Off the Press
October 25, 2011
By David Hayes
Halloween is a time for terrifying tales
Halloween remains one of those rare observances throughout the year where we still pay homage to the event’s pagan origins.
Some of our fondest memories come from Hell Night (thank you, Detroit, for that colloquialism).
Before I share mine, I thought I’d let some of my coworkers recount their favorite Halloween ghost story.
Sports Editor Bob Taylor enjoys digging up from his memory archives a yarn memorable not for its creep factor, but for its pleasantly surprising ending.
When he was 10, it seems Bob had this particular school bus driver who was independently wealthy, and as far as Bob could tell, only drove the bus to antagonize kids.
“He was very stern,” Bob recalled. “You didn’t run or shout on his bus.”
All the kids were scared of him. So naturally, on Halloween, the driver’s house was the one most-avoided in Bob’s small town. Well, that year, when all his friends refused to go up to the driver’s front door, Bob made a stand. He swallowed the knot of fear in his throat, threw caution to the wind and ventured forth to the driver’s front porch.
“I went up, and on a night when most people were giving out candy bars,” Bob said, “he gave me two silver dollars.”
Having successfully survived the journey, his friends still refused to go themselves, even when he told them about the silver dollars.
“They thought I was pulling their legs,” Bob said.
Next day in school, he didn’t hear anyone else talk about getting silver dollars, so he figured he may have been one of very few to be rewarded so. Too bad. The driver apparently had a substantially sized bag ready to hand out to the other trick-or-treaters.
“I still have those silver dollars to this day,” Bob said.
Guess you never know what you get when you face your fears.
For Dona Mokin, her fondest memory was almost the death of the night watchman.
At a prior newspaper job, her staff had a costume contest that she couldn’t be present for. So, she left a doppelgänger in her stead. She filled an old sweater and jeans with newspaper, placed a wig at the top that actually was a good facsimile of her own hair, and slumped the dummy over her drawing table desk. Then, she stabbed it in the back with a pica pole, leaving behind plenty of oozing fake blood to complete the image.
“I actually took second place and won $50,” Dona said. “That was a bazillion years ago, so that was a lot of money.”
Her coworkers felt she shouldn’t have won because she wasn’t there. But one thing she forgot — the night watchman.
“I’d left the gooseneck lamp on, and with the rest of the room dark, the guard almost had a heart attack, seeing ‘me’ slumped there,” she said. “He told me, ‘I almost croaked when I saw you hunkered over your desk.’”
The unintended consequences of Halloween — what can you do?
Plan for it, which I did for my spooky tale.
My best experience came from my years in the Navy, stationed aboard a submarine tender in Holy Loch, Scotland.
I was in charge of scheduling ship’s entertainment on the closed circuit television system. For Halloween, I aired a “Nightmare on Elm Street” marathon.
When I put the last one in for the night, I was invited by a bunch of shipmates to watch it with them in the bowels of the ship, down in the supply office. When we got way below decks, we decided to play a prank on the one shipmate who didn’t know I was coming.
So they walk in, and I ducked behind the counter, unseen.
The only light in the space came from the television, setting the scene perfectly.
I whipped out my pocket knife, and scraping it slowly up and down the metal portion of the counter.
One shipmate, I’ll call her Becky, said, “What was that?!”
Playing along, the others swore they didn’t hear a thing.
A couple more times amping the creep factor, set to 10, had Becky’s skin crawling.
Time for the big finale.
I extended my arm around the counter, with my fingers splayed as wide as possible. With the perfect silhouette from the TV’s light, I might as well have been Freddy Krueger.
Becky glanced over, saw my arm, and let loose a blood-curdling scream.
A hardy guffaw from every one else and a few arm punches later from Becky, all was forgiven. Yet, I was left with my most memorable and successful Halloween prank — ever.
David Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.