I always love it when people share their experiences trick or treating when they were younger, especially when they compare it to what their kids experience now, because trick or treating was always such a huge thing for me and my sister.
Being a child of trick-or-treating age is a magical time. The concept of going door to door and threatening your neighbors with mischief unless they pay you off with candy is hilarious to me now as an adult with children of my own. Children tend not to question the whys of such things and just go with the flow, and when the flow includes free candy, asking too many questions would be a waste of time. You want to get going, show off your cool costume to your friends and get to those delectable treats!
But, as memory serves, trick-or-treating was also a bit of a mixed bag. I was a small child in the 1980s and early 90s and I experienced some really weird things when doing my yearly candy-fueled reign of adorable terror. Times were just changing when I was a kid. I remember when we had to start closely examining our candy and we couldn’t eat anything homemade given to us anymore unless it was a family member that provided it. That sucked because so many nice old people used to hand out popcorn balls back then and homemade popcorn balls are the best.
I’d like to share a few of the stranger things that happened to me as a kid trick-or-treating in my weird little town in West Virginia. We never had anybody spray us with garden hoses or offer us whole barnyard animals or anything, but we ran into some real characters that my classmates and I would talk about in school the next day.
One year, my mom took us to a different county for trick-or-treating. It was the neighborhood close to where my grandma lived and I think she talked my mom into bringing us down there with the promise of more candy and less time out walking to get to it. There were two strange encounters on that night. The first was this big, beautiful house with an honest to goodness white picket fence around it. I kept seeing camera flashes from the front door and assumed that the homeowners had relatives stopping by and they were taking pictures of the cute costumes. We got to the door and were greeted by a man and a woman smiling at us.
“Ah, Jesus loves the little children,” the man said, patting my little brother on the head. “On this night of darkness, His light will guide you to glory!”
He then dropped copies of a book titled, Good News America, God Loves You into our bags and then posed with us while the lady took our picture. Now, we were churchgoers and there were some people that were part of our congregation who were very much opposed to Halloween festivities. We understood that it happened, but that guy creeped my poor little brother out and, yeah, I was uncomfortable.
Later that night, we got our second strange occurrence. We stopped at a house that had the front screen door propped open. When we peaked in, we were greeted by a room full of very old men and women slumped in armchairs. An excited woman greeted us at the door and took us by the hands and led us inside.
“Say hello to these nice men and women,” she commanded. We did as we were told and the lady dropped generous handfuls of candy into our bags. We said our thanks and turned to head to the door where our mother was watching.
“Stay for just a minute!” the excitable lady said to us. She then picked up my brother and sat him in the lap of an old, barely conscious man and led me by the hand to stand next to an old lady who looked slightly more awake. She snapped a couple of pictures and then my mom came into the room, all smiles, and led us away. My brother and I were deeply unsettled and when we said as much to our mom, she got mad at us and scolded us for not being charitable to those “nice old people.” I don’t know. Times have changed and I know I’d have a problem with someone plopping one of my kids on a heavily sedated stranger’s lap.
This last one made an impact on everybody I knew. In college, I ran into an old classmate and we were talking about Halloween and he said to me, “Hey, remember that Lurch guy at the insurance house?”
A little background: my usual trick-or-treating route consisted of trailers, old tract houses, and your basic run-down lower-class domiciles. But there was one house, a grand old brick house that was used as the office for a local insurance agent. It was a neat place that they decorated beautifully every Christmas and it stood out like a sore thumb among the poverty around it.
It never had the porch light on for trick-or-treaters. Why would it? We understood that it wasn’t a home and that nobody actually lived there. We usually just drove past. But that year, there was a light on and there were other children on the porch, so my mom stopped the car and my brother and I got out.
“Oh boy,” we thought. In a place that big, we were sure to be getting the holy grail of trick-or-treat conquests: the full sized candy bar. We met some kids on the stairs as they descended the porch. I greeted a girl that I knew, but she hurried down the steps gripping her little sister’s hand. I shrugged, assuming she hadn’t heard me or that her mom would be grumpy if they kept her waiting.
My brother rang the doorbell and we smiled at each other excitedly. When the big door opened, our perky greeting died in our throats. A very pale man in a tuxedo ducked in order to clear the door frame and loomed over us. He was holding, and I swear this is true, a silver platter. He looked down at us with a bored expression. I’ve never been so terrified of a well-dressed man in all my life.
He said nothing. We said nothing. Finally, remembering my manners, I squeaked out a “trick-or-treat,” and my brother followed suit. The large man said nothing, just picked up two small silver bundles from the tray and dropped them into our bags. We said our thanks as quickly as we could and ran down to get back into our mom’s car. She was excited to hear what they had given us and I took the bundle out of my bag and looked at it. It was five pennies wrapped in aluminum foil and my brother had the same.
As an adult, I have to think that it was an act put on by the festive people who made that house so beautiful during the Christmas season. It was a one-time deal, though. That porch light was never again turned on for trick-or-treaters.
The next day at school we couldn’t stop talking about it. We all had our little bundles of foil-wrapped pennies but that was nothing compared to the big-scary-butler-guy who dropped them into our bags. We all got lots of candy, yeah, but that experience was what made Halloween for us that year. It was one of the better years, actually.
As a parent now, I watch to see what my kids experience as trick-or-treaters. The sweet old lady down the street who gave them old VHS tapes reminded me of the sweet old lady who handed out old cough drops, mistaking them for hard candies. They still get shiny apples like I did and they love, as I loved, those lollipops that look like jack o’lanterns. As much as things change, so much stays the same. I hope so very much that my kids can accumulate a wealth of weird experiences from their own childhood jaunts on Halloween.
Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.
Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?
A NEW HOME
Dawna Temple let herself be moved from the familiarity of Pittsburgh to the wilds of West Virginia, all so her mentally exhausted husband, John, could heal from a breakdown. Struggling with the abrupt change of location, Dawna finds a friend in her neighbor, Suzanne Miller, known to the locals as The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek.
A NEW FRIEND
Dismissing it as hillbilly superstition, Dawna can’t believe the things she hears about her funny and empathetic friend. Suzanne has secrets—dark secrets—and eventually she reveals the truth behind the rumors that earned her the wicked nickname decades earlier.
Now in possession of the truth, Dawna has conflicting emotions about Suzanne’s past deeds, but when her husband’s well-being takes a downturn, she finds there is no one else to turn to. Will she shun her friend as others have done before? …or can she accept that an act of evil is sometimes necessary for the greater good?