A bad night at the paranormal hotel.


2013-04-03 paranormal hotel innkeeper plaque

I had a rough night at the paranormal hotel.

For those of you that don’t know, the hotel where I work is a like a hybrid of a flea-bag hotel, a 1940s-style rooming house, and a budget motel for low-income travelers. (In form if not function, though, it is technically a modern multistory hotel, located just beyond the edge of St. Paul.) At the hotel, we get all kinds. I’ve seen a lot go down at this place. Some of it has been good; much of it has been sad; a little of it has been frightening. I call it the paranormal hotel not because it’s particularly haunted but because it’s such a strange place — one that absolutely captures the essence of the literal definition of paranormal:

Para- / par-ə / Prefix. ”Alongside, near, beyond, altered, contrary to.”
normal / nawr-muhl / Adjective. “Conforming to the standard; usual; regular; natural.”

Last night, I had three distinct unpleasant encounters there. In this one shift, I was:

Blindsided by sideways, passive misogyny:

First, a regular guest decided to share his vacation photos with me. He’s always been quite courteous and dignified with me before. He looks and (usually) acts like any late-middle-aged, blue collar business owner from Minnesota. I didn’t think there’d be a problem with his pictures, but apparently he’d spent the week at a motorcycle rally in Florida, and the photos were of scantily clad young women. I was okay with the one of the girl wearing a peacock-feather-themed body paint instead of a shirt. (I mean, that’s interesting, right?) I was less impressed by the shots of him with a stripper’s groin pressed into his face. It felt icky to be shown such a thing by a man who is actually a stranger.

Why don’t more 60 year old men feel weird about having sexual fantasies about and (purchased) encounters with teenage girls? And why did this particular guy think showing his trophies to ME was a good idea?

I congratulated him on having a good time and disappeared to fold laundry.

Accused of racism:

Later, a woman who has a $700+ balance owing implied I was racist when I tried to collect some kind of significant payment from her. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been attentive to the clearly difficult situation her family is attempting to deal with. There are two polite and well-dressed brothers, who seem to have some sort of mental deficit, staying at the hotel. They are never a problem. There are two sisters who are struggling to come up with enough money to keep the two men fed and housed. All of the siblings in question are in their late 50s to late 60s. Last night, I called one of the women over to the desk so that I could let her know that my boss is getting close to the point of evicting the brothers. She promised that she was coming back in a couple of hours with a payment of more than $500. I was relieved — for the family and for my boss. (For the record, my boss has been more than just patient and understanding … he also heavily discounts the room.)

At roughly the appointed time, the OTHER sister, whom I’d previously only spoken to on the phone, came in to pay $60. I was confused and surprised. I told her that her sister had been in earlier and promised a larger payment. The woman standing in front of me said, “Sister? I don’t have a sister. You must have me confused with some other black person.”

I stood my ground, called her by her first name, and reminded her of some of our previous phone conversations. Then she told me that her sister would not have said such a thing and that she was in the car, so she could confirm that. She went out, came back in and said, “She never said that.”

I accepted the $60.

Confronted by direct, active misogyny:

About an hour before I was scheduled to go home, a tall, slim, construction-crew type guy came in to the lobby. The scent of whiskey clung to him. He was carrying a bag of fast food and a cell phone. He strode up to the counter and said, “I have a room here.”

After a few moments of reasonably civilized – if slurry – conversation, it became clear that he though he’d already paid for the room, via Priceline and his credit card. The moment I told him that we don’t list with Priceline, but only Bookings.com (where you can make a reservation but not where you can pay before checking in) things started to get ugly.

He showed me the screen of his cell which, indeed, appeared to show a confirmation message from Priceline. He was so convinced that he’d already paid, that I called one of my bosses to confirm that the policy hadn’t changed recently. While I was talking to her, the guy’s swearing intensified. Over-hearing his belligerent tone, my boss offered to speak to him for me. He listened briefly to her, then started shouting into the receiver. When he told her she should get her lazy ass down here to see his confirmation for herself, I knew the police were going to have to get involved. When he threw the phone back at me, I asked my boss to make the call. I knew she would be watching the security feed of everything that was about to happen, but also knew there was really nothing she could do for me besides calling the police and hitting the record button.

At that point, I just wanted him out of the hotel. I told him the cops had been called. If I couldn’t get him to leave, I wanted to prevent him from escalating too far before the police arrived.

