you’re traveling to India or China, or the local zoo lets one escape, you’re safe.
Several varieties of Jellyfish can deliver stings that cause a great deal of pain and sometimes death. They are physically brainless, but their make-up is all about survival. Tentacles can be anywhere from less than an inch (the translucent Irukandji) up to ten feet long (the Portuguese Man O War). They are found in oceans all over the world, can be almost invisible or quite colorful (the Sea Nettle found near the Chesapeake Bay in the USA). My advice? If you see one, swim away as fast as you can.
If you’re using the information in a book you’re writing, choose your poison source carefully. Somebody has to gather that poison before it can be injected or mixed with food. Will it be the villain or someone she/he hires? There are medical uses for some of the neurotoxins – those can be purchased legally with the proper credentials. On the other hand, snake venom is not easy to collect, and somebody might actually have to catch the snake first. Snake bags anyone?
Do you have a favorite villain in literature that has used a rare animal-based poison to do his/her evil work? Please share in the comments below. 🙂
Poison Dart Frog & Jellyfish – Patti Phillips
Puffer Fish – ListVerse