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In Search of Halloweens Past

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On my wish list: a traditional American cross stitch is creepified.

On my wish list: a traditional American cross stitch is creepified.

Here’s a handy soundtrack for this post.

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves are turning, the bars of Broad St are advertising even cheaper neon-coloured drinks and Selfridges is awash with normal food products that happen to have spooky names. As I type I’ve just seen an ad for the Halloween edition of a particular brand of miniature cheese…

This used to be in the loo (but the results got too messy). I bought it in the town of Hell, Michigan and it moves.

This used to be in the loo (but the results got too messy). I bought it in the town of Hell, Michigan and it moves.

Halloween is increasingly reaching American proportions over here (not that I mind in the slightest as regular readers will know), and since I became auntie to two adorable little American children (one of which I think is turning into a future horror film and comic-book nerd – his uncle and I are beyond pleased), I have taken the opportunity to write them a spooky poem each year in a Halloween card complete with Trick Or Treat candy from ‘over here’.  I’m aiming for a kind of J.K. Rowling approach so that the poems/ stories are age-appropriate but will get creepier as the kids grow up. I’ve written about ghosts, cats and the rules of Trick or Treating before, but really not sure where to go this year. I’ve loosely settled on The Thing but as yet said Thing is unformed and I have no idea how evil or misunderstood The Thing is or its journey (like it’s on the X-Factor or something).

The pumpkin bauble came from Bronners - the legendary Christmas shop in Michigan - everything else came from the bargain stores of Birmingham.

The pumpkin bauble came from Bronners – the legendary Christmas shop in Michigan – everything else came from the bargain stores of Birmingham.

One thing I can rely on is my trusty collection of Halloween decorations. I thought I’d share how our old flat on Berkley Street looked last year (haven’t decorated this year yet as it’s too early). I find my Halloween decs as comforting as the family Christmas decorations; it’s as much a ritual to decorate for Halloween as for any other cultural/ religious holiday in our household.  And while one or two have exotic origins (see above) they are mostly from Poundland or the 99p Store and collectively cost about a tenner. Halloween is perfect for those of us on a budget, and (even though he probably wouldn’t approve) thank God for that!  I decorate our (black) Christmas tree and drape fake cobwebs everywhere (although with my approach to dusting, the work could really do itself). I collect vintage Halloween graphics in books, on Pinterest and in print. Each year I change all the photos around the house to various printouts according to our theme. Even in the loo. Especially in the loo.

My cheap computer print outs. Last years included a photo from St Lous Cemetery No. 1, a Victorian seance and a 1930s Halloween card.

My cheap computer print outs. Last year’s included a photo from St Louis Cemetery No. 1, a Victorian seance and a 1930s Halloween card.

My dad, who is probably even more macabre than me, is always threatening to bring a Ouija board home. Back when I was fourteen he dared a friend and I to walk through the village graveyard on Halloween night. We chickened out. In fact we went somewhere to ineptly puff on some cheap Korean cigarettes, which in hindsight was even more horrific. Of course dad didn’t know this and had used an alternative route to drive around to the back of the churchyard. His plan was to cut through a field, hide behind a gravestone and jump out at us. Unfortunately, he didn’t bargain on a sleeping cow lying in the middle of the pitch black field. Dad tripped over the unlucky heifer and knocked himself out. When he eventually came to, he had to haul arse back to the house before our return. We arrived to find him, slumped in an armchair, rather out of breath and slightly smelling of cow poo.

Let us eat cake: why should the Trick or Treaters have all the fun?

Let us eat cake: why should the Trick or Treaters have all the fun?

Another year, he mounted rotting pumpkins on spikes in the front garden to lure in unsuspecting Trick or Treaters who were subsequently made to put their hands into ‘the cauldron of doom’ (a La Creuset casserole dish full of pumpkin guts and sweets) only for the sweets to be soaked through. To be fair, we were usually the only house in the village that bothered making Halloween magical for the five or less Trick or Treaters that turned up annually. For a while, you might get one or two gangs of teenagers without costumes who would just say things like: ‘Can we ‘ave some chocolate?’ or ‘Can we ‘ave some (drug) money?’  But no, no they bloody couldn’t if they didn’t put in the effort.  With the increasing popularity of Halloween, maybe we’ll get some more well-meaning T or Ts this year, so we’ll have to give them a front garden to remember… ffd89379c206ef65d6ae711b53fc4b2d

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