The price of lunacy

It started innocently enough: Ric Griffith carved a few pumpkins to fill his porch and teach his daughters about Halloween.

As his children grew, so did the project.

Twenty-four years and 14,226 pumpkins later, Griffith's annual Halloween display in Kenova, W.Va., has reached a new plateau. This year, 2,624 pumpkins will create a lighting display that can be seen across the Ohio River.

"It has a magical effect on people," says Griffith, a pharmacist and president of Kenova's City Council. "The response both amazes and amuses me."

He expects more than 10,000 visitors to flock to Kenova, a town of 3,485 on the Ohio River, to visit the house. On Halloween, a police officer directs traffic along his street.

What began with four pumpkins was up to 12 in 1979 and swelled to 800 by 1997 during what Griffith calls his "days of minimal insanity."

"Because of people's reaction, it jumped into an obsessive-compulsive disorder."

Griffith has spent $1,000 to wire his front lawn with electrical outlets; only about 20 pumpkins are lit with candles. Eventually, he would like to move the display to the former Ceredo-Kenova High School and get the whole town involved.

"This is crazy," Griffith said. "But it's one of the prices of my lunacy."

President Fido?

Wisconsin's children have spoken, and their choice for governor is Democrat Jim Doyle.

Republican Gov. Scott McCallum was a close runner-up among the 37,000 children and teenagers, but unorthodox candidates were popular among younger students.

Some first- and second-graders had a lesson in write-in candidates when some children realized their favorite wild animal, dog, or bird wasn't on the ballot.

Teacher Helena Petzold said she used the mock election to teach her the students why they had to choose just one animal and what majority means. The children voted for cats, bunnies, and a whale.

Beverly Speer, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, which sponsored the mock election, said the exercise teaches children how to become informed voters.

"It's a way to get school-age children informed on not only the election process in Wisconsin, but the importance of the process and making their vote count," she said.

Grownups go to the polls for real Tuesday.

A ghost in the machine?

They haven't quite called in the ghost-busters, but the state has given the OK for a paranormal screening of the old state Capitol.

Staffers at the Raleigh, N.C. Capitol say they have heard floorboards creak with invisible footsteps, keys jangle and doors squeak open and shut.

"To be honest with you, I've always made it a rule to be out of the building at quitting time," said Raymond Beck, the Capitol historian. "I've had enough of those strange vibes here that I don't like sticking around after it gets dark."

Researchers from the Ghost Research Foundation will give the 162-year-old landmark where the governor has his offices a "spectral inspection," using infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and audio recorders.

The Capitol has gone through a number of night watchmen who begged off the duty after one night of creepy noises, Beck said. But Owen J. Jackson, 84, managed the job for 12 years before retiring in 1990.

Strains of gospel hymns, the thump-thump-thumps that followed him down stairs and the angry slams of doors never bothered him, Jackson said.

"You get used to something like that," Jackson said. "I think there's a couple million dollars buried somewhere there, and they're just trying to tell us where it was."

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