A good old-fashioned scare

This year has been full of symbols and foreboding. 2020 seems like it was made for Halloween.

There is a meme going around that says there is no need to celebrate, as we have been wearing masks and eating candy for months now. I did laugh, albeit ruefully.

Instead of dwelling on the creepiness of this year, I would rather look back on the good old-fashioned creepiness of the Hallow’s Eve antics from my childhood…

I am old enough to remember a time before Dollar Store costumes and online ordering of licensed products. I grew up on the edge of the Canadian Prairies, where Halloween was often a cold night. It was also darker.

I know I sound like my Dad with his “we walked uphill to school both ways” stories. But honestly, Daylight Savings time used to switch the third week in October and so it was dark sooner.

We made our costumes from what we had at home, with ideas often supplemented by family hobbies or interests.

If your older sibling was into hockey or ballet, it was an easy job to become a hockey player or a ballerina respectively (and both these costumes work over winter coats and snow pants when necessary.)

If you were lucky, you had a Mom that sewed. My Mom was, by her own admission, not an avid seamstress, but she outdid herself for Halloween.

I cherished the leopard suit she made for me when I was little. I am not sure my younger brother liked it as much as me, but he did look cute. And my clown suit was a genius choice, as it grew with me by simply adding a pair of snazzy stockings.

That avoided me suffering the dreaded “Where’s the flood?” joke you heard if your pants were short.

It was easier to have a vivid imagination back then. Before the Internet, everything didn’t already have a visual interpretation. We made up monsters in our head.

Did you know research has shown that what your mind can imagine is usually scarier than what we see on a screen? So, don’t bother closing your eyes during a scary movie.

My Dad was master of scariness. He grew up with two older brothers, so he had been scared plenty as a youngster. He seemed to feel it was his duty to pass on the tradition, and not just at Halloween.

My brother and I would cringe when he disappeared in the house. We knew what was coming… first the dreaded silence. No music, no radio. Sometimes the lights went out too.

Then, just when you thought maybe nothing would happen, you heard it: stomp, drag… stomp, drag… like a creature that had a bad leg. And the breathing….

Heavy sighs, or sometimes groaning, and it was loud. Even as I write this, my heart is speeding up remembering the sounds.

I can only say it was my Dad that did all this because of the stories he told. We never saw him. There was no big “Boo!” as he came down the hall.

Sometimes there was screaming as we ran down the hall to get away. Then a few minutes later it would stop. We would come out from a closet or our rooms and Daddy would be sitting calmly, reading the paper, or having a coffee.

It was like we imagined the whole thing. Imagining that it might not have been him was the scariest part of all.

One year he made a tape of scary noises for Halloween, to entertain the trick-or-treaters. He put the tape in the milk chute (remember those?) We saw hardly any kids that year – they were all too frightened to come to the door.

There were other scary houses in our neighbourhood too, but mostly that was part of the fun.

The fellow who dressed like a mad professor always gave out full-size chocolate bars – a rare luxury in my day. A few parents would make us do tricks, especially as we got a bit older, taking our siblings around. 

We would sing a song or tell a joke and get rewarded with Halloween kisses, or Tootsie Pops, or Rockets (one of my favourites). Many people had coins for our UNICEF boxes, too.

I see lots more princesses now, and plenty of super heroes of course. Movies provide many of the costume inspirations these days. Trick-or-treating is not as common as it once was, but perhaps this year such a natural socially distant activity will flourish.

The kids I see don’t carry pillowcases for their loot, either. I don’t think they travel as far as we did, so I guess a big sack is not needed.

I do hope they still get a good scare somewhere along their route, or perhaps dream of spooky things after having a tummy-full of candy before bed.

A good old-fashioned scare is a good way to help all of us stay aware and keep us grateful for the friends and good fortune we have.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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