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Creep Show: Conquering my fear of dolls, bugs, ghosts around Columbus

I was 8 years old. The TV was 14 inches. That day, in my grandmother’s living room with Scream on the screen, was the day I became obsessed with fear. I love the rush of scared but knowing that I’m not in danger of bodily harm….a second-hand fear junky if you will. But in the spirit [...]
Regina Fox

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was 8 years old.

The TV was 14 inches.

That day, in my grandmother’s living room with Scream on the screen, was the day I became obsessed with fear.

I love the rush of scared but knowing that I’m not in danger of bodily harm….a second-hand fear junky if you will.

But in the spirit of Halloween and seeing that I’m now 23, it’s high time that I volunteer my physical safety in order to deal with my consternations.

This month, for (614), I cast myself as the star of my own personal horror movie.

With the help of local professionals and business owners, I was able to come face to face with my fear of dolls, bugs, and ghosts. Here’s what happened…

Dolls

Listen, I know dolls aren’t alive, however…..What about the horribly mangled Barbies in Small Soldier? What was stopping my Barbies from rising from their sardine-like state in the clear tupperware container beneath my bed, prying open the lid, and torturing me—all while “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin plays in the background?

These are the things that kept me up at night as a young girl and admittedly, into my adult life. So you can imagine my terror when I walked through the doors of the Mid-Ohio Historical Museum and was met by thousands of unblinking, glass eyes.

I was also met by Henrietta Pfeifer, director, and her assistant Sharon Marion. They were quick to dismiss my fears of dolls.

“As a matter of fact, it makes me very unhappy when people use dolls and make them into something evil,” said Henrietta. “They’re fabulous; they’re history.”

Photos by Brian Kaiser

Fabulous? Right… I countered.

“What about at night when–”

“They don’t come alive and even if they do, they’ll be my friend,” Sharon said matter of factly.

Each of the women cared deeply for each and every doll in the nine-room museum—many of which they had personally mended back to health.

Which brings us to the doll hospital where Sharon is the resident doctor.

There were boxes labeled “eyeballs,” some labeled “hair.” Surfaces were littered with headless dolls, loose abdomen, sharp tools. They even have an oxygen mask for the dolls needing intensive care. Fabulous …

Where in the hell was I? The women didn’t skip a beat. They giggled, pulling out hideous looking dolls, saying things like, “She’s going to look gorgeous one day.”

As the women told the stories of these dolls—referring to each as “she,” “her,”—my nerves eased a little.

I still kept an eye over my shoulder during the beginning of the tour of the museum, fully expecting to catch a marionette Tiny Tim swiveling it’s head towards me.

But as we continued to walk through the centuries-old toys, my tormented thoughts all but dissipated. Likwwe Henrietta said when we first met, dolls are history and the Mid Ohio Historical Museum was their hall of fame.

With their impressive vaults of knowledge, both Henrietta and Sharon are able to transport guests back to each doll’s origin and guide them through their colorful histories—all the way from the 16th century to Barbie’s spoiled lifestyle.

I’ll admit, there will still be times in my life when I’ll see a doll’s delicately painted features and wait for a lip to twitch, revealing razor sharp canines. But I’m hopeful my experience at the museum helped ease my anxiety of one day meeting my demise at the hands of a porcelain monster.

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Bugs

Bugs don’t even have brains but they still freak me out.

Oddly enough, I had an insect collecting growing up. As I tend to do with things I’m scared of, I kept a safe distance; nets to trap them, gloves to retrieve them, plastic bags to enclose them, glass to display them.

But in the name of journalism and Halloween, I zoomed in.

First up, beetles..shiny, black, medium in size. Struck by initial nerves and the horrible feeling of it’s jagged legs clenching my fingertips, I kinda wigged out.

Photos by Collins Laatsch

On to the 3.5” millipede. I wasn’t about to run out and buy one as a pet—it’s legs felt like creepy velcro against my skin—but it was tolerable.

Then of course, there was the hissing cockroach. Big–almost the size of my palm. It had a black and dark red exterior with an almost industrial undercarriage of barbed legs. As if it were letting off angry steam, it hissed each time someone stroked its back. No thanks.

And finally, the grand mama of all bugs; the tarantula. Her name was Debbie Hairy and she was about two decades old.. To my disbelief, she was entirely docile. As I invitingly laid my hand down, she retracted her legs and shielded her face–a defense mechanism. At this, I “Aww”’ed. Who was I becoming?

