October 30, 2020
As a kid growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, there were three holidays that were kid-centric, Christmas, Valentine’s Day (I will save the Columbus, Georgia tradition of “throwing valentines” for another post), and of course, Halloween.
Some kids liked putting together models of cars. I was the strange macabre kid who loved putting together models of monsters. I had a glow in the dark Frankenstein that scared my Aunt Kathy every time she babysat for us.
My fascination with horror films only added to the mystique. To this day, I like creepy movies (check out the movie Signs and A Quiet Place.) I remember watching Village of the Damned, a “B” movie classic about alien children with a death stare. I purchased books through Scholastic detailing the best scary movies of all time. To date, I believe the most suspenseful film is Jack Nicholson’s classic role in The Shining. When Shelley Duval’s character discovered reams of paper typed with the line, “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” it sent shivers down my spine.
I looked forward to the radio show produced in the early 70s on CBS, Mystery Theater, and the Friday Night Frights late in the evening. I rushed home every day from school to watch the cult classic, Dark Shadows. It was there I was educated on the rules of vampirism. After the third bite, they become full-fledged vampires, and vampires can’t see their reflection or go out in the sunlight. They certainly don’t “shimmer.”
I don’t know how many bottles of ketchup I used as blood in my driveway plays. Just typing this makes me worried that I was a disturbed child.
To this day, the Jaycee’s haunted house in Columbus was one of the scariest fright fests that I have ever experienced. In particular, I remember a platter with a live head being served for dinner and a realistic reenactment of the legend of Lizzie Borden, complete with her running after you with an ax as the climax.
After my parents declared that I was too old to trick-or-treat (I protested), I asked if I could make a haunted house with the expressed request to keep any leftover candy. That gave me the incentive of making the scariest haunted house possible.
Staples of my yearly House of Horrors included skeletons popping out of caskets made of cardboard rigged with fishing wire. My guillotine made of tin foil and a refrigerator box was terrifying. I remember collecting dark grapes and juicing them to produce a blood flow from a headless body. I greeted my guests with a clammy rubber hand that protruded from my jacket sleeve. The results were humorous. There was always candy leftover from frightened children.
Even today, I hide a speaker in our bushes and play ghost and screaming sounds when kids ring the doorbell. It brings me great entertainment and all the leftover candy.