Halloween. One of my favorite times of the year, October brings to mind so many fond memories. I love Halloween — the ghoulish sights and sounds, the trick or treating tomfoolery, the spooky atmosphere, watching horror movies on a rainy night in the dark, playing scary video games and so forth. I just love everything about it. Hell, Halloween is one of my favorite movies of all time. Tonight I’m proud to share three different stories all related to Halloween. So kick back, grab a cold one and enjoy…
But first, click here as the theme accompanies the text to follow:
THE NIGHT HE CAME HOME
In 1989 my uncle took me to a local mom and pop shop called Video Mart. The box art of HALLOWEEN captivated my six year old imagination. It was my favorite holiday. And I always had a thing for horror, even at six. My uncle was the cool, laid back type, so he obliged, renting the film thinking I could handle it.
I ended up watching the film largely behind my couch, and that night I had a nightmare of Michael Myers chasing me. I became a life long fan from that point on. Go figure.
There isn’t a Halloween that goes by where I don’t pop in at least one of the Halloween films. Besides, there’s something else that will forever connect me with the famed horror franchise…
So what is Halloween? For those living under a rock for the last nearly 40 years…
Made and released in 1978 on a shoestring budget, it went on to win the hearts of horror fans everywhere, plus critical acclaim. It had a classic mysterious villain, a great lead in Jamie Lee Curtis and took place in the fictional sleepy midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. And in one night, Michael Myers turned Haddonfield into his own personal bloody playground.
HUNTING THE SHAPE
Nelson and I were best buds from Kindergarten-7th grade. That’s when I moved. We reconnected in the 2000s. Over the years we’ve kept in touch and although we’re no longer best friends, we have history of over 25 years. It’s one of those things where we may go weeks or even months without contact, but whenever we get back in touch it’s like we never left.
Two months ago I decided to visit ole Nelly for the weekend so we could catch up and hang out. We set out to visit Disneyland since it was about 30 minutes away from his place. Yup, weekend at Nelly’s.
Driving on the way to Nelson’s, my heart stopped when I saw a striking neighborhood that rang some serious deja vu bells in my head. As my car rumbled on down the road I couldn’t help but burn a hole through my rear view mirror as I desperately tried to steal a glimpse at what I just drove by. Was it, could it be? No way… I passed a few traffic lights before finally pulling over. I just had to find out if my gut was right or not before heading to Nelson’s. Busted out my phone and typed into Google:
“HALLOWEEN 1978 FILMING LOCATIONS”
A website came up, and an address in South Pasadena was given. My hands were shaking as I punched said address into Google Maps.
“1.8 miles away.”
I had just drove by one of the iconic Halloween filming locations! HADDONFIELD IN THE FLESH! The Halloween super geek in me was coming out big time. What were the odds that my childhood best friend (who also loved the Halloween franchise) would turn out to live 3 miles away from “Haddonfield” ? It was a moment of true serendipity. I texted Nelson and said I’d be coming 30 minutes late. It was a personal pilgrimage I simply had to brave for myself solo first.
And this is what I found that fateful day…
After geeking out (and possibly even vlogging the moment), I drove the 3 miles over to Nelson’s. I showed him the pictures (and possibly video) I took. He was marking out too. He moved to LA about 7 months ago, but had no idea he lived 3 miles away from “Haddonfield.” Next thing you know, we’re on an impromptu trip down memory lane as we drove all over South Pasadena looking for a ton of Halloween nostalgia live in the flesh.
This is what we found that day.
Michael Myers’ house was demolished and moved to a new location. It now serves as an office. Despite the disappointment of that, Nelson and I still sat there in awe. Reminiscing and laughing about the good old days, that’s when we noticed a DirecTv satellite dish on the side of the house. We also could hear the loud humming of an air conditioner. It was a hot August day in Haddonfield… the dog days of summer, indeed. That’s when I said, “What the hell, Michael Myers watching Game of Thrones with the AC on? DUDE IS GETTING SOFT!” Nelson added in, “What’s Michael Myers doing browsing PornHub!?”
We probably shouldn’t have cracked up so hard, but we did. Nelson and I laughed up a storm until we were nearly teary eyed. Man, I hadn’t laugh that good in quite a while. A mere hour prior to this, we both just assumed we’d catch up a bit and find Mickey. Little did we know! Instead, we found ourselves reconnecting and hunting a boogeyman who has haunted us both since childhood. Suddenly, we were chasing a ghost from our past. A ghost with no face. “And the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.” (Rest in Peace, Donald Pleasence)
Each filming location foray brought me and Nelson closer to the edge of a bygone era. An age we both thought had all but disappeared. It was like slipping through the back door of a time machine. Suddenly, we were wide-eyed kids again. Unjaded and uncorrupted by the foul orders of life and growing up.
