Hallowe’en

pumpkin

How do you feel about Hallowe’en? Do you dress as a ghoul and bob for apples? Maybe you wonder how ancient festivals to frighten away spirits have been so completely overtaken by commercial exploitation of children and their parents. Perhaps you worry that celebrating Halloween can tempt people into worship of the occult. Or maybe you’re a pumpkin grower, happy to make good money selling ninety nine percent of your pumpkins to people who don’t care what they taste like because they just want to carve it up and throw away the tasty bit in the middle.

When (and where) I was growing up, Hallowe’en was no big deal. There was no trick or treating (aka demands with menace), no spurting fake blood or enormous packs of spooktacular sweets. Hallowe’en was about ghosts and scary things. We thought it enormous fun to jump out from dark shadows to frighten each other and sometimes gathered in dimly lit rooms to whisper tales of ghosts and spirits until we were too scared to leave the room alone. But that was about it.

I confess that I have no carved pumpkins sitting on my doorstep ready for this evening and I’m not going to wear my clothes inside out and walk backwards in the hope of meeting a witch. We could of course turn down the lights and sit in the flickering light of candles telling tales of ghostly apparitions as we wait for shadowy footsteps to halt outside the door. It wouldn’t be unknown in this house.

One evening, when my parents-in-law lived here, they heard someone coming up the three steps that lead up from the side door. They weren’t expecting anyone to call round that evening so Father-in-law went to see who it was. There was nobody in the hallway. Nor any of the other rooms. He checked the outside door to see if it was locked and sure enough, the key was turned and the bolts across. How mysterious. That wasn’t the only time the footsteps were heard as Mother-in-law heard them again and though she’s not the sort of person to have fanciful notions, she could find no logical explanation.

When we first moved here, I occasionally noticed a peculiar smell when I walked into a room; a mixture of tobacco and something else that I couldn’t work out. Nobody in the house smokes, nor had done for the previous thirty years, so it seemed odd but not spooky.  I’m sure there’s an obvious reason – maybe a mouse had died under the floorboards or something like that. Have I heard the footsteps on the stairs? Well, it’s an old house so there are often noises that are hard to pinpoint, but no, I haven’t heard the footsteps.

However, one day I opened the kitchen door to go through and stopped dead in my tracks because someone was standing just the other side of the doorway. For a split second I was convinced that someone or something was blocking my way, even though I couldn’t see them. It was probably just a trick of the light, but the kitchen door does stand at the top of the steps that lead from the side door, so you never know …

24 thoughts on “Hallowe’en

  1. Jane says:

    Ooooooh 🙂 Halloween was pretty much non-existent when I was a kid, but in recent years there has been a more commercial push for it here and of course the kids get excited about the idea of dressing up and getting lollies. We have managed to avoid it mostly, although I was nearly coerced into taking Clem out tonight… when he had a croaky voice and sniffle after school I convinced him he’s be better off with a quiet night at home and a block of chocolate! Yes, bribery won the day. I don’t know, it just seems ‘un-Australian’. Besides, it’s late spring and stays light until about 8pm so, not very spooky!

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      When it gets dark by 5pm it certainly is far more spooky. I think it’s a big commercial ruse to make us spend more money and the reason it’s taken over from Bonfire Night here is because the sale of fireworks is so restricted so the retailers can’t make big money from them any more.

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  2. Christina says:

    Spooky! I try to avoid Halloween but have no chance because of the 4 children. We forgot to buy a pumpkin (failing to grow our own) and now they are sold out! I had a similar experience once in Tasmania when visiting friends on a farm. I was convinced someone was standing in my way when going to the loo in the night. But there was nobody. I was spooked but I think it might have been myself reflected in a mirror. Maybe not though. Happy Halloween. Christina

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  3. Jane @ Shady Baker says:

    Your home sounds like it has an interesting history Anne! As for Halloween…a few years ago I don’t remember hearing much about it at all. Now there are Halloween parties, hideous costumes, cheap treats…the list goes on. I am actively avoiding the whole thing 🙂

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  4. nanacathy2 says:

    Spooky! As a child Halloween was a non event. We all waited for mischief night on 4 November. Great fun and very little yobbish behaviour.
    Now I love that supervised children have fun, but hate that the elderly are scared by louts demanding, threatening”treats” and vandalizing property with egg throwing and flour bombing. We live at the end of a dark lane and so aren’t troubled by ne’er do wells and if a child with parent dares to come up the lane with its real life bats and owls then there is a treat awaiting them.

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  5. sally says:

    I grew up in the UK in the sixties and dont remember anything about Halloween, it was always remember remember the 5th on November, and stories of Dads taking out an eye cos they were impatient when checking whether or not their attempt to light the the Catherine Wheel had been successful!