In the next twenty minutes all of the following things happened, most of them repeatedly. (Also, there were a ludicrous number of f-bombs in his rant.)  I’ve listed the events in something like real-time order. (I admit, I’m a little fuzzy on the exact sequence.)

  • He told me stop “batting my eyes” at him and to stop grinning. ( I’m pretty sure I was doing neither. I suppose I was trying to not antagonize him further with my body language; I remember continuing to call him “sir” no matter what he called me.)
  • He called me a lazy bitch who didn’t understand what a real day’s work was because I sit in a chair all day.
  • He accused me of being a scamming whore who was stealing his hard-earned money.
  • He demanded that I give him his money back. Right. Fucking. Now.
  • He leaned as far over the counter as he could. as often as he could, in order to better loom.
  • He put his hands on the desk, and made as if to boost himself over the counter.
  • He began a litany of, “I’m just going come back there and get it.”
  • He said. “I’ll punch you right in your smirk, you cu**.”

By now I was standing well back from the counter, near the door into the hallway, in case he made good on his threat. I was keeping my gaze fastened to his face, to best gauge his next move, but I was also paying attention to the front door, where I hoped to see a cop appear at any second.

Instead, two young men came in. At first I thought this was a good thing. Then it became clear that they were with the psycho on the other side of my desk and that they were drunk too. Mercifully, they seemed to know that First Guy was out of control. Their efforts to calm him, however, back-fired. With an audience, First Guy got more verbally abusive than ever. I noticed that one of the semi-sane guys was holding onto a fistful of  First Guy’s tee shirt very tightly, literally and forcefully restraining him from coming over the counter.

I explained the situation to the other two men while First Guy continued to lunge at the counter and cuss at me.

Third Guy said, ” That’s okay. I’ve got money. I’ll pay for the room.”

I told them – in the most soothing, unconfrontational voice possible — that I would not be able to rent a room to any of them. Not after what had already happened.

Second Guy said I had to, because they didn’t have a car and had arrived in a cab which had left long ago.

I said I just couldn’t do it, and that the cops were on the way, and it would be best if they just left.

Third Guy said in a low, deadly growl, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

It didn’t take a genius to see that I was about to have two psychos on my hands.

That’s when the light from a cop car’s cherries strobed through the window. First Guy peeled away from the other two and walked out, brushing right past the cop that was coming in. The two semi-sane guys continued to stand at the counter, as if nothing had happened, trying to get me to rent them a room. The cop waited patiently behind them. I had to ask them to step aside so that I could speak to the officer. They went outside.

I told the cop what was going on. He went outside.

The next thing I knew, the cop car was pulling away. I ran to the two alternate entrances and locked them so no one could come in off the street without me knowing. I counted out the cash drawer and made an early drop. I spoke to my boss who wanted to know if I was okay. I stepped into the side room and let a few tears come. Then I went outside, very cautiously, to have a smoke.

Someone was standing behind a tree at the far end of the parking lot. I couldn’t tell how many people were there, nor could I be sure that it was any of the men I’d been dealing with. What I could determine was that the person or people were standing very near my truck. I realized I wouldn’t be able to leave at shift’s end without revealing which vehicle in the full parking lot was MINE.

How it all ended okay:

Now, I could have had the Mike the Boxer walk me to the truck when he came to take over the desk duties. And, if the mysterious figures WERE the drunks I’d been dealing with, they would not have been able to follow me home or anything, BUT I really didn’t want to set myself up for some future vandalism, on some future work-night.

I called my newly-licensed, 19 year old son, and he was still awake. This was a break, because I knew he was sick and he might have turned in early. I told him about the guys in the parking lot and explained that I wanted to just leave the truck where it was, safely anonymous, until morning. He was more than willing to come pick me up at the back door of the hotel at midnight. He was asking me if I wanted him to come sooner when the two less-threatening men came back into the lobby.
I said, ” Oh, it is them, and they are coming back in.”
He said, ” I’ll get Dad and we’ll be right there.”

It was Second Guy and Third Guy, of course. They said they had been waiting for a cab, but that it wasn’t coming so they needed me to rent them a room.

Because we live very close to the paranormal hotel, I’d only been talking to the two semi-sane drunks for a few minutes when my husband and son came in. My men-folk took a seat as if they were just a couple of guys waiting their turn. They exuded calm awareness. The drunk men were telling me that the other guy — the foul-mouthed, violent one — was gone so I should go ahead and rent them a room. They said he’d disappeared and the cops had never even seen him.