Wow. Standing there taking this pic sent goosebumps up and down my spine. The best part about this whole ordeal was the complete random unplanned nature of it all. We didn’t even know Haddonfield was right in Nelson’s backyard! It’s true — sometimes the best things in life are completely unexpected.
All in all, it was one of those epic weekends that stay with you long after the twilight of Sunday passes. Every once in a while you just need to get away from it all and have a good old fashioned adventure with your best buddy.
DOUG’S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE
October 30, 1994 is a night I’ll always remember. Halloween Eve. On this night a cartoon episode entitled Doug’s Halloween Adventure aired. Little did I know then just how much my real life Halloween adventure THE VERY NEXT NIGHT would reflect what happened in this epic episode. But more on that later…
Doug was pretty much the cartoon version of The Wonder Years, and I absolutely loved it. This episode is the best one of the Doug show, and possibly of all shows. It just fits the Halloween mood perfectly and to me epitomizes the word “adventure.” I’m proud to present a retelling of this awesome tale. Enjoy.
It all started a LOOONG time ago, when the powerful Baron Von Hecklehoffer fell in love with a beautiful maiden. To win her love, he built a gigantic mansion. It took him seventeen looong years, but he did it.
Finally, on the day they got married, he brought his new bride to the house.
He forgot to put in a floor.
And ever since they plunged to their horrible bloody deaths there’s been a CURSE on the house.
And few have dared to enter it. OH SURE, there were people who said they didn’t believe in haunted houses, at least until they crossed…
THE THRESHOLD OF DEATH!
Let’s just say — they never stayed too long…
That is… no one living…
… Until one day, a scary hooded guy, whose face nobody ever saw, decided to put the house to better use…
And right in the middle of the park is the scariest ride ever – a ride through a real haunted house — BLOODSTONE MANOR! MWAHAHAHAHA!
“And tonight is the grand opening, and you and I are going in! Cool, huh?!”
You know, Halloween is usually my most favorite holiday.
Free candy, spooky pumpkins and costumes, but this year was a little different. This year Skeeter was making me go to the grand opening of the scariest ride ever made.
I was hoping maybe I wouldn’t be TOO scared, because I was going as somebody really great — RACE CANYON.
“HA! I made it. The infamous Bloodstone Manor!”
“Not so fast, Doctor Canyon. Are you ready to cross the Threshold of Death?”
*Doug whips a rope around the neck of the hooded guy*
“What’s the matter, big boy? You look… whipped!”
“Nice going, Doug!”
“No problem, Doctor Canyon.”
“Oh, and nice outfit.”
*Doug slides down the stairs*
“Awww, is little Dougie dressed up to go twick-or-tweeting?”
“No Judy, I’m going to Bloodstone Manor. You get in free if you wear a costume.”
“Bloodstone Manor?!? I hear that’s unbelievably terrifying!”
“It’s just a ride, Judy. How scary can it be?”
Find out tonight at Funky Town when Bloodstone Manor opens its doors to give you the scare of your life — or DEATH! Wear a costume and get in free. But once you cross the Threshold, there’s NO turning back!
“Trick or treating? But Doug, I thought we were going to ride Bloodstone Manor?”
“You’re not gonna pass up free candy, are ya, man?”
“But there’s gonna be HUGE lines if we don’t get to Funky Town early! We might NOT get on!”
“That’d be terrible… well, I guess we better get started trick or treating.”
“Uh, Doug, don’t you think we’re a bit too old for trick or treating?”
“Naw, you’re never too old for free candy.”
“8 o’clock! C’mon man! Let’s get to Funky Town! We only got two hours!”
Two hours? How much longer could I stall? We already been around the neighborhood twice.
“I told you we’d scare the pants off them! You should have seen your faces. So, who are you two supposed to be? A hobo and a bath tub?”
“No, man. I’m a spaceship from Space Munks, you know, the video game! And he’s Race Canyon.”
“HA! Oh brother! YOU’RE Race Canyon? More like… Race CHICKEN!”
“Hey Roger, let’s see how brave Race Chicken is!”
“Yeah, he can be the first one to TP Mr. Bone’s house!”
“C’mon Race, let’s see you in action.”
“But Roger, we can’t do this.”
“I am not chicken, it’s just — ”
“Then DO IT why don’t cha?”
Who was I kidding? How was I gonna cross the Threshold of Death when I didn’t even have the nerve to TP a house?
“C’mon Doug we gotta go!”
“I can’t, Skeeter. I’m sorry but…”
“What do I need that hat for anyhow? I’m no Race Canyon.”
“Hey guys, whacha doin’? Trick or treating?”
“Naw uh! No way, no, nope, no…”
“Yeah, me neither. My dad’s taking me to Bebe’s costume party. Cool costumes. Are you some sort of spaceship, Skeeter?”
