A Halloween Story
By author Kathryn Meyer Griffith<a href=”https://kathrynmeyergriffith.files.wordpress.com/2015/07
Since I was a child Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. No one loved horror movies or scary stories more than I did. As a poor child in a family of six other siblings I haunted the musty smelling libraries searching out books about ghosts, vampires, spooky houses and witches. I was addicted to supernatural or monster movies. Dracula. The Lady in White. Ghost Story. The Werewolf. Godzilla. The Mummy. Or any film that dealt with the supernatural in any way, shape or form. My heart would beat hard whenever I opened a new book about a demon or a monster in a lake or when the lights would fade down in a theater and I knew the coming movie was a thriller.
Well, why and how did I become such a lover of Halloween? I’ll tell you.
My grandmother, Mary Fehrt, had been an immigrant from 1930’s war-torn Austria and was a born storyteller. And she loved scary stories. I first remember hearing a ghost story from her lips when I was barely six years old. One of the most disturbing, I recall, was about a rich little girl in her old country who’d died young, had been buried – and in those days, my grandmother had whispered in the candle’s flickering glow in her spooky basement where my siblings and I had gathered, bodies weren’t embalmed – but because some money-desperate peasant dug her up and cut her finger off for her diamond ring she sat up in her coffin, still alive. It scared the peasant nearly witless and, screaming, he’d scurried off. “Sleeping sickness, that’s what it’d been,” my grandmother had muttered. “The child hadn’t been dead at all but had been buried…alive.” Ugh! Funny how some details of those stories eventually found their way years later into mine. Or, once, my grandmother told us the story about her mother who saw her dead husband out in the garden after he’d died, walking around between the tomatoes and waving at her…who then dematerialized in front of her eyes into a puff of smoke. Yikes. Let me tell you those eerie stories left their mark. They dried my mouth and made me shiver. Probably why I became a horror writer. I wanted to make people shiver in the same way.
Oh, yes, my grandmother adored Halloween. She’d decorate her home like a haunted house, filling it with puff-paper pumpkins, cats, skeletons, and tacking up paper witches everywhere. Cloth ghosts hung from the tree limbs in her front yard and when the wind blew they’d wave like tattered white banners. She’d hobble up to our door on Halloween night dressed as a witch and dare us to guess who it was. We always did, though, because her childish glee and familiar eyes, her mischievous smile would always give her away. Besides, her witch laugh sounded like her regular laugh, only scarier. The neighborhood kids loved going to her house because she always gave them special homemade treats; not only prepackaged candy so prevalent now days. She made the best chocolate chip cookies, caramel apples and popcorn balls in town.
So, no wonder, I grew up loving Halloween.
When that dark night rolls around every year I still get excited. These days, because very few treat-or-treaters find their way along our street (don’t know why…perhaps because the older people around us don’t turn on their lights and open their homes…afraid of being robbed); after we leave a bowl of candy on the front porch just in case someone would come by, my husband and I walk hand in hand to our small town’s City Hall where they have a town get-to-together with a pumpkin decorating contest for the kids, free hot-dogs, hot cider or hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows, and lots of little dressed-up goblins for us to exclaim over. A safe Halloween. Then we go home and watch scary movies the rest of the night and eat the candy still left in the bowl. I like the Paydays and Milky Ways.
It’s a far cry from my 1950’s childhood where my six siblings and I would dress in spooky homemade costumes, sheet ghosts with cut-out eyes or gypsies dripping with mom’s jewelry, and clutching our brown grocery bags, would trudge from one porch lit and decorated house to another gathering those large (not those measly ones they give out now) candy bars or homemade treats. I can still hear the laughter and leaves whispering on the chilly autumn air as we gathered our treats. As I remember, most of those nights had been rainy, dark and chilly. But that never stopped us candy monsters. We always went out and came home with a huge bag of goodies…which our mother would promptly take away from us and ration out sparingly over the next few weeks. So we wouldn’t get sick. Yeah, sure. I always suspected my parents pillaged from our bags themselves and stole our treats. Never could prove that, though.
But I still love Halloween, no matter what. It’s the night that the misty wall between the worlds of the living and dead is the weakest, or so the witches say…and, watch out, maybe a ghost or a demon might slip through and land on your doorstep. That’s why I never answer the door without peeking out the window first.
Because…hey, you never know.
A Halloween Story