Mirror, mirror, on the wall
By Dom Cioffi
My grandmother lived to be 103 years old.
When you live that long you tend to acquire a lot of things, and
she was no exception.
She lived in a large farmhouse that was passed through generations
so by default it contained copious amounts of "stuff." And like any
collection of stuff, some of it was valuable and some of it was
But on the whole, my grandmother's home was filled with a generous
number of items that any antique dealer would have coveted (my
grandfather, not surprisingly, was responsible for the lesser
quality items like the endless supply of coffee cans filled with
nuts and bolts and the small cache of lawn mowers that lined a back
wall in the barn).
I remember being told that a candlestick holder that stood in the
upstairs hallway was particularly valuable since it predated
electricity. You wouldn't have looked twice if you walked by, but
apparently selling it would have funded a year-long vacation.
There was also a highly-prized family bible that adorned a table in
the front foyer. This was a beautiful manuscript that, even as a
young child, I handled with the utmost care, sensing its unique
stature in the house.
My grandmother loved carnival glass (mold-pressed glass that has an
iridescent coating) and had a number of pieces that other
collectors had made generous offers on. She told me once that if
the house ever caught fire she'd grab the carnival glass collection
Several of the furniture pieces were also of great value, including
an extremely old hutch, a finely-crafted desk with numerous secret
compartments, an antique sleigh bed, and several period
I remember finding out that a painting of a bowl of fruit that hung
in the dining room turned out to be from a very famous New England
artist. Its appraised value startled me not only due to the high
number, but also because I had often remarked how dull an
uninteresting it was.
Out of everything in the house, however, the one item that provided
the most allure to me was a small cannonball that propped open the
door to the living room.
It was a nondescript ball of lead, no bigger than a softball, that
had turned dark brown in color. Picking it up always confused your
brain because it was much heavier than its size suggested.
The ancient piece of artillery was dated to the Revolutionary War
and had come to find a place in my grandmother's home after my
grandfather tripped over it in a nearby field one spring.
Apparently the frost heaves had allowed it to surface after being
buried for nearly two hundred years.
My grandparent's did some research and discovered that an old
thruway called the Crown Point Road had once run through their now
fertile farmland. My grandfather surmised that the cannonball
probably fell off the back of a horse-drawn cart as it traveled
over the bumpy road en route to battle.
After my grandmother passed away, her belongings were scattered
amongst the family. I know where a few things landed, but have lost
track of most.
Thankfully, just before she moved out and relocated to a retirement
home, I walked through the house with a video camera, taking note
of her beloved home and the unique items that adorned it (now if I
could just located that videotape).
In this week's feature, "Oculus," we follow the strange path of an
antique mirror (one that would have looked quite at home in my
grandmother's house) that has wreaked havoc on anyone who has ever
made the mistake of hanging it in their home.
I've seen a lot of horror films over the years, but this is the
first one that has revolved around a piece of furniture. And while
it was a unique angle for a storyline, the mirror ultimately never
did anything except cause nearby victims to hallucinate.
This film wanted to be an intense psychological thriller, but
failed in that it took too many liberties (i.e. you never knew when
someone was hallucinating during a scene or actually living it).
That schtick got old after a while because it allowed for way too
much theatrical mind-twisting instead of genuine
There's a lot of insanity floating around this picture, making it
really hard to tell who's running the show. Despite the best
efforts of a young cast, "Oculus" simply became too convoluted to
ever get me on board.
Check this one out if you enjoy stories with a schizophrenic edge.
Otherwise save your theater dollars for more substantial
A reflective "C+" for "Oculus."
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him