I was able to convince them that I could not and would not rent to them. After making a quick call to find out if a nearby hotel had a room for them, I directed them down the street. They weren’t happy with me, but they eventually accepted my decision. (At least I think they did. As far as I know, they did walk to the other hotel.)

Even though the danger had passed, we opted to have my husband drive my truck home so that no one would see me getting into to it. (We still don’t know where First Guy went.) My boy and I took the car, which they had parked around back.

Why this shift bothered me so much:

Folks who have been readers of the blog for a while know that I’ve been through some tough shifts at the paranormal hotel — shifts that were probably more dangerous than last night’s. This one, though, shook me deeply and, at first, I didn’t know why.

When we got home at about ten after midnight,  my husband and son needed to get to sleep, so they pretty much went straight to bed. I, on the contrary, was wide awake and totally keyed up. Luckily, my daughter (who lives 1,500 miles away) was available for a conversation about what had happened. She used to work as a clerk at an all-night gas station, so she really understood the feelings I was having. I realized while we were talking that I’d never felt targeted at the paranormal hotel before. I’ve been a witness to some terrible things, and I’ve intentionally inserted myself into some risky situations to help someone else, but I’d never been the sole focus of someone’s unreasoning rage in the way that I was last night.

It wasn’t until my daughter pointed out that verbal assault is still assault that my reaction made sense to me.

I think it was that word. That word which I just now decided to type out without using an * to take the place of  a couple of letters. Cunt. I used to think that the word cunt didn’t bother me so much. It’s just a word for female genitalia, right? I’m a feminist. Why would a synonym for a vagina be an insult?

Of course, it’s not. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the word itself. But when it is spewed, along with droplets of spittle, from the mouth of a man who really wants to punch you — specifically YOU — in the face, it’s terrifying.

Macabre Media: Dance in the Graveyards plus Daniel Radcliff in Horns


Tonight’s post comes to you courtesy of my daughter, Pooka. Last night she sent me a link to this amazing video. This could be my theme song (even OUR theme song.) It just makes me happy. I had to share it with you all ASAP (though it would have been entirely appropriate to save it for The Day of the Dead.)


Horns, the movie adaption of Joe Hill’s book, starring Daniel Radcliff, is coming to the big screen on October 31st, 2014. Here’s the trailer:

I’ll send a heads-up out on FB & Twitter & G+ when we get a little closer to the release date.

What will you be for Halloween? Makeup can MAKE the costume.

halloween countdown 2 final

Only TWO weeks until Halloween!

Show your love of Halloween and drive your friends crazy by sharing the above image on your social media sites this week.


So what are you going to be for Halloween? What’s your excuse for dressing up?

This year, I don’t have any parties to attend and I won’t be working on Halloween night. I suppose I could skip the costume thing, but I know I won’t really do that. If nothing else, on Halloween night, I’ll be out roaming the streets, looking for houses that deserve to be recognized as Halloween Heroes. And I’ll be wearing something spooky to do it. For me, that probably means a simple black dress, maybe a veil or a hat (or both,) and makeup. If I don’t get the chance to pull out my kit and turn myself into a monster, it’s not Halloween.

Last year, I made a video of me applying zombie-style wounds. I also gathered and posted some great professional video tutorials. All links have been checked and content has been updated as needed for that post:

Halloween Makeup Tutorial Videos:

my own attempt and a selection of GOOD ones.


PS: We’re getting close folks. If you’ve been slow to dive into Halloween mania, now’s the time. Before you know it, we’ll be scraping smashed pumpkins of the street and packing away all of our cool Halloween decoration. In the stores, shelves of Halloween merchandise are starting to look a little bare. (Get your shopping done soon.) Right now, though, the spirit is rising. In our neighborhood, several houses have haunted their yards. The haunted houses and pumpkin farms are all open. All over the interwebs, bloggers and YouTubers are posting their creepy and/or cute contributions.

Here at The Paranormalist, the hits are increasing every day, especially on the Halloween Countdown posts. As I mentioned yesterday, the 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt is starting to take off. Just last night I uploaded another new gallery (by Patrick Keller) and added some more shots to my own.


When I walked my dog yesterday evening, I was extremely lucky to come across a great flying saucer shot.

