What is this all about?
Halloween, children fantasize of creepy creatures and dangerous demons hidden in
every shadow. I remember as a young
boy telling stories to my friends about "dead man's ditch" or
"the old willow witch". By
telling the stories I'd manage to even scare myself enough to want to
dash home as fast as my legs could carry me, fearing that the old witch would
catch me or something in the ditch had the power to draw me into it. I
could imagine a shadow as a cave opening, or a disfigured creature of some kind.
As a child I would avoid the grave yard and dark wooded areas of my
community. I feared what might
happen if I was to stumble across a
monster in the dark.
some point I became an adult. It
happened during that long phase where I didn't really celebrate much of anything.
There were too many things going on in my life to bother with anything
outside my immediate situation. I
was too old to go trick-or-treating and too young to go to Halloween parties.
Eventually I had kids of
my own and Halloween turned into a chore along with all of the other holidays...
Before Halloween the kids would want to get costumes.
They would want to be a princess, or cartoon character, or cute animal. I hated buying the pre-packaged outfits.
Wasn't Halloween supposed to be about scary things and chasing away
demons or something? At Halloween I
would walk from house to house with them. It
always seemed cold. I would get so
bored. I walk with them and talk to
them and go through the routine (knock, knock... "Trick-or-treat..."
"Oh, what adorable/cute/scary <said sarcastically> costumes"...
"Say thank you..." <in
chorus> "Thank you..." ...and
on to the next doorway. So
once in a while the kids would stop dead in their tracks.
They would say
"No, daddy I'm not going down there...".
I'd look ahead and see it. Not
really scary, but strange enough to give you pause.
Someone had gone through the trouble to do it right! Not
the cheesy 6 foot plastic ghost in the lawn or some paper skeleton taped in the
window with orange holiday lights around it.
creepy. Dark and dangerous looking.
You'd hear the sounds coming from near the doorway.
An owl hoot or a wolf howl in the distance.
As an adult I am not scared. I
live in a city of pavement and plaster - no wolves or owls have been seen here
in decades. But the kids
are petrified. Their little
imaginations are going wild - they can hardly move.
I'm not bored now. I want to
see what else this person has done. Are
they dressed up and hiding in the bushes? Do
they have creepy spiders ready to drop from the rooftop? The kids
will not go. I look at my wife and
she gives me an affirming nod... I head down
the path. For the first time in
years I feel that old familiar scare coming on.
Will I still run like mad? I
need to feel scared again, I can't resist...
Now I have the home that no child will go near on Halloween.
They come early every year while I am working on the decorations.
They see the coffins and skeletons and bats and
strange costumes. They ask
questions and point out flaws in the plans that will keep them from being
scared this year. Only it doesn't
really work. On Halloween those
very same kids stand out on the street. They
hold their parent's hands and refuse to go near.
They hear the howls and growls of the mental monsters.
They hear the occasional scream from the groups of older children that
dared to go even part way up the driveway. They hear the
stories from the older kids as they walk by - daring each other to go farther
this time. I see the fathers, asking for permission and slowly, cautiously
walking toward the front door. They
too will go in groups, making their way past the graveyard after jumping
back a bit from something unexpected. They
stop and look at the ghost in the window or the skeleton in the coffin,
sometimes for several minutes, trying to figure out how it works. I
listen to their stories as they explain the magic to each other in such inventive ways. Finally
they knock on the door. They leave their sons & daughters behind and come all the way to the
door to say something to us - the people that scare the children... They all say the
same thing. They all say