My Haunted Halloween
This weekend we attended my cousin's annual Halloween Hayride party. The event is mainly planned for the kids, but the adults enjoy it equally, if not the more.
My cousin, in particular, gets into it to an extent you'd never guess from her behavior the rest of the year. She's more likely to be found reading a romance novel than an Anne Rice book, and she wears pastels instead of basic black, but when Halloween rolls around, out come the life-sized witch and mummy she's acquired from the Halloween store, and every room in the house is festooned with cobwebs and plastic rats. This year, she told us gleefully, she's waiting for the cardboard coffin she saw at Meijer's to go on sale. "Then I can store this guy in it," she said, pointing to the fanged ghoul propped next to us in the foyer. "I think that would be so cool."
The festivities began with a costumed witch named Basil cavorting in the barn, frightening the little children with her cackles and concocting an exploding brew of Diet Coke and Mentos. In her oversized sparkle sunglasses she resembled a sort of Halloween Elton John. Basil was then joined by a surprise guest, Witch Hazel, an out-of-town aunt who made the trip especially for the party. The adults, knowing her secret identity, were delighted to see her; the little children were more terrified than ever.
Which leads me to the scariest thing about the day: sadism. We grown-ups were delighted by the children's fear. When it was time for games in the basement, one tiny child, petrified by the skeleton pinned to the ceiling and the fog machine vapors filling the air, squealed, "I don't want to be here!" and tore in a panic for the stairs. "Aw, how cute," we chuckled. When Basil first emerged from the haunted barn, my cousin's six-year-old son froze in his tracks, eyes glazed with tears, then slowly started backing away. Did we feel concerned for him? No, we could hardly contain our glee while recounting this moment of terror to his doting parents.
Most years, the hayride portion of the day is a haunted hayride through woods filled with scary decorations. This year the weather was so foreboding, with a sudden hail storm in the morning and strong winds throughout the day, that the hayride was put on hold and the outdoor decorations were used inside the house instead. But later in the day, as the weather cleared and the sun shone through the golden leaves of the (still wildly swaying) trees, it was decided that we would go on an "old-fashioned" hayride, i.e. not haunted. So we piled onto the bale-filled wagon, my cousin's husband started up the tractor, and off we went into the benign woods.
But were they so benign? The afternoon light slanting through the branches was beautiful, but the long shadows were kind of eery, and as the wind grew stronger the powerfully swaying limbs began to creak overhead. As we bumped along the path, something inspired Hazel (riding amongst us) to let out a mighty shriek, and at that moment there was a crack, and a big tree came crashing down, its roots bouncing out of the ground, mere inches from our wagon. We passengers were scattered with twigs and bits of bark; some even got a little scratched up. It seemed there might be something in those woods after all, something that thought it was time the adults got a taste of their own medicine.
Back at the house, things got a little hairy as the evening wore on. The mummy in the dining room kept turning its head to stare at people with its one goggling eye when no one was looking, and the plastic dracula hanging at the window banged at the glass, buffeted by the wind, as though trying to get in at his toothsome victims. A bowl of brain jello jiggled unappetizingly in the kitchen. The boys were playing with a sticky eyeball that rolled creepily down the walls. They tried to toss it higher up the wall, but it was difficult to aim because of the way it clung to their fingers, so they kept flinging it unintentionally into unlikely, unsettling places, such as an aunt's wrist, where it peered at us like an unfortunate growth until it was retrieved.
The tiny boy who'd been afraid of the basement had, by now, taken up a constant refrain of, "I want to go home, I want to go home." Or simply, while tugging at his mother's clothes, "GO HOME!" Sadly for him, he and his family were set to spend the night in this house of horrors. Eventually his mother took pity on him and whisked him off to one of the blessedly undecorated bedrooms upstairs.
Meanwhile, the boys with the eyeball had managed to get it stuck on a ceiling - not just any ceiling, but a vaulted 30-foot-high one. Attempts to dislodge it with a broom from the landing above only got it further stuck and smooshed. There was much conversation about the eyeball on the ceiling, and apparently sound really carries in that house, because the tiny, frightened boy summoned his mother with more wailing. What he wanted to know, when she came to his assistance, was whose eyeball was stuck to the ceiling.
"Aw," we giggled when we heard the story. "That's so cute."