Come play with us at:

2014: The Paranormalist’s 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt

PPS: I ordered my Halloween Hero magnets yesterday. If you plan to celebrate by playing some variation of  Twisted Ding Dong Ditch, you can still get them at Pooka Creations.

Halloween Hero 2014 Finished Collage PNG

halloween countdown main fridays

Have you taken any pics for the Halloween Scavenger Hunt yet?

There’s a new gallery up at the 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt as of today.


What do you think this is?


Author Jennifer Brinkmeyer got together with some friends a couple of weeks ago and got creative. Her post about it is over at her blog, in Halloween Scavenger Hunt.  She used the basic (original) hunt list, rather than the more complicated pocket-mod-style list … which worked out just fine. I loved her work, especially her flying saucer and her cryptic message. She gave me permission to grab the shots and create a gallery for her. I’d be happy to do the same for any of you. (You are also welcome to submit pics to halloweenphotoinbox@gmail.com)

Posting the pics reminded me how fun this activity is, and I’m inspired to go out and take some more shots this afternoon. (According to our weather predictor, today is a “Minnesota Top 10 Weather Day,” so I shouldn’t waste the opportunity.)

In my gallery, I just added my own attempt at the challenge concept word “black.” (I took it with my cell phone while I was on break at work earlier this week.) Another gallery owner (Laurie) did a great job with “purple.” I think I might concentrate on getting some more color words today … the leaves, after all, all peaking.

Go have a look at galleries … maybe you, too, will be inspired to immerse in the season for an hour or two and come out with some great photographs.

2014 halloween photo scavenger hunt promo

Only 3 weeks to go – time to obsess about candy. (Right?)

So I have been deeply, wretchedly sick for the past 10 days or so. It started out not-so-bad but – boy! – it worked itself into a fine misery-inflict-er by the time it ran its course. Just yesterday, I started to be able to be useful again and I have A LOT to do. Today I plan to run some errands with Ogre and bring Halloween into my home and life. (Time to get out the decorations, buy a pumpkin for immediate carving, and stock the house with too much sugar.)

I’ve gotten a good start this morning by preparing the countdown post for this week:

halloween countdown 3 final filtered

Only THREE weeks until Halloween!

Show your love of Halloween and drive your friends crazy by sharing the above image on your social media sites this week.


All links have been checked and content has been updated as needed for the post:

Classic trick or treat loot ~ nostalgic candy & prizes from Halloweens past.

PS: Come play with us at:

2014: The Paranormalist’s 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt

PPS: I ordered my Halloween Hero magnets yesterday. If you plan to celebrate by playing some variation of  Twisted Ding Dong Ditch, you can still get them at Pooka Creations.

Halloween Hero 2014 Finished Collage PNG

To access the Halloween Countdown homepage / index of articles, click this image wherever you see it in the blog, or find the link in the header.

Twisted Ding Dong Ditch (Reverse trick-or-treating the Halloween Heroes)


You know who they are.

In a time when Halloween as a neighborhood event seems to be slipping in popularity, these are the folks who are keeping the tradition alive. Some of them create a whole haunted experience in their yards and sheds. Some carve and display multiple or elaborate Jack-O-Lanterns. Others are less flashy but equally enthusiastic. Maybe they have an elegant little display and give out the very best treats. Maybe — because trick-or-treaters don’t visit the area where they live — they do other things to celebrate the holiday. They throw a party. Or volunteer at a church or school or retirement home.

Don’t you think it’s time that we — the true Halloween lovers of the world — start showing our gratitude? Here’s one (kind of elaborate) way to do it, but feel free to pick and choose from these elements to enhance your Halloween celebrations.


twisted ding dong sitch halloween heroesLast year, my daughter, Pooka, came from North Carolina to Minnesota for much of the Halloween season. While talking before her arrival, she and I were mourning the fact that The Boy is no longer young enough for us to take him trick or treating. (Pooka’s trick or treating years were extended by the 10 year age difference between her and her brother.) Over the course of several late-night instant messaging sessions, we came up with a substitute. We decided to reward households that did a nice job with their outdoor decorations. She designed a limited edition button. I decided we needed a poem. (But she mostly wrote it, because I suck at poetry.)

We’re past the age for treats and tricks.

No TP rolls, nor eggs to pitch.

The giving urge trumps prankster itch.

And so our twisted ding dong ditch!


