There are lots of fun links on
the web for this great holiday, but here are a few of special interest to scientists and budding
- Everyone’s favorite Halloween flying mammal — the
bat! (Well, all right, the only
flying mammal.) There are some terrific bat sites on the web. You
can start out with the
Masters of the Night Bat Quiz (http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/batquiz/)
to see how much you already know. To find out more, check out the sites listed in the
Yahoo! Directory (http://dir.yahoo.com/Science/Biology/Zoology/Animals__Insects__and_Pets/Mammals/Bats/).
Not only will you find great images of vampire bats, but who could
resist Peter’s ghost-faced Bat? Or
build a bat house (http://www.batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/install-a-bat-house.html)
(I have a bat house in my back yard. If you have resident bats, they
eat all the mosquitoes in your yard first!). What sounds do bats make? Hear some
bat sounds (http://www.naturesongs.com/otheranimals.html#mftb)
(as well as other animals). You will need an MP3 player.
- Your Halloween bats may be accompanied by other creatures of the
night, such as owls. You can visit a
webcam site (http://www.owlcam.com/)
and share in the adventures of a pair of Northern Barred Owls
(Strix varia varia) as they raise their family in a nest box in
Eastern Massachusetts. Rest assured that all of the pictures and
sounds that you will experience are being obtained through “owl
friendly” methods. The site also has links to information on
rescuing injured owls.
- I always thought Stonehenge deserved a place
in Halloween — even though it may have nothing to do with the
holiday, since Stonehenge most certainly predates the Celts and
Druids. It’s just the sort of thing that should be true.
There are a wealth of sites of interest on henges.
Get a brief overview and some spectacular images,
visitor information (http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/salisbury/home),
or visit some of the other stone circles of Europe at Earth Mysteries.
- Before they had pumpkins in Europe they had to
make Jack-O’-Lanterns out of turnips — hard work. But you can grow an
Atlantic giant pumpkin (http://www.backyardgardener.com/secert.html)
following these detailed instructions. The world record pumkin weighed
1,092 lbs. — hope you have a BIG yard. Be ready for next Halloween!
- You might want to stock up on wolf’s bane and
garlic for the holiday. Can’t find any wolf’s
bane around the house? Don’t know what it looks like? Get a
detailed description (http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/aconi007.html),
or a line drawing.
It’s good to recognize this plant. Not only does it ward off werewolves
(so they say) but it is very poisonous. And don’t forget the
Actually, there are a lot of herbs connected with Halloween. Some say the
famous witches’ brew from Macbeth (http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_4_1.html)
is more likely made of various herbs than of animal parts.
Visit this site for a list of herbs and their spell names
[NOTE to parents: some of these names are a bit off-color] or
for a list of herbs, go to the
Witch’s Garden (http://www.shanmonster.com/witch/plants/).
You can find additional information on these plants using botany sites
on the web, like the ones used for the wolf’s bane information above.
Many of these sites may require the Latin name of the plants; use a
dictionary site (http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict.htm)
to find the Latin names.
- Another great Halloween plant species is the contorted filbert
tree, also known as
Harry Lauder’s walking stick (http://www.ars-grin.gov/ars/PacWest/Corvallis/ncgr/cool/contorta.html).
Another candidate is the ancient
bristlecone pine (http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/Images.html).
See if you don’t agree these belong in every Halloween forest. Are there
other trees that fit into a Halloween forest? How about oaks?
- How can you celebrate Halloween without the eerie sound of a
wolf’s howl (or possibly, a werewolf’s
howl)? And what do different howls mean? Visit the
NOVA Wild Wolves (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/wolves/)
site to hear (and see sonographs of) a lonesome howl, a confrontational howl,
a pup howl, and a chorus howl. More wolf howls
are available. You can
track individual wild wolves or packs (http://www.wolf.org/wolves/experience/telemsearch/vtelem/telem_intro.asp)
through the telemetry data provided by the International Wolf Center.
- Halloween pictures seem to always have a full moon,
but how often does this really happen? Will there be a full moon this
year? Next year? How about a blue moon? You can find the answers to some
of these questions at the US Naval Observatory
Moon Phase (http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services/phases-moon)
site (which lists all the phases for 1990 to 2005) or this list of
full moons (http://fermi.jhuapl.edu/s1r/amastro/tools/fullmoons.txt)
from 1900 to 2100). Check the
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Moon (http://www.shallowsky.com/moon/hitchhiker.html)
for other great moon link pages.