“And you, Doug, you look like — ”
“I know, I know. A hobo.”
“Actually I was going to say Race Canyon, but without the hat.”
“You really think so?”
“Yeah! If you were a little taller, I’d say you were the spitting image!”
“I’ll handle this. BEAT IT!”
“Say Patty, I don’t suppose you and your dad could drop us off at Bloodstone Manor? Gotta cross the Threshold of Death.”
“All right, man!”
*GET YOURSELF TO FUNKY TOWN!*
“I can’t believe it. You guys are going to Bloodstone Manor, and you’re not scared?”
“Of course not.”
“Well I am! I’d never go on it after what happened to those two guys.”
“Well, you can’t let a little — two guys, what two guys?”
“Yeah, they say when they were testing it, two workers rode in, but the only thing that came out… were THEIR SHOES! MWAHAHAHAHA!”
“Daddy! Stop it.”
“Well, you can’t believe everything, who told you this?”
“Skeeter. See ya!”
“What’s this about shoes?”
“Oh they’re just rumors, man. Like that stuff about the maniac.”
“Maniac?! What do you mean, maniac!?”
“Well they say the guy in the hood, you know the guy who bought the house and brought it here, some people think he’s STILL in there.”
“You can’t believe every — oh maaan! Look at that line. Eight-thirty. Oh that’s just great!”
*75 minutes later*
“Nine forty-five. Fifteen minutes til it closes. We’re almost there!”
“Step all the way into the strange realm of the supernatural. Abandon all ye food or drinks”
“What’s happening?! Can you see!?”
“Well, if it ain’t Chicken Boy and Bath Tub, thanks for saving my place!”
“We didn’t — ”
“Attention everybody, the park is now closing.”
“Hey, we still got fifteen minutes!”
“Why don’t you go to the gift shop. I’m outta here!”
“You guys thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Roger, the guy says they’re closed.”
“Who, that loser? We still got fifteen minutes. We’re within our legal rights.”
“I dunno, Roger…”
“He’s right, man. We still have fifteen minutes before the park closes up.”
“Alright then. Let’s do this….”
“Welcome. I have a special treat in store for… TRESPASSERS. As you can see, there’s no way out of this room, except for…
“Ooooh man, now what are we gonna do?”
“Easy, Roger. There’s nothing to be — ”
“You’ve crossed the Threshold of Death. There’s no turning back now.
I see you found the dining room…
*TICK TOCK TICK TOCK*
And I see by the grandfather clock it’s time to eat. Sit down, SIT DOWN! You don’t want your food to get cold, do you?”
“I’m not so sure I feel hungry…”
“I thought you might enjoy a small salad!”
*Ride comes to a screeching halt*
“Hey! What’s going on?”
“What is it, Skeet?”
“Wait a minute, Roger. I’m sure we can find a way out somewhere if we just don’t panic.”
“Hey man, it looks like there’s some stairs leading down!”
“NO WAY, I ain’t going NOWHERE!”
“Oh c’mon Roger, quit kidding.”
“Wait, Doug! Don’t leave!”
“What is it, Roger?”
“Did you hear something? I thought I heard something.”
“We’re getting outta here. We’ll find somebody to get this ride going again.”
*Doug and Skeeter set off while Roger stays back*
*10 minutes later*
“That must be Roger over there, c’mon Doug!”
“I think I may be scared now…”
“HELP ME! DOUG! SKEETER!”
“What are we gonna do, Doug?”
“Where IS everybody? You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“No Skeeter. We can’t leave Roger behind. We gotta go back.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“AHHH! W-W-We were just looking for our friend, sir, and we think… he might be here in your… lovely home?”
“Your friend is NOT here. GET OUT!”
“Yes sir. Thank you sir. C’mon Doug. You heard the nice maniac… Roger’s not here.”
“C’mon guys! This way!”
“Skeet! That’s Roger!”
“No, man! It just sounds like him. C’mon!”
What was I doing? Running away like a little chicken, just like before. Leaving Roger at a time like this.
“Doug! What are YOU doing?”
“Excuse me, sir, we’re not leaving without Roger.”
“Over here, you morons! Alright, when I see them coming I’ll shout TRICK or TREAT, and then you guys CREAM them, got it?”
“Roger’s outside, but how?”
*Maniac hits rewind*
“Those goons. I bet they think I’m a chicken. AH HA! Well, we’ll JUST see who’s the chicken!”
“So he tricked us!”
“… That rat! We go through all this trouble and now we get EGGED.”
“Hey! Can it! They’ll be out soon. I wonder what’s taking those guys so long?”
“Shut up Boomer!”
“I didn’t say anything, Roger.”
“What the — ! Y-Y-Y-You’re….”
“WE’RE GHOSTS, THAT’S WHAT!”
