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General News · 26th October 2011
Michael Horgan & Darlene Smith
My hometown, Marblehead Massachusetts, sits right next to the Hallowe'en capital of North America perhaps the world, Salem. The Witch City has cashed in on the state and church-sanctioned murders about which most of us have heard. To be accurate, much of this mayhem took place in what is now the town of Danvers, formerly part of Salem. My dad is a Danversite. Most people there don't know of their community's connection to the grisly events of 1692.Then again, what can we expect of people calling themselves Oniontowners? The exteriors for the film The Crucible were shot at the restored location in Danvers where the trials took place. Salem though, has the cashe - and the cash. The city undulates with costumed revelers all October. Salem High School's boys' sports teams are the witches. Girls' teams are the Lady Witches. No one has ever been able to explain either to me.

So, with the Whaletown Hallowe'en Bonfire a little less than a week away, I thought it appropriate to share what I have learned about turning pumpkins into Jack O'Lanterns. I know, I know. "Isn't asking someone from Marblehead and not Salem about Hallowe'en traditions the same thing as asking someone from Lanesville about good Nanaimo bars." Listen wiseguy, I'm as close to the real thing as you're going to get.

1) Search for a pumpkin whose stem is firm in it attachment to the orb. Found one did you? Great. Now never touch that stem again. "But, Mikie, we always cut around the stem to..." Stop it. Leave the stem alone. What nutrients the fruit - you knew pumpkins are fruit, right? - receives after harvest come through the connection between stem and orb. Break or damage that connection and you have hastened the death of your new friend, you fiend.
2) Wash the exterior with gentle soap and warm water. Rinse and pat dry. Do the same with your knife. If you kill all the micro hitchhikers on the surface of both, your knife won't drag them into the wounds you are about to inflict upon the poor, innocent pumpkin when you carve.
2) Make the cut through which you will remove the guts and seeds in the back of the pumpkin. Make it just big enough for the smaller of your hands (you figure it out) to work in the cavity comfortably. Wash the piece you removed and the pumpkin's exposed wound before sealing it back up. Any commercial gourd glue will do. ( I just made that up)
2a) Candles? Sure, why not? Avoid votive-style with a metal base, if you can. As that candle burns and the wax liquefies, that shiny silver vessel will concentrate a lot of heat in a very small area at the base of the pumpkin.
3) Optimum temperature for a Jack O'Lantern is 10C to 14C. Frost damages the fruit's cells and shortens not only its shelf-life, but the period of time they're not grotesque to look at. That's true for people over 60, too, by the way. Plus, saggy, softening pumpkins get gooey and yucky and people are afraid to pick them up. Again, just like people over 60.*
So, Lili and I plan to bring special treats to the bonfire for those who have followed these simple suggestions to preserve you new artwork. We hope you're one of them.

* Yes, I am old enough to say that.

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