Similar to  the dolls, once bugs are given pronouns other than “it,” they become easier to empathize with. Learning about their behavior helps too.

George Keeny, an entomologist at Ohio State University, who so kindly let me borrow his bugs for the day, admits he used to get the “willies.” He has since grown out of that.

“Fear cannot stand against knowledge is my credo now,” he said.

He probably would’ve called me a “drama queen” had he sat in on my play date with the critters but hey, I faced my fear and lived to tell the tale.

Haunted Hotel

The Historic Buxton Inn has been operating since 1812 making it the oldest and longest running business in Granville.

The first time I visited, I had heard two separate paranormal accounts before I had finished even one red velvet martini.

I believe in spirits that linger after death but I’ve never had an experience of my own. The thought both excited and terrified me. That was my cue.

Just like John Cusack in 1408, I wanted to get my ass haunted.

I was staying in Room 7, one of the allegedly haunted units. This room, along with 9 are the centerpieces of many strange stories told by guests. People say the Inn’s first owners, Major Buxton and his Lady in Blue, dedicated their lives to the Inn and it became their final resting place. Many debate their causes of death but few dispute that their spirits remain.

I asked the night attendant if she had ever had an experience of the paranormal kind while working there. She hadn’t but added, “They’re here though.”

She escorted me to my room and closed the door behind her. I walked over and turned the lock, knowing full well that if there was anything to be scared of, it was already inside my room.

I took careful note of how many bulbs were burned out in the bedside lamp; two. I mentally recorded the state in which I left the doors before going to sleep; closet closed, door leading to adjacent room slightly ajar. I let the light from the next room spill into my sleeping chambers. Horror Movie 101: Never subject yourself to total darkness or death will surely ensue.

I also made sure to keep my eyes in the mirror during my nightly hygiene regime. I wasn’t about to get a face full of glass courtesy of a murderous monster who appeared behind me in the split second I redirected my gaze (see any scary movie ever made).

After one last check in the closet and a few pages of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke, everything was just as I had left it. If a ghosts had visited me in the night, they had done so quietly.

Staying in a haunted room all by my lonesome was exhilarating but I’m thankful it didn’t escalate. The Buxton General Manager Jennifer Valenzuela assures that ghosts are nothing to fear but tell that to my pores that burst with perspiration each time the mini fridge kicked on throughout the night.

Was I scared? Yes. Did I levitate to the ceiling? Maybe. Did I make it out alive? Absolutely.

Until next time, Major Buxton.

Conclusion

Many say humans are born with only two innate fears; falling and loud noises. The other things that torment us are learned. Whether your fear is as irrational of an animatronic Chucky doll coming to chop you up (I’m not scared, you’re scared) or as understandable as public speaking, use this Halloween season to face them. You may even conquer a thing or two.

Stay scared, Columbus.

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Champions of US Women’s National Team to grace MAPFRE Stadium this fall

Regina Fox

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The heroines of US women's national sports are coming to Columbus! The United States Women's National Team will take on Sweden on Thursday November 7 at MAPFRE Stadium.

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The match will air on FS1 and TUDN at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets go on sale to the public on Thursday, September 26 at 10am through ussoccer.com and by phone at 1-800-745-3000. Groups of 20 or more can order directly at ussoccer.com starting Friday, Sept. 27, at 10am. Columbus Crew SC Season Ticket Members will receive information via email about a special pre-sale opportunity.

https://twitter.com/MAPFREStadium/status/1174339536144523266

This will be the first friendly match for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup champions this season, who are holding down a 14-game winning streak. Here's to 15!

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Life is but a dream with Greater Columbus Rowing Association

Linda Lee Baird

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Sculling. Coxswain. Regatta. For the uninitiated, the language of rowing can be difficult to parse. But if you’re ready to build your vocabulary, muscles, and circle of friends all at the same time, rowing might be right for you. You don’t even have to be an early riser to join the club.

The Greater Columbus Rowing Association (GCRA) was founded in 1984 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the sport of rowing. The central location on the Scioto’s Griggs Reservoir provides rowers across the city with a place to get on the water, before or after work. Open to all levels and abilities, with new rowers, adaptive rowers, and competitive rowers welcome, the GCRA has provided dynamic opportunities for Columbus- area residents for 35 years.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Rower Jan Rodenfels, whose lightweight quad team took home the cup at this summer’s Midwest Sprints race, started as a runner, and said that rowing requires concentration and coordination that she hadn’t needed before, even when competing in marathons. As a writer and motivational speaker, she had multitasked during her runs, planning and preparing with every mile. “With running, I could work in my head,” she said. But rowing put a stop to that. “You are working in your head on the stroke, as well as all your major muscle groups. It looks easy but it’s challenging, synching up [with other rowers]. Oars have to go in and come out together.”