“You got that right! Ch-ch-chicken! Don’t haunt me, Doug! I’ll do anything!”
“IT WAS ROTTEN OF YOU TO TP ALL THOSE HOUSES.”
“We’ll clean them up, honest! All of them!”
“Oh yeah, I mean, don’t worry about that. We’ll clean them up!”
“Yeah sure sure, whatever you say!”
“Did you see their faces?”
“Yeah man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them run so fast!”
“Boy, and we couldn’t have done it without you, sir.”
“… W-W-Wha’d’ya say we head home, Skeet?”
“S-S-Sounds good, man.”
Tonight, I think I did Race Canyon proud. Not only was I brave enough to cross the Threshold of Death, but I even went back to save Roger.
I wonder if Race Canyon ever had to run all the way home?
STEVE’S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE
The very next night I experienced the Halloween of a lifetime. It’s a true story that I’ve shared probably over 100 times. It was one of the greatest nights of my life. A storybook-like Halloween that not even Hollywood could script any better.
Growing up I never met a single kid who didn’t look forward to this particular night. It’s the time of the year where the days grow short, and the nights grow LONG. A night where goblins roam the streets, where the moon reigns supreme, and where the clamor of sneakers crunching the gravel can be heard in the passing of the howling wind.
As a kid I had a dream. It was a simple dream. I was a simple boy. I always dreamt of having one memorable Halloween for the ages. Now I don’t know what I did to piss off the Halloween gods, or druids, but for Halloween ’91, ’92 and ’93 I was sick to the point that I couldn’t go out. Thus, I missed out on Halloween when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old. Time was running out. I still had yet to experience THAT ONE Halloween I could call my own. So that year, 1994, I didn’t care if I came down with Malaria. Not even Mother Nature’s wrath could stop me THIS year.
My best friend, Nelson, spent the past three Halloweens with his cousins. Me getting sick around Halloween time had become… tradition. So every year I told Nelson to forget about me and go crazy. That backfired in ’94 when I realized he had already made plans with his cousins out of town. He invited me, but believe it or not, I declined my best friend’s offer. Why?
My cousins lived in a grand neighborhood. It was full of two story houses shoulder to shoulder — a never ending army of steamrollers. Houses decked to the nine. The Halloween atmosphere in this neighborhood was off the chain. I remember it well from 1990 — the last time I was able to go trick or treating. I was determined to return to that majestic neighborhood for Halloween 1994. It was a strong feeling in my gut — I just knew I HAD to be there. I didn’t know what would happen. I just knew I needed to be there on that night.
HALLOWEEN NIGHT 1994
My cousin Vivian picked me up and drove me to her place. There I met her cousin, John. Like me, he was 11, so we hit it off quickly. And with an air of mystique in the, er, air, and the moon out in full force… it was grounds for a perfect night of Halloween mischief.
All of my cousins had Halloween parties to go to, so they left me and John to our own devices. It was 8 PM. The night was young. And the night was now ours to rule.
The first house an old man opened the door and in the background I heard:
Dun dun dun dun… DUNT DUNT… DA DUNT!
His living room was lit only by the glow of the television, whose flickering images made shadows dance against the wall like primitive tribal warriors.
The old man dropped Snickers and Skittles into our Halloween bags. “My Packers kickin’ some butt tonight. You two have a good one now, you hear.”
A couple houses later, we were walking up the steps casually when a flying corpse blindsided us from out of nowhere! John and I jumped back as we watched the corpse swing back and forth. A laugh came from behind the black curtain, which draped the entire porch. A man in his late 20s peered out from behind the curtain and waved to me and John. “GOTCHA!” He grabbed his corpse on a rope and reset it to its original starting point.
He showed us the small hole he’d cut in the black curtain to prey on poor unsuspecting trick or treaters. Said we were his first victims of the night. We shared a hearty laugh while he passed out the candy. Then he spotted some new blood quickly approaching.
“Alright boys, if you don’t mind, I best be getting back to my command center! Thanks for… dropping by! MWAHAHAHA!”
I watched as he ran up the steps and behind the thick black curtain, which was impossible to see from far away in the dark of night. I remember smirking to myself thinking that’s certainly ONE way to stay young! And that meeting him was like meeting a zany Wizard of Oz or rather, a Wizard of Halloween Town.
STEP RIGHT UP…
John and I were just trick-or-treating and having a good time being carefree kids on this most mystical of nights.
We made sure to point out all the macabre decorations, of which, ON THIS NIGHT, in this neighborhood, there were hundreds. Once again this neighborhood lived up to the hype. It WAS Halloween Town. Part of the fun of trick or treating is seeing all the houses decorated to the nine. And we were not disappointed on that night.
An hour flew by. It was now 9 PM. We were standing here when, suddenly, we heard a scