Ghosts of Halloween Past: Memories Of A Spooky Season

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vintage halloween clock shadow hand woman

Halloween is probably every kid’s favorite holiday (behind Christmas, of course), because it’s all about getting goodies. What kid doesn’t like more junk food than they are normally allowed to have?

It’s also mysterious. ‘Who will give us good candy? Who will give us gross candy? Who will give us money or apples? Who will get the most candy? Who will get the most praise for their costume?’ This is the underside of Halloween. It’s really quite competitive, but the mystery adds to the spookiness of the day.

Halloween week

Halloween in my neighborhood officially lasted five days. There were probably 30 kids in the hood causing trouble each night leading up to October 31.

One night we’d make prank phone calls. It was called Telephone Night. We’d open the phone book, someone would point to a name, we’d call the number, and say something appropriate for a kid. Something like, ‘Is your refrigerator running? You better go catch it!’ and then hang up.

Chalk night

Then there was Chalk Night. We’d draw all over the neighborhood roads and people’s driveways. Ghosts, witches, cats, moons, spiders in webs, grim reapers, and pumpkins were in blue, orange, yellow, green, red and purple chalk for parents to see on their way to work in the morning. Some of the kids were really talented!

The older kids, maybe middle school age, would take pokeberries and smear them and their dark purple juice on cars. Chalk must have been for little kids! Pokeberry juice stains, so these kids got in big trouble for that year after year.


Toilet Paper Night was not my favorite. The kids would ‘decorate’ trees, bushes, mailboxes, cars – anything outside – with toilet paper in the hopes it would rain soon. When rain hits toilet paper, it becomes a mess that is almost impossible to remove. I didn’t like the idea of plants being covered with this. And I sure didn’t like having to pick it off!

The night before Halloween was the biggest – Doorbell Night. A bunch of us would walk up to a house. One person would go ring the doorbell, then we’d all run away screaming! I remember not being out one year, because I had the flu, but I do remember hearing our brass knocker bang on the front door and little muffled voices scatter towards the road.

toilet papered house halloween

(image: Steven Depolo)

There was always a plan to tie a string or rope to the knocker. Someone would sit in the bushes and repeatedly pull on it to keep the knocker knocking. That idea never came off the drawing board, though.

They also talked about putting dog poo in a paper bag, lighting it on fire, leaving it on someone’s porch, and ringing the bell. They’d run to the bushes to watch someone come out and stomp out the fire. That did not materialize, either. It sounds like an idea from a middle school boy, and I think I remember who!


My mother made most of my costumes. Twice I was a pumpkin she made of orange fabric. We stuffed me with polyester filling. This was my favorite costume. That’s why I wore it twice! I was really proud to wear it to the school Halloween parties!

One year I had a store-bought princess outfit. It was lightweight the way costumes are today. I was so excited to prance around the neighborhood and show it off! Well, that was one of the coldest Halloweens I remember. I had to wear dorky socks and school shoes along with a jacket! No one could see how beautiful I was! I did talk my dad into letting me wear the jacket in the car and take it off to go to people’s houses. He was not bending on the shoes, though. I must have been coming into my adolescent years to be concerned about dorky shoes….

Times have changed

I don’t know what Halloween is like for kids now. I do know people have parties instead of trick or treating. If they do trick or treat, goblins, fairies and superheroes are guarded closely by human or witchy adults. It’s a shame this kid-centered holiday has became a stage for violence over the years, but I guess it’s scarier for parents than for the kids!

Just think if there was Telephone Night today. It would be seen and reported as harassment. So would Doorbell Night! Chalk Night and Toilet Paper Night would be considered vandalism. I’m so glad I grew up when we could fearlessly have fun! I’m sure kids have fun no matter what, though, and I hope they are gathering up fun memories!

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