Imagine a town full of zombies, ghouls, ghosts and spooks, all living in harmony. It's tough to wrap your head around (unless your name is Linda Blair) but that's exactly what you'll find in Spookytown – a miniature Halloween village, created by Jessica Nuttall.
Spookytown began in 2004 with the purchase of Castle Blackstone. This towering fortress began a 14+ year passion to build a community for the living, dead and undead to coexist together. After Castle Blackstone came the construction of the cemetery, the business district and then the "spooky" end of town, which holds the magnificent Victorian Mansion. The town includes hotels, cathedrals, restaurants, cafes, museums and a grain elevator. The town is like any other small town during the day – quiet, peaceful and relatively pleasant, but once night falls, Spookytown becomes a creepy village full of flashing lights, blood curdling screams and eerie music.
When asked about the population of Spookytown, Nuttall answered "Dead or alive?", followed by a mischievous smile. A quick headcount found about 75 spooks hidden among the village's dozen buildings, but that might not include the ones living in the buildings or sleeping within their coffins.
Spookytown's buildings come from two main miniature architectural companies: Lemax and Department 56. These buildings are purchased at a variety of places, such as Michael's stores, or Spirit of Christmas in Banff, Alberta.
When asked what part of the village she would live in if she could, Nuttall showed me The Happy Halloween Cat House, which is located outside of the main townsite. This house is a small, cozy building with a haunted church next door and a yard full of bright orange and red leaves and the occasional headstone. Nuttall said she would like to live here because it reminds her of her childhood home and "because of the cats".
Last year Nuttall entered the Lemax 2017 Video Contest, where contestants from around North America submitted videos to show off their Lemax Halloween villages. Nuttall approached the contest differently than most and submitted a video letting the village explain itself through snapshots of daily rural life. Instead of explaining each piece, she let the ambient music, flashing lights and moving figurines speak for her. Due to her creatively done video, she won the contest and was awarded over 20 new pieces to add to the village, including Wanda's Cupcakes, Reaper's Landing and the Dead Fraternity – a frat house inhabited with zombies.
Like any community, the town has a wide range of citizens, but Nuttall's favourite two are the "two old ladies" that spend time near the gazebo in the middle of the town. They fit in well and are "hilarious", although Nuttall never would explain why.
Spookytown has gone through a lot of transformations over the years, but the next year will see some drastic changes. Now that the population is increasing, and infrastructure is starting to take shape, Nuttall plans to turn the village into a proper town by adding more roads, trees and enhancing the surrounding landscape. With a surplus of buildings, she's also planning to expand into smaller townsites, like The Happy Halloween Cat House.
If you visit Spookytown, however, one of the things you'll notice after the village are the three, five-foot-tall skeletons sitting around the village like undead overseers. These skeletons are having a dinner party next to the village, with plates full of fingers and scooped out eyeballs. These skeletons are a new addition to the village and was meant to the replace the village for the first time in over a decade. However, Nuttall decided to mix the two and create one of her spookiest creations yet.
Spookytown, the surrounding skeletons and all the other Halloween decorations throughout the house – and there are many – are taken down the second week of November. "Some people," Nuttall says, "leave them up all year. I don't though. I'm not that crazy."
Although Lemax isn't putting on another video contest this year, Nuttall decided to create another video about Spookytown, this time focusing around "Robert Zombie."
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
When I started my blog, I wanted a place to tell stories. I wanted a place where I could keep memories and show them off for people later. My earliest entries on my blog are from 2011 (published in 2014), right after my trip to Europe. They're messy, they lack detail, and they are full of inaccuracies. Not the mention the wretched photography.
So, there's only been a slight improvement since then. Hahahahaha.
Four years later, my blog has become my hobby, my joy, my escape and my work. I spend hours writing content for my blog. I spend hours editing pictures, researching details, and adjusting content for SEO (search engine optimization). It's a full-time gig, and just the other day I published my 200th article. After 200 times of doing something, you'd think the articles would get easier, but they really don't. Each one is unique unto itself, and each one is a special time in my life that I shared with my readers.
The following is a guest article by Sally Elbassir, the owner and food taster of Passport and Plates, originally titled "The Tapas, Taverns and History of Madrid: A Food Tour". Be sure to drop by her blog for culinary treats from around the world!
I've always been a foodie. Long before the term "foodie" ever existed, I was that kid who was always eager to try something new.
Things haven't changed much in the last couple of decades. My palate has expanded, and I discovered that my dream job does exist; it just happens to be occupied by Anthony Bourdain. Now I satisfy my foodie obsession by writing on Yelp, and on my blog... there's plenty more where that came from.