Pranks aren’t limited to trick-or-treaters

When recalling seeing neighborhood kids filling the streets on Halloween recently, I think back to my childhood. The concept of trick or treat really wasn't prevalent in the South until the 1960s. I remember that it was a time for mischief.

Halloween then involved small groups of primarily boys playing tricks, like rubbing a bar of soap on plate glass windows of downtown stores and shooting out street lights with a slingshot. A few older boys might turn over an outhouse on the edge of town.

However, as Vertis and I returned from an overseas assignment with Exxon from Benghazi, Libya, where houses were pretty well locked down for the night after 6 p.m., and moved into a subdivision in Portland, Texas (a Corpus Christi bedroom community), we found out that trick-or-treating had become a standard fixture, especially in subdivisions with rows and rows of houses where kids could easily go door-to-door to fill those Halloween sacks.

After the first year in Portland, we were ready when Halloween came around again, and decided to make it more interesting than just a candy handout.

Vertis dressed up as a witch, complete with hat, mask, and gloves. She moved an old rocking chair to where she could sit to the left of the front door, and directed me to stand to the right with the candy basket. I got everything ready. When it was trick-or-treat time, we got set up and she plopped down in the rocker.

It was almost dark when the first of what would be several hundred kids started up our walkway. They looked at Witch Vertis, and a couple of kids spoke, but she was slumped to the side in that rocking chair, and I smiled as I had figured it out. They were sure Witch Vertis was a witch dummy, ignored her, and went for the candy.

Then, with a handful of candy, they turned and started back, but as they passed Witch Vertis, her hand went out toward the kids, and she made a witch cackle, which caused an "Ahaaaaaa!" and candy went everywhere. Witch Vertis had come to life.

That was the first time we dressed up for trick-or-treating, and we enjoyed the night nearly as much as the kids. The reaction when Witch Vertis came alive was always different. It varied from a few who laughed and jerked back to several who dropped their candy and ran down the sidewalk. I had to retrieve their treats and take them down to the street for them.

We continued to join in the fun while our kids were young. One Halloween, after we had moved back to El Dorado, it went over the top. We were active in church and our kids, who were then 7 and 9, had a lot of friends. That year we had a Halloween party in our yard.

I decided to go all out, and while in Houston on business I bought a Frankenstein head mask. But that wasn't all. I got some extra-long white painter's overalls and a white smock, and added lifts to my shoes. I stuck a hatchet in a board, poured red food dye and ketchup where the hatchet was stuck, and fastened it around my chest. Now I was a gory nearly eight-foot-tall Frankenstein.

I got some help from close friend and next-door neighbor Edwin Alderson, now deceased. When I told Edwin what I was planning, he asked if he could join. He said that he had bought an animal costume and would like to try it out. "The more the merrier!" I remarked.

Halloween's weather was perfect. Vertis and I started a fire in our fire pit where we could roast wieners and marshmallows. Rob Bosanko from the South Arkansas Arts Center stood on the deck and told them a ghost story about how on Halloween ghosts and strange animals roamed the woods. It was more than a little scary, and the kids were nervously looking toward the woods.

As Vertis gathered the kids round the fire pit and helped with spearing the marshmallows, I slipped off to a shed near our house and put on the Frankenstein outfit. It was dark enough that I was able to get within about 20 yards of the group before stepping into the light.

That first "Ahaaaaaaaaaaa!" from Frankenstein created some screams, and kids started to back away. I was just about to pull the mask off because some of the kids were getting a little too upset, but before I could do anything there was a roar, and out of the darkness came Edwin in a full gorilla suit. The kids scattered like a flock of quail.

Clearly we had gone over the top.

Vertis ran out and started yelling to the kids that it was me, but it was too late, and I heard one of them, who thought he was running for his life, splash into the swimming pool. We fished the kid out of the pool unhurt, finally calmed the others down, and decided we'd let that be the end of our joining in trick-or-treating in Halloween costumes.

Email Richard Mason at richard@gibraltarenergy.com.

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