Learning to row was more difficult than Rodenfels had anticipated. One of her early coaches cautioned the team that as they learned new skills, “Our problems will multiply like rabbits.” Rodenfels focused on learning one or two things at a time, as trying to put everything together immediately was simply too much. “I had to think Swan Lake at the beginning instead of rock and roll,” she explained. In other words, her primary focus was on getting smooth and perfecting her form before worrying about speed. “I could add the rock and roll when we could start moving fast.”

She extolled the benefits of rowing for beginners. “You use legs, arms, [and] back... You really develop your muscles and cardio system.” She cautioned that because the sport is so demanding on your body, having a good coach from the beginning is key. That way, you’re taught the correct way to do things from the onset. “You don’t want to have to undo all the bad moves you’re making.”

The schedule, too, can be a challenge, particularly when trying to coordinate with other busy members of a team. “We’re supposed to be out at 5:30 [a.m.],” Rodenfels said. “We’re out at 7:00 [a.m.], 8:00 [a.m.], whenever we can get all of our different boats in and coordinated.” And while the early mornings can be difficult, there’s something to be said for getting exercise while watching the sunrise on a boat with your friends. “It’s a beautiful sport.”

It’s also open to everyone who’s past their years of college eligibility. “Master’s rowing starts at age 21... all the way up to people in their 90s.” Even if you’re not a morning person, there’s room on the boat for you. Rodenfels said many club members practice in the evenings. Physical limitations can be accommodated as well. “We have a paradaptive program at GCRA that’s all done and supported by volunteers. We encourage anyone who would like to try it to go on our website and sign up.”

Still not sure it’s the sport for you? GCRA offers corporate learn-to-row activities that businesses such as Cardinal Health and even the Columbus Blue Jackets have taken advantage of. It’s a good opportunity to dip your toe in the water—whether you choose to take that advice literally or not.

New members might take up rowing for teamwork, exercise, fresh air, opportunities to travel and win awards, or all of the above. Whatever your motivation, Rodenfels recommends starting with a learn-to-row class, and getting ready to enjoy the ride. “When you do it, it’s so beautiful,” she said.

In mid-August, GCRA members headed to The 2019 USRowing Masters National Championships in Grand Rapids, MI and took the gold. Follow their journey and find out how to get your crew on at columbusrowing.org.

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Obscure Columbus: Brown Pet Cemetery

Laura Dachenbach

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I drove past it dozens of times before I realized what it was. 

I could see that it was a cemetery peeking out from under an overhang of trees, with stones spreading across a field. But something was different. One day while driving down Sawyer Road, I slowed down until I could make out a name on what seemed to be a very small marker: Pug. 

I had found the Brown Pet Cemetery. 

Surrounded by the grounds of the John Glenn Airport, the Brown Pet Cemetery remains mostly hidden. The cemetery was started in the 1920s by Walter A. Brown, a local veterinarian, and a cemetery association was founded in 1934. Over 450 burials cover the site, all a visual testament to the purity of the human-animal bond. Most markers bear the names not only of the pets themselves, but also of their human “parents.” Folk art decorates many stones, as well as oval ceramic plaques with black-and-white pet portraits. DIYers of decades ago have used marbles and shells to adorn handmade markers.

Pet names over the decades show their cultural and historical influences. Dimples and Trixie and Buster in the 20s and 30s give way to Lassie and Gidget in the 50s and eventually become Coco and Misty in the 70s and 80s. But pet owners have clearly always been common or creative in naming their animal companions. For every Blackie or Fluffy that rests here, there’s a Boob and a Stinky Bill and a Dammit, each of them memorialized and apparently cherished. 

It’s hard to tell how active the cemetery is. The articles of incorporation for the cemetery association expired in 1997, when most burials seemed to have stopped. However, during my most recent excursion through the grounds, I saw several graves marked with artificial flowers, as well as a memorial for Mr. King, a ten-year-old cat with a love of shoes, who was interred this past June. 

Regardless of activity, the sentimentality of this space is palpable. (A visit will likely require a package of Kleenex.) Be ready to be touched by the still-visible memories of the pets who have found peace here.

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