Sunday, October 31, 2010

As It Stands: Once upon a Halloween there was this haunted house

Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 10/31/2010 01:13:36 AM PDT

The days of young children roaming neighborhoods (without parental escorts) in search of high candy yields on Halloween are long gone. They're just memories.

When I was a kid in the fifties, we didn't worry about apples spiked with razor blades or candies laced with LSD, crack, or cyanide. Or being kidnapped. Without bodyguards, we roamed the autumn night with other small skeletons and monsters seeking free candy.

I recall Halloween in 1959, when a group of us set out to make a mega-haul of goodies. We carried brown shopping bags and each vowed to fill at least two of them before the night's end.

It meant traveling beyond last year's borders, but we were determined. Our little group included Gunther, the class clown. He was twice our size, stuttered constantly and let us boss him around.

Our group consisted of two pirates (I was one of them), a cowboy, an Indian chief and a railroad conductor (Gunther). We all agreed to pass up our regular pranks, like letting the air out of old man Switzer's Ford pickup tires, so we'd have more time to collect candy.

We were all supposed to be home by 10 o'clock. Boys will be boys, and we decided to stay out until midnight, and damn the consequences. Our efforts paid off, and our second bags were nearly full by 11:30. The first bags were stashed safely in the cowboy's backyard shed.

Then we saw the haunted house. We were in an unfamiliar neighborhood but instantly recognized it from the rumors at school. A monstrous old oak tree stood in the front yard and its gnarly limbs seemed to twist and writhe with lives of their own.

A full harvest moon cast an eerie glow on the mansion from a bygone era. Shadows slunk along the porch and one of the shutters beat a mournful dirge in the wind. We were terrified, just looking at it.

Gunther broke the spell, “Tititi...immmmm...eee to g..go ho...omme!” he stuttered in his terror. But no. The rest of us were of one mind. We would enter that huge old Victorian or die trying.

Good old Gunther was selected to lead the way. It took a lot of name-calling and physical threats to get him to agree, but he finally did. We picked our way through the knee-high grass and weeds and carefully padded up the rickety steps of the front porch. The front door was locked.

Gunther saw this as a sign and suggested we give it up. We weren't having any of that. There was a broken window on the side of the house. Our other pirate located it while answering the call of nature.

 It took all of us to boost Gunther high enough to get through the window. He disappeared inside with a loud crash and a scream of absolute horror! We stood riveted beneath the window, goose bumps crawling up and down our bodies. Then his screams abruptly stopped.

We went back to the front porch and milled around trying to decide what to do. None of us was eager to beat down the front door and look for him. Our Indian chief informed us it was almost the witching hour of midnight.

We finally rallied our courage and forced the front door open and went inside. There was no sign of Gunther. “Who's going to tell his mom?” the cowboy wondered. It was clearly time to leave.

When we got to the cowboy's yard, we discovered our first bags of candy were gone. Our carefully stashed bags brimming with sweets had mysteriously disappeared. We went to bed that night wondering what happened to Gunther and who stole the candy?

Interestingly enough, when we went to school on Monday, Gunther surfaced. He didn't seem any the worse for wear. Even more interesting was his new-found sly smile!

As It Stands, have a happy, creepy, and safe Halloween tonight!


Carl Hand-up said...

The revenge Gunther was much deserved. It couldn't of happened to a nicer group of kids'.

Carl Hand-up said...

The revenge Gunther was much deserved. It couldn't of happened to a nicer group of kids'.

Anonymous said...

Sounds fiction to me