Boys and girls of every age, wouldn’t you like to read something strange.
Now that I see it written down, rhyming the word “age” with “strange” is a bit of a stretch that only works within the song. If you’re reading this thinking “what song is he talking about”, no worries, I got you. Check it out here.
Halloween is, and for as far back as I can remember always has been, something that we as a family go all in on.
Many full moons ago, when my sister and I were both no more than knee high to a grasshopper mum would, on the first of November every year, begin to prepare for the following years Halloween party. She would decorate the whole inside of the house (even the room that just contained the dusty packing crates from the move to Loch Ness, along with the mice, ghouls and ghosties that inhabited them).
She would also buy the entire stock of sweets from every shop in a thirty mile radius and set up games for us and all of our friends to play.
By the time the evening of All Hallows Eve came about, walking into our home would be akin to taking a step into a gothic horror story, with the mixture of terror and fun balanced perfectly to keep kids excited but just below traumatised.
All this relied on the said kids actually stepping nervously over our front door threshold in the first place. You see, where my Mum had mastered the art of balance to a degree even Mr Miyagi would envy, my Dad had a much more Cobra Kai approach to Halloween decorations.
This was unfortunate given that he generally took charge of the outdoor decorating. Most crucially, the path up to our front door which is long enough and has just the right number of large(ish) trees to be incredibly foreboding, should the need arise.
So, whereas inside, my mum was putting up fake cobwebs, large banners with cartoony ghouls and ghosts on them, glow in the dark skeletons and a collection of creepy but not totally terrifying pumpkins, outside my dad was filling disposable body suits up with newspaper, putting horrifying masks on them and hanging them from the trees with fake blood running down from their empty eyeholes.
He also used a projector and a set of speakers in the back of the car to plaster creepy images across the front of the house along with, to be fair usually quite upbeat, Halloween music blasting.
The pièce de résistance of his thinly veiled attempts to make sure he got to keep most of the Halloween sweets, was a small but very powerful speaker hidden just inside our front door. As kids were just about to enter, my Dad, with the reverb on the speaker turned up just enough to give that demonic effect, would screech into the microphone, “DARE YOU ENTER THIS CRYPT OF TERROR!”.
Usually the kids had fled from the scene by the time he got to the word “ENTER”.
There was one particular lady whom I shall not name, who was always incredibly keen to bring her little girl to our house every year just to see her reaction.
The poor kid is probably in therapy now.
The Pumpkin Queen
Crippling terror and possibly psychosis inducing shenanigans aside, I must make a point of just how great these Halloween parties were. There is no doubt that for me as a kid it was one of the most anticipated days of the year. Our friends tended to arrive early in the evening, we would play party games and sing, then go out “Trick or Treating” as a group. Safety in numbers just in case someone was trying to pull the same stunt as my dad.
Then, afterwards we’d all come back to “share out the candy” which would inevitably end up in someone sulking in the corner while everyone else started ducking for apples.
As the architect of these incredible evenings my Mum did a lot to make sure my sister and I had a fantastic night with all of our friends, even if she does now have to answer for my willingness to plaster my face in makeup without a second though (if the need arises).
A Mothers Love
I hope that up until this point you have found the backstory for my love of Halloween interesting. It all serves a purpose in building up context for the very specific story I am about to tell you.
This happened five or six years ago so as you can already tell, the spirit of Halloween did not fade from our household despite us all growing older.
This particular fright night everything was going along as usual. We had all been playing our part in setting up the house to receive the victims. By this point, the children`s parties were a bit behind us but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy the evening. My sister was still at school so a lot of her friends liked to head up later in the evening and have a go at some of the games that had been set up for the newer kids on the block.
Outside, my dad was busy setting up the Driveway of Hades and trying to persuade the old projector to work properly, a yearly tradition at this point. As the light of day was beginning to fade we examined our work, making sure it was up to standard for when the guising began.
Then we had an idea.
That night, the kids started appearing at the end of the street, many of them familiar with what they would have to face to earn sweeties at our house. Every year they had made their way up our path, past the creepy noises, dangling ghosts, glowing skeletons and newspaper stuffed body suits. They knew the deal, or so they thought….
Except this year something was different. This year, the “same old” decorations had a surprise in store..
Our plan worked a treat all evening, providing a years worth of nightmare material to children aplenty but the peak came when a small group wandered tentatively along our path. Amongst this group was a woman, who shall also remain nameless, holding the hand of her young, perhaps six or seven year old son.
On the ground just in front of the door was a car roof box kitted out to look like a coffin. Prone within lay a masked body with a lifeless arm flopping to one side. It attracted barely a second glance, which was the point. As the group walked past, not a single one of them realised that it was actually me in the body suit.
So, the flash of horror on the woman’s face when I reached out and grabbed her ankle was topped instantly by the sight of her trying to run towards the house, only to be greeted by my dad, in another body suit, stepping out of the tree he’d been “hanging” in.
In her sheer panic, she turned heel and fled down to the end of the path and almost got halfway down the street before she realised that she had left her small child behind.
Mercifully, he thought the whole thing was hilarious.
The Bells Are Coming
It will be Halloween when this is posted which means that many of us are on the cusp of a winter period unlike any we have ever lived through before. Things are going to be different, possibly in ways that most of us will not be able to anticipate. Things will become more difficult and there will be a lot of people struggling and receiving upsetting news over the next couple of months.
So, I will end this by saying that I hope you all find as much joy as possible through these dark months. October is nearly over, it’s almost time to stick on those Christmas tunes and argue over whether it’s too early to put the tree up.
As always, stay safe and be excellent to each other.
Happy Halloween Everyone.