October 1st has come and gone as as far as I’m concerned, that’s when Halloween Season begins. That’s when the Halloween decorations get pulled from the attic and the storage room and our house slowly evolves from something out of the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” to “the best haunted house in the whole neighborhood” (direct quote from a trick or treater a few years ago).

Halloween has always been one of my most favorite holidays, especially when I was a kid. Never one to dress up like a princess, superhero or ballerina, I always went for the scariest costume I could muster. A witch. Frankenstein. An angry Native American (I’m not so sure why I chose that one – or why it was even available as a (boxed, with a plastic mask) Halloween costume. But then again, it was the very early 70’s and the world wasn’t as politically correct as it is now). It wasn’t until I got older than I went for more creative costumes (a dice cube) or sometimes just easy ones like a hobo or the put-a-sheet-over-your-head-and-cut-eye-holes ghost (which actually wasn’t the easiest costume to have to deal with – the sheet kept slipping and the eye holes would travel to my forehead, the left side of my nose, etc.).

Halloween was so wonderful for me that I’d start thinking about my costume choices in August and, because I was anal retentive from a very early age, my trick-or-treat route would be completely planned out in my head by early September.

I lived in Brooklyn from 1967-1976 and besides being the only kid who wasn’t too scared to go to “the haunted house” on the next street over, I remember there was a lady with a British accent in one house and she’d always give out Matchbox cars as treats. Coolest thing EVER, as far as this tomboy was concerned (rumor was that her son worked for Matchbox). I moved to Staten Island when I was nearly ten and that Halloween was when I was disappointed to learn that more people on  Staten Island didn’t answer their door bells on Halloween. And yeah, those people got shaving cream sprayed wherever I could reach (which really wasn’t very high). But they didn’t get egged – I never egged anyone. I also learned to go to Adam & Jason G.’s house first because not only did they answer their door, but their mom made candy apples to give out – and since we knew the family, it was OK to eat it – we knew Mrs. G. wasn’t going to put razors in the apples (although wasn’t Bubble Yum rumored to be putting spider eggs into their bubble gum around that same time?). Being in the double digits by then, I also had the freedom to venture further – I’d go to our neighborhood during the daytime, then my dad would bring me to a nearby neighborhood when it got dark out. Now THAT was the time to go trick-or-treating because people wanted to get rid of their stuff and I’d come home with enough candy to last me until Cadbury Eggs started coming out.

Although my mother didn’t seem to care about when, where or how I trick-or-treated, she had a hard and fast rule that we could not decorate the house very much. I have no idea why but I stopped trying to analyze my mother years and years ago. Anyway, for my entire childhood we had 2 plastic light-up thingies for the window and when I was around 10 or 11, I got a poster from Dynamite Magazine that was of Count Morbida and it that was very “Halloweeny” and she let me put that up on the front door. Oh, and we carved a jack o’lantern for a few years until some neighbor urchins smashed it one year so we didn’t do that anymore. But that was it. It was her house, she was the mother and she made the rules of how much decoration there could be. End of the discussion.

But I’m not a little kid anymore and I have my own house now, so I just go all out with decorating. Life-sized skeletons. A nearly life-sized coffin. Plastic bloody arms, legs, hands and feet thrown into the bushes. A dozen or more light-up pumpkins. Ghouls. Oversized spiders and snakes. Lots and lots of tombstones. Things that light up, things that move, things that make noise and things that do 2 or more of those things. A fog machine. A bubble machine.

My Halloween house has been known to make toddlers cry with fear. I’m proud of that, in a perverse sort of way.

I don’t just give out candy bars, either. Or B.B. Bats or little bags of candy corn or Sugar Daddies or Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. In the spirit of the lady who gave out Matchbox cars, I give out toys. Vampire teeth. Plastic snakes. Rubber spiders. Oh, and I have ribbons to give out, too – Scariest Costume. Cutest Ghoul. Stuff like that.

So Halloween has remained important to me, even as a childless old fart in my mid-40’s. Hopefully some of the kids who visit on October 31st will be impressed enough to continue the tradition when they grow up. If not, it’s OK…I’m still having fun!

If things work out well, I should have some pictures of my Halloweens, past and present, pretty soon. Watch this space!

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