After she arrived in Minnesota, between other events, we crafted several of these:


When I was thinking about the game ding-dong-ditch (which I never played as a child, btw) I kept envisioning a flaming paper bag full of, well, you know. I was determined to find a prize format that would be a little reminiscent of that, and this paper bag tree fit the bill nicely.

  • 1) weight the bottom of the lunch-size, brown paper bag with a variety of fun-sized treats
  • 2) flatten the bag again and cut strips from the bag opening to the base, as shown above
  • 3) open the bag carefully, gather all the strips at the very bottom, and start twisting them together tightly to create the trunk
  • 4) after the trunk is formed, separate the strips into 3-5 sets which will become the main branches
  • 5) twist one set of strips at a time to form branches
  • 6) a main branch can be further divided to end in 2-3 smaller branches if desired
  • 7) add stickers (found at a craft or dollar store) to emphasize the “treeness” of your creation
  • 8) (optional) hang or pin a Halloween Hero button to a branch (see below)
  • 9) DO NOT set fire to it, no matter how tempting it is

The key to making this project work is to twist the trunk and branches tightly. It can be a little tiring for the hands, but it’s mindless enough that you can do it while watching a Halloween movie or a great old horror classic.


To deliver our goodies, we wanted to wear costumes that were nostalgic and harmless. When we found a GIANT plastic trick-or-treat bucket, in the classic shape of a Jack-O-Lantern, we were reminded of the old-fashioned ghost costume.


The night before our adventure, we found some old sheets. We cut large holes out for the eyes and lined the holes with some sheer black fabric I had around the house. Somewhere, I have pics of me hand-basting that in, and other shots of the ghosts when they were done, but tonight I can’t find them.  (I’ll add them if I do.)

The “kids” (18 & 27) put on the darkest pants they had, and draped themselves in ghost-sheets. We pinned a big bow to the head of Pooka’s ghost.  Then we went out into the night armed with a pumpkin bucket filled with 13 little trees.

I drove around the neighborhood and we pulled over whenever we saw Halloween decorations we appreciated. Some of the displays were elaborate; some were simply charming and elegant. Here’s a shot of the kids running up to a door.



  • 1) we found that many houses we wanted to hit were actually unoccupied — this year we will probably do it on Halloween night itself
  • 2) the tree is small and folks don’t automatically look down when they answer the door — this year we may attach a glow stick or an eye-level floating balloon
  • 3) if you don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of your gifts being found, simply walk up, ring the bell and present the award (we did that too)
  • 4) be prepared to explain what you’re doing — no one we spoke to had ever had anyone GIVE them something for Halloween
  • 5) understand that folks will react to your actions. Some may press some treats into your hand in return for the gift; some will be disconcerted; many will be THRILLED you noticed their hard work. (One group  offered us beers and really tried to get us to stay at their bonfire. At one house, we fear we may have freaked out some kids who were home alone — they were very confused about why grown-ups were out … and on the wrong night to boot.)

We were looking for a way to enjoy a whole evening of being out reverse trick-or-treating, but your situation might be different. Pick and choose whichever elements of our adventure that suit your available time, energy and funds.


If you’re interested, Pooka has just listed this year’s limited edition Halloween Hero button at her Etsy shop, Pooka Creations:

Halloween Hero 2014 Finished Collage PNG

This 1″ button design is available in either pinback ($1.25 + shipping) or magnet ($1.75 + shipping) | Click the pic to go to the listing.

This little button is a great addition to any kind of prize that you decide to bestow on a Halloween Hero you know. There is still plenty of time to order a batch if you live in the continental USA.


If you arrived at this post via Celebrating Halloween for couples, families and / or just a few friends: dates, games and activities, for smaller social groups this is the link that will take you back.



2014’s Countdown-to-Halloween Ideas & Checklist

Join The Paranormalist’s 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt from here

Print your 6-week planning calendar from here


halloween countdown main fridays

We’re working on it …

halloween countdown 4

Only four weeks until Halloween!

Show your love of Halloween and drive your friends crazy by sharing the above image on your social media sites this week.


Pooka and I are collaborating on a little project for this week, but there have been some delays. On Saturday or Sunday, there will be some festive new content for you. In the meantime, feel free to check out the otherwise link-checked and updated countdown post:

Celebrating Halloween for couples, families and / or just a few friends: dates, games and activities, for smaller social groups.

PS: Come play with us at 2014: The Paranormalist’s 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt

To access the Halloween Countdown homepage / index of articles, click this image wherever you see it in the blog, or find the link in the header.


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