Happy Halloween everybloody! Today's blog post is a grab bag of king-sized stories all about Halloweens of the past, back when neighbors handed out entire slabs of cake to trick-or-treaters:
Childhood Days I Remember
I could never fool anybody at Halloween. It never mattered what I put on. Everybody always said, "Come on, Elliot. We know its you." I guess I had a distinctive walk or something. One time, I dressed up as a cowboy with a mask, but I didn't fool anybody. I had a devil costume with a hood to it, and I still didn't fool nobody. Sometimes, I would just put on some old clothes I had out grown and cut some holes in them, put on a floppy hat and old shoes with iron on the heels and tips and put soot on my face and dress up as a hobo. And, I'd have an empty wine bottle with tea in it and stable and stagger down the street like I was a drunken bomb. That's what people called you back in the day when you were a consistent drinking. It didn't matter if you were a working many with a steady job. If you got drunk on the weekends, they'd say, "There he goes again, that drunken bum." People didn't use as much profanity back in the day as they do now. Nowadays, they'd call you much worse. The biggest par about Halloween was pretending to be someone else. That was a big kick for me. Did we get a lot of candy on Halloween? Yes, we did! We got everything. We got packets of candy corn. We got miniature Hershey's; we got potato chips, we got those sour jawbreakers. Sometimes, we even got apples. I never liked the jawbreakers because they were hard. I used to trade them off for chocolate kisses. Once in a while, one of my friends mom would have a little party where they'd put apples in a tub and we'd try to bite them. We had pretty safe holidays back then. We never had candy with razor blades in them or pills that looked like candy. And we had an area we went to and we never went past there. And by 8-8:30, we were exhausted and ready to go home and go to ed. It was easy back then. We didn't need to be chaperoned by an adult to make sure we were safe. And we used to brag about. "Oh we got this," or "I got so many of that" and it was fun. But Halloween is not fun today for most kids in certain sections of the city. It's not safe or fun. I mean you have to tell your kids to inspect the candies they receive and make sure they're in a sealed package, and make sure they never go alone and only in large groups. Children today don't remain children for very long. Childhood ends before their time and I think children have to grow up real fast in this society in which we live today. They grow up real fast. I wonder one day if we'll have no children, if the circumstances and conditions forced upon the at an earlier age now a days. I mean, we expect children today to be little adults. We don't want them playing, we don't want them to get their hands dirty. I mean we played baseball in the dirt, we wrestled each other and played football without helmets and all that stuff. We caught the ball and they would tackle us and our shirts would get torn in the dirt and it would be all in good fun. But kids nowadays are not allowed to remain kids anymore. I'm glad that I had the experiences of being a child to explore my curiosities, to try and attempt to do things that I was told not to. I still agree that we learn through our experiences. I remember reading with a question asked of a man how would you describe the sum total of your life. And he answered, the sum total of my life is my experiences.
Three Generations of Halloween
Growing up in the 50’s in an uptown neighborhood of Toronto, Halloween is something we looked forward to all year long. With the help of our mothers, we fashioned costumes of witches, cowboys, and pirates. One year, my mother dyed a sheep black and sewed a costume that looked like a rendition of a traditional Chinese outfit. In those days, we had never heard of the world “appropriation.” We went out trick-or-treating with our friends starting at age five. Our parents would never have thought of going with us.
As soon as dusk fell, bags and pillow cases in hand, we paced the neighborhood, knocking at the doors, and chanting, “shell out, shell out or I’ll knock your windows inside out.” I think that’s a British expression, you know a thing that they do in England, because I’ve never heard that here. Here, people say, “trick or treat,” right? But anyway, the treats were mostly homemade: candy apples covered in melted caramel kisses, chocolate cookies, slices of cake wrapped in plastic. My mother insisted on giving out raisins in wax paper instead of candy, which was a bit of an embarrassment. Word quickly spread amongst the neighborhood kids about which house had the best treats. Mrs. Murphy across the street from my house was usually at the top of the list. She came to the door, greeting us in her lilting Irish brogue and filled our bags with caramel, chocolate, and candy apples.
When the night was over, I went home, where my mother would immediately throw out all of the caramel kisses, as they were bad for our teeth. Ironically, my teeth were always worse than all of my friends who ate all the candy that my mother wouldn’t allow us.
The Halloween tradition continued for me in the 80’s and 90’s with my own children. Costumes were largely still homemade although there some occasional commercial costumes to be found. We lived in a suburban neighborhood where parents went out with their children. I always got dressed up as well, usually as a witch with a long blonde wig, a black pointy hat, and green makeup. There had been some well-publicized incidents of razor blades being found baked into some homemade treats, so suddenly, we were not supposed to hand out anything but commercial goods. The kids came home loaded with little chocolate bars. My plans for how to manage their eating of so much candy changed from year to year. Some years, they were allowed to eat a few treats every night. Then, hearing the wisdom of other parents who got tired of the whining of children trying to eat more than allotted, they were permitted to stuff themselves until the candy was gone. Unbeknownst to them, I had raided the bags of all the Mounds and Almond Joys and stocked them away for myself. I was utterly heartbroken when one year, my kids told me they didn’t want me to go out with them anymore. So I dressed up anyways to greet the trick-or-treaters at the door.