- Actually, I’m not sure I have ever seen anyone in a
mummy costume at Halloween, but I can’t
imagine a Halloween without one. Medical artists are using new techniques to
discover what these people looked like (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20050425/mummy.html)
when they were alive. The
Manchester Museum (http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/collection/ancientegypt/)
has established a mummy tissue bank,
and is engaged in endeavors such as the worldwide Schistosomiasis
Research Project and researching other information on the biology and
medical conditions of these ancient peoples. And, of course, Egypt isn’t
the only place with mummies. For instance, visit the
Ice Mummies of the Inca (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/peru/)
Mysterious Mummies of China (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/chinamum/).
And don’t miss
— in 1989, the World Heritage Museum in Illinois acquired a mummy from an
antiquities dealer. Without any background information to draw on,
scientists at the museum painstakingly uncovered the mummy’s history.
This site explains the non-destructive methods they used (including
x-rays, CAT scans, and isotope and DNA analysis) to gather information
without damaging the fragile mummy. These pages also contain a
description of the mummy’s origin, ancient Egyptian architecture, and
hieroglyphics. Special features here include several QuickTime Videos
and a program that translates your name into hieroglyphics. For more
mummy links, check out
Mummies on the Web (http://www.guardians.net/egypt/mummies.htm).
- Of course masks and costumes are celebrated
at many occasions, in many cultures, as well as at Halloween. You can
get a beautiful
Yupik Mask screensaver (http://www.greenland-guide.gl/masks/default.htm)
as freeware. See other stunning
Yupik masks (http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/yupik/index.html),
African masks (http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~bcr/African_Mask.html),
and Borucan masks
from Costa Rica.
- Do black cats cause bad luck? The eternal
question, and one that has rarely been subjected to rigorous
scientific testing. However, Mark Levin has taken it upon himself to
examine this issue. Read
his results (http://petcaretips.net/black_cat_luck.html).
An informative source of cat anatomy can be found at
Cats: Plans for Perfection (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/cats/).
Or you may be interested in why you see those glowing, scary eyes in
the dark. Check out the FAQ
Why cats’ eyes glow in the dark (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/bco/fact4.htm).
- The history of the era of witch hunts in
Europe and America is a study in the sociology and folklore of that
time and place. You can find many links to research this phenomenon through the
women’s history: witches and witchcraft page (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/witches/Witches_and_Witchcraft.htm)
associated with this dark period can be found full text. Other eerie
folk tales can be found at
werewolf legends (http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/werewolf.html),
vampire and ghost stories from Russia (http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/vampire.html),
Faust legends (http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/faust.html).
- Since many of our Halloween customs trace back to
Celtic beliefs, you may want to check out the
mythology and mysticism of that ancient people. You can find information
on their religion, or general information
and pictures, including information about burial mounds.
- Have a green Halloween! The Environmental
Defense Fund provides us with tips to have an
environmentally friendly Halloween (http://www.edf.org/pressrelease.cfm?contentID=2364).
For “recycled” costume ideas, check the
Goodwill Halloween costume page (http://www.goodwillnj.org/halloween/).
- Besides green, Halloween is red, orange and yellow — the time for
flaming foliage. Where is the best display of
vibrant colors this weekend? This question and more can be answered by the
Fall Color Hotline (http://www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors/)
operated by the USDA Forest Service. Also includes “Why Leaves
Change Color” and “The Chemistry of Fall Colors”. Or
check out this explanation of
Why Leaves Change Color (http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/leaves/leaves.htm).
You can preserve the beauty of these leaves by following these instructions.
Or find out what the trees are missing by dropping their leaves by using the links at
Learning About Photosynthesis (http://photoscience.la.asu.edu/photosyn/education/learn.html).
There’s something here for everyone, from kids through PhD’s.
- Keep your child safe! Consult these special sites on
Halloween safety (http://dir.yahoo.com/society_and_culture/holidays_and_observances/halloween/safety/).
- For more traditional Halloween websites, visit
or check out a “Children’s Halloween Link Recommended by Blue Web’n”:
extensive list of Halloween sites (http://familyinternet.about.com/od/halloween/Halloween.htm)
Stephanie Bianchi, National Science Foundation Library.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed
in this newsletter are those of the participants (authors), and do not
necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the
National Science Foundation.