The bewitching hour is fast approaching when vampires will arise, walking among us, like leaches hungry for blood; when ghouls will leave off robbing graves, to scare live victims to death; and hobgoblins will run amuck, causing their usual evil mischief. Old black and white horror movies like “Frankenstein,” and “The Mummy,” both with Boris Karloff, and “The Werewolf” with Lon Chaney, and “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi, convinced me that Halloween was NOT child’s play, or just an occasion to ask for treats to fill my tummy.
It took me a long time to realize that evil creatures weren’t lurking around every bend, as I played “hide-n-seek,” “chase master,” or “blind man’s bluff,” with my best friend and her male cousins in the neighborhood around the Chinese restaurant owned by their family. Playing under pitch-black skies, intermittently glimpsing the white sheets we all wore, as we ran between parked cars and around corners of buildings, gave me the “creeps,” or as we kids use to say, “the heejeebeejees.”
When my daughter was very young, 5 or 6 years old, several of us moms, tots in tow, would drive to neighborhoods, park, and wander from house to house. My daughter reminded me that the tradition always seemed to include rain. One year, the medieval princess dress she wore, dripped little, water puddles. Another year her wet, cellophane, hula skirt clung to her tights. Of course I feared she might catch cold, but she was oblivious, only concerned that she kept up with her friends, getting her share of candy.
During her elementary school years, the costumed student body paraded around the circular driveway in front of the school building. One Halloween my daughter was Jasmine, another year she was Belle, and yet another she was Morticia. I sewed all 3 costumes. I must admit, she was always one of the best costumed. Remember, I’m obsessed with an ATTENTION TO DETAIL!
Later in the evening, we would join several other families, including one whose parents were vets who would bring their horse along to lead our troupe of trick-or-treaters. We would always return to a particularly large cul- de-sac of homes, where one homeowner welcomed us inside for cider and cookies. Another homeowner even treated the horse to a carrot, which he polished off in minutes. I’m not sure the children were as grateful to receive the toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, given them by the father, a dentist.
During the same time frame, I can remember that the school ran a haunted house, where different families created vignettes in each classroom. It was awesome to see what their imaginations and resourcefulness could concoct. The event was always fabulous! The Girl Scout Troop in which my daughter was a member, took the girls on haunted hay rides through pumpkin patches. One in particular scared the “bejesus” out of us, children and grownups alike. Run by a family, the ride was complete with farm hands bearing scythes and pitchforks, who tried to stop our wagon as it passed them by, or a witch in an outhouse who would scare us as we passed. I don’t think I was as keen as others about that hayride, so we only went the one time.
When I was at the University of Hawaii in the late ’60s, I lived in the dormitory. In my freshman year, the men’s dorm created a frightfully, amazing haunted maze in their basement. It was amateurish compared to others I’ve been through in later years, on the mainland. Constructed entirely of cardboard, the maze still managed to scare us girls out of our wits.
The first thing we had to pass as we made our way through the narrow passages, was a huge, butchered pig’s head. Of course we tried to time it so that we wouldn’t get hit by the head as it swung side to side. I think I crawled past it on my hands and knees. Unfortunately, hands would grab at us through holes cut in the cardboard walls. There was a lot of screaming, some of it coming from me. One girl was so petrified, she ran as though her life depended upon it, wreaking havoc with the maze, knocking it down completely. It had to be closed down, so that the cardboard walls could be reconstructed. For me, once was enough. Talk about an adrenalin rush!
Since living on the mainland, I’ve been through 2 other “professionally” staged haunted mazes. One in California was set up in a vacated supermarket. I was in my late 20’s when I went with my sister-in-law Pat, and her daughter, Selina. Unfortunately for Pat, I used her as a battering ram to forge my way through what would otherwise have been the death of me. Constantly screaming, sometimes giggling nervously, and always on the verge of crying, I wasn’t sure what my feelings were as I braced myself against the unexpected. I only knew I couldn’t get out fast enough. Poor Pat, I’m sure I was a literal pain in her backside.
Years later, I did the same thing to my husband when a couple of his sisters and a nephew were visiting from Hawaii. We all went through a haunted house at Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. I followed my husband, the first to enter, and hid my face in his back as I shoved him forward. Our relatives followed close on our heels. Since we were finding our way in the dark, we weren’t prepared for the wall that loomed directly in front of us. Of course my husband ran smack into it, as we all ran into him. Somehow we managed to get out without any further mishaps. Since then my husband has sworn off going through haunted houses. That was probably 20 years or so ago. I’m certain he’s not changed his mind.
These days, we enjoy driving through neighborhoods where houses are decorated in full Halloween regalia. We get into the spirit ourselves, some years more than others. Last year Frankenstein’s head rested atop his grave, his huge green hands nestled on either side, a huge toothless grin on his purplish, green face. Nearby skeletons dangled from an overturned, rusted, blue wagon.
Tonight my husband and daughter resurrected a tradition from her childhood. They carved pumpkins to look like scary jack-o-lanterns, my daughter’s sporting the most intricate set of jagged teeth imaginable. Setting them out on the back deck, the pumpkins will illuminate the path as trick-or-treaters come knocking on the door. We’ll be ready… unless we eat all the candy before then.
bygone days…great memories, hugs for…hugmamma.