    But people dont do bonfire night in the same way now and not at all here in Australia. Until recently I dont recall Holloween being such a big deal here, it was more of an American thing, but today at my local Woolies all the check out chicks were dressed up and half the customers, it seems to appeal mostly to women and not always young ones which surprises me somehow, but I suspect I am a bit old school.

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      It was always about Bonfire Night wasn’t it? Well, certainly in the south. Someone described Halloween as “the selfish festival” – Christmas and Easter are about buying presents and eggs for other people as part of the celebration but at Halloween it’s just about buying costumes for me, me me.
      Kind of summed it up for me.

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  6. Cynthia says:

    When I was a kid, in the US, children 10 and under dressed up, usually in homemade costumes and ” trick or treated” in their immediate neighborhoods. Some people had jack o ‘ lanterns on their porches. That was it. I don’t know how or why Halloween has become such a big deal. Commercialism? Probably. I think it’s gotten grotesque. Some people here go all out, throwing parties, wearing costumes… Even decorating their houses. Others, a lot of us, have become disgusted by the zombies and the ‘darkness’ of it and have given it up altogether.

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  7. Glenda says:

    Hi Anne, Halloween was never big in Australia but, as Jane mentioned, it has made an appearance in recent years. I was bitching about it to a friend and complaining about how American culture was making its way here when she informed me Halloween was also celebrated in England. So what do I know? Great post BTW

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  8. dianeskitchentable says:

    How cool to live in a potentially haunted house – maybe whoever is hanging around could help with the chores. Great story.
    Here in the US, Halloween is fun when you have kids – I used to love making costumes for my daughter & her friends – but not so much fun when your own kids are grown & you have lines of strange children ringing the bell half the night. We live on a cul de sac so people from all over just love to drive their kids up in a van & dump them at the bottom of the street so they can grab as much candy as possible. It used to be when I was young & my daughter would trick or treat that we were only allowed to go to a few house of people we knew.
    In our old house we were close friends with the next door neighbors & her kids wanted to sneak over & make scary noises under our window. She told them sure but as soon as they left, she called us to warn us they were coming & asked us to hide around the corner of the house & hit them with the garden hose. What a riot – we could hear them crashing through the bushes so didn’t have a hard time zeroing in on them & when they got sprayed boy did they run, screaming “Mom, called her!”

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  9. Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse says:

    “More things in heaven and earth, Horatio…” – more true than one might like to think. To be treated with some respect & caution, I have found. I feel Hallowe’en should really be about the Hallows whose day it is tomorrow not ghouls & fake blood but I love pumpkins anyway so any excuse for them whether in the cooking or as lanterns or both! Happy All Hallows’ Eve! E x

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  10. Margot @ Gather and Graze says:

    We got to experience two Halloweens while living in the USA and they really were a great deal of fun! We lived in an old historic neighbourhood, where the locals went to great measures to decorate the front facades of their homes. Our two boys will have memories of those nights forever! The only downside is the crazy amount of candy that get dished out and collected – really unnecessary and such a shame that the trick part of ‘Trick or Treating’ seems to have gone out the window… Here in our house in Canberra last night, we received not one trick or treater! Almost a little disappointed… 😉

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  11. Annie says:

    I love a spooky story or two!

    My aunt and her family lived for many years in a very ancient house that they had bought as a rather tumbledown affair and rennovated. Immediately to the side of the house was a cobbled way that led to both a gate into their cobbled yard – which contained a still working pump over a well that had once served the whole of the small hamlet – and another house a little further from the road. If you sat in either of the rooms that abutted the cobbled way in the late evening you would sometimes hear someone hurrying home along the cobbbles to the other house … which hadn’t been inhabited for over fifty years and was missing its roof. There really was no one there … you could see that from one of the bedrooms … assuming of course that the person left downstairs was truthfully reporting the exact moment that they heard this invisible person. But anyone who lived or stayed in that house heard those footsteps sooner or later, myself included.

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  12. Fiona says:

    Halloween doesn’t rate a mention in our parts thankfully, and with nearest neighbour many kilometres away there’s little chance of drop-ins for treats. I did enjoy your spooky story though, gave me goosebumps. Hope all is well in your part of the world.

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  13. e / dig in hobart says:

    oooh, great story! halloween is not an australian tradition rooted in our cultural or social history, as it is in the northern hemisphere. here it’s a commerical thing where people dress up and have parties and kids trick or treat, but i tend to see it as an import, with no cultural significance. so bah hubag from me 🙂

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  14. Jenni Livingston says:

    Halloween has polarised Australians and so I enjoy hearing about the traditions elsewhere. Thank you Anne. My partner is Greek and his family brought their practices to Australia. Children must go to sleep that night with the sheet over their heads to avoid being piddled upon by the evil spirits out and about for one night only. The consequences were never spelled out because everyone kept under the sheets…

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      I would definitely have kept under the sheets too! I love the fact that there are so many different traditions around the world, but worry that in the end they’ll get lost as life gets more global.

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