Now it’s onto the grandkids. They buy their costumes at huge Halloween stores. Growing up in the city, trick-or-treating seems to be out. It’s not considered safe. Kids are more likely to have parties, or go to local stores, where the proprietors give out treats. In their West Philly neighborhood, there was a great tradition of a Halloween parade which started on Baltimore Avenue and ended up at 42nd and Osage, where for 30 years, the residents had blocked out the street and set up tables with an incredible array of sweets. Neighbors dressed up in fantastic costumes sat in front of their decorated houses and handed out treats as well. One year, when our first grandson was three, he disappeared in the crowd. Everyone in the family apparently thought someone else was watching him. This led to the most panicked and terrifying five minutes of our lives, until a man responded to my daughter in laws cries and said he had seen a child alone. Soleil was found. This year, I don’t know. They have moved to a new South Philly neighborhood- a small treat that has its own traditions. I’m planning to dress up with sparkly black Batgirl mask, join the princess and the pirate, and see what the evening brings.
In the mood of Halloween, I wrote this piece for everybody. It’s a funny piece- it’s not very serious but it’s funny. During one of the nights, I couldn’t sleep. I was servicing the radio and discovered a station called ‘Coast to Coast’ AM night radio talk show. The talk show topic dealt with the paranormal and political conspiracy theories. Callers to the station discussed their experiences with angels, near death experiences, return after dying, ghosts, and alien abductions just to name a few. The talk show host is George Noory and the recording studio is out of Sherman Oaks, California.
The subject that night that I was listening in was ‘haunted dolls’ and how they capitulate fears. Guest speaker was David Weatherly, who is a renaissance man of the strange and supernatural. He travels the world in search of ghosts. The subject that night was David Weatherly’s new book called ‘Eerie Companions.’ Mr. Weatherly has written several books on the haunted dolls, including black-eyed children, strange intruders, and of course, the subject was ‘Eerie Companions’ that night and it was really mind-blowing what I learned. I don’t really study—I didn’t know anything about haunted dolls, but the discussion involved the development of the movie ‘Chuckie’ and how Chuckie, the haunted doll, the demonic doll evolved from these writings about dolls that are haunted. There is a very famous doll that they talked about called the Annabelle doll. Annabelle was the doll that they said if you went in to see Annabelle that she would cause tragic things to happen to you. She’s housed in the Occult Museum of the Paranormal in Monroe, Connecticut, and she’s kept in a glass box and they have ritual prayers over this box so that whatever happens, she doesn’t escape. They also talked about- oh by the way, Annabelle was, Saturday Night Live, this past Saturday, they were all talking about the Annabelle doll. A lot of people won’t go in to see the doll because of the fear of it. There’s a lot of things that comprise the Annabelle doll with human hair, and it was from a little girl that passed away.
It was very interesting to hear about the different dolls. They talked about the ventriloquial dolls (they talked about when you’re a ventriloquist how the dolls can become haunted), Talky Tina (she was on the Twilight Zone), Mr. Creepy Doll, they talked about dolls that are handmade, and how they can really cause fear into human beings for one reason or another. I really found it interesting. I’m a curious person and I thought that in light of today’s session, it’s something that we could talk about that was interesting. Another thing they mentioned on Coast to Coast, they talked about a thing called the Ranch, which is supposed to have extraterrestrial space ships and things that come in and out, and people avoid the ranch because of its history in the eerie and the haunted and the paranormal. It’s something that I found interesting to listen to and to hear people from across the country that call in and give their experiences whether it’s a ghost or whether it’s returning after dying. It was very entertaining, and it was something that I really wasn’t looking for, but it did keep my interest, and it was something that I learned about that was really in light of this Halloween weekend.
I’m not really sure if I believe in haunted dolls myself. Nothing is beyond “beyond.” So I wouldn’t- I’m not afraid of dolls. I’ve had dolls since I was a kid. I’ve never thought of haunted dolls. That’s a good question. I really can’t say. I’ve never seen one, but from what I’ve heard about this Annabelle doll, there’s just this fear across the nation about this doll, it’s just that famous. I have curiosity about it, let me put it that way. I have curiosity about it. I have to see the doll.
Well one of the things, when they were transporting Annabelle- I can’t believe I’m talking about this- in my research, the man that took Annabelle to this museum, they said that his breaks kept failing, and he almost had several car accidents while he was transporting her. And they said if you go into the room where she is, and if she doesn’t like you, bad things can happen to you after you leave. They’ve documented this stuff, and apparently, it’s just something that causes a lot of fear in people, and they don’t bother to go near her.
I think that there is a realm of things that happen beyond what we see and when something is perpetuated…evil, I believe in evil. I know that evil is very real. Anything that is involved with evil, not so much so that it’s haunted, but that the object or something that’s evil, I believe in evil and if it’s evil it’s going to cause problems. I believe in evil, good and evil, and some things are evil.
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And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri