Column: Halloween draws out all the childhood memories of the spooky holiday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Warren Zevon sang, &8220;I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand. Walking through the streets of Soho on the rain. He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook’s. Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein. Ah-ooooo, werewolves of London.&8221;

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Halloween.

I liked Halloween because it gave me the right to act like I acted all of the rest of the year.

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What child my age has not at least once uttered the words, &8220;Trick or treat, smell my feet or give me something good to eat.&8221;

What’s black, white, orange, and waddles? A penguin with a jack-o-lantern.

The Jack-o-lantern custom comes from Irish folklore. There was

a man named Jack, who was a notorious drunkard and trickster, who tricked satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that if Beelzebub would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down from the tree.

After Jack died, he was denied entrance into heaven because of his evil ways. He was also denied access to hell because of the trick he had played on the devil. The devil gave Jack a single ember to light his way through the darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing.

When the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins worked better as lanterns than turnips.

Halloween can be a time of learning as well as sugar overload. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned.

Haunted houses aren’t all on dead-end streets. Creepy music coming from a cemetery is never worth investigating. Halloween offers the perfect method of getting rid of all that zucchini. Drop a couple of the squash in a trick-or-treater’s bag and watch the big, greedy smile fade from his little face. Zucchini works almost as good at discouraging trick-or-treaters as does handing out candy corn or those big orange circus peanuts.

Things were different in the day. We had to work to make the world scary. We didn’t have 147 TV news outlets telling us incessantly what dire straits we were in.

Today, CNN and Fox News provide us with Halloween 365 days a year. They take a wonderful world filled with delightful people and portray it at its scariest.

In my boyhood neighborhood, the best costume went to a guy wearing a clean shirt.

My Cousin Bertha once dressed up like a witch and walked through some poison ivy.

She became an itchy witchy. My Cousin Belfry wore a prison uniform covered with cement.

He went as a hardened criminal. My Cousin Cricket would wear three or four costumes each year. She’d knock on a door wearing one costume and if she liked what the homeowner passed out as candy, she’d change costumes and knock on the door a couple of more times.

I’d typically throw a sheet over my head and depend upon the imagination of the adults to get me through the night. All men believe in ghosts because women can see right through us.

I preferred the sheet to costumes. Wearing those costumes may have been the scariest thing about Halloween for a kid. We would pretend to be some kind of super hero, with a plastic mask held in place by a cheap rubber band.

As we breathed, we’d get a nice warm collection of condensation inside the mask. The rubber band would always break and we’d end up whimpering from door to door, holding the bag in one hand and the mask in the other.

My neighbor Crandall carried a candle and claimed that he was the wicked wick of the north.

One year he had gone as a zombie. He didn’t do that again because that costume left him dead on his feet. He claimed it was too much work digging up everybody he could for a zombie party. Now he dresses like an ancient deceased Egyptian. He stands in front of a mirror and doubles his mummy. Last year someone put a broken waffle iron in his bag.

When I was but a mere slip of a lad, many kids dressed as skeletons on Halloween.

Lots of skeletons and a bunch of no bodies. My Cousin Baseball went as a laughing skeleton each year. It seemed that the costume tickled his funny bone.

All I want to know is what do nudists go as at Halloween?

(Hartland resident Al Batt writes a column for the Tribune each Wednesday and Sunday.)