The Witching Hour

Witching 1 - OpheliaThe ghoulish visions of Nancy Miller Heard.

Written by Lindsey Osborne   

Photography by Elizabeth DeRamus

Like many good ideas do, this one came to Nancy Miller Heard in the shower a few years ago. “It suddenly occurred to me: all the projects I wanted to work on, all the things I’ve collected over the years, all the stories that I love to read, all the photographs that Elizabeth and I love to do…it hit me all at once. In other words, all of the things that I’ve loved all my life could work together and be used in this project,” she says.

For her whole life, Heard has loved all things Halloween, each year eagerly anticipating Martha Stewart’s Halloween tutorials on décor and costumes and the like. And her interest extended beyond the holiday to the “creepy” vibe that surrounds it. “I’ve always loved Halloween because of how fun it is,” Heard explains. “I’ve always loved ghost stories and creepy things. I like eerie—the unexplainable and odd. I love all things imaginative and other worldly.” When, as a graphic designer, she was suddenly met with a wall of artistic stagnation, as she calls it, she realized—in the shower—that she could revive the artist in her by simply letting her imagination lead the way. The subject, of course, would be Halloween.

Since then, Heard has teamed up with photographer Elizabeth DeRamus, who captures the characters Heard imagines and their various scenes, which she constructs. “This started with a friendship of creative minds needing fun outlets for creativity,” DeRamus explains. “I have always been fascinated with Nancy’s mind, vision, and approach to the world, especially with the art. I’ve often asked Nancy if I could get in her brain for a day…she replies that I wouldn’t last for an hour. Watching her excitement with Halloween and the thought going into the costumes, photographing it seemed logical and fun.”  The pair is working to bring Heard’s dreamed-up creepy characters to life, many of which you’ll find in the following pages. Heard scouts out eerie locations, pieces together fantastical costumes, and erects magnificent tablescapes, and DeRamus photographs it all. Additionally, Maureen Holt (of Little Savannah) creates a cocktail for each character. Eventually, they hope to compile the photos and stories of Heard’s 13 characters into a book.

Witching 5Heard and DeRamus share that bringing each character to life is a process with a lot of dreaming, a lot of patience, and a lot of luck. “I have been surprised at how things have turned up—in an estate sale, a find from underneath a friend’s house, something a friend finds in the woods, a table that a neighbor is throwing away—exactly when I needed them,” Heard says. “It may surprise others how long a costume can take to create when it’s just being done in your spare time—months! Nothing in the book is a ‘bought’ Halloween item, unless it is vintage. Most everything is an everyday item that just looks really creepy when given the proper setting. I’ve made every costume, drawn and created the tiny tombstones and archway in the graveyard, done my own make-up (usually in the backseat of Elizabeth’s car) and will have written all the stories when the book is finished.

“The thing I love most about this project is having the excuse to spend all this time in my imagination,” she continues. “The ‘dreaming it up’ part is my favorite.”

Witching 3 - The CreatureThe Creature

Coupe Glass

Vieux Carre absinthe

1.5 oz. Death’s Door gin

1 oz. lime juice

1.5 oz.  simple syrup

garnish with sage leaf or pine needle

Simple Syrup Recipe

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

In a medium pot, bring to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain. Let cool to room temperature. “Rinse” the coupe glass with absinthe.

Cocktail directions: In a stainless steel tumbler, add ice, gin, lime juice, and simple syup and shake rigorously. Strain into rinsed coupe and garnish with sage leaf or pine needle.

Cocktail created by Maureen Holt of Little Savannah


Witching 4 - Ghost BrideGhost Bride

8 oz. Flute

1 white sugar cube

.25 oz. lavender syrup 

.25 oz. Monin violet syrup

6 oz. Conde de Subirats Cava

full lime twist

Lavender Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lavender

In a medium pot, bring all ingredients to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain. Let cool to room temperature.

Cocktail directions: Place sugar cube in bottom of a champagne flute; add both lavender and violet syrups. Add Cava and lime twist.

Cocktail created by Maureen Holt of Little Savannah


Witching 6Ghostly Garden

“When I first came up with the idea for this a few years ago, it was my response to the huge popularity of the fairy gardens popping up everywhere. You can see my homage to Kathryn Tucker Windham in one of the settings (the tiny book of 13 Alabama Ghosts next to one of the graves.) I drew all of the tombstones from visual references online or in books.”

—Nancy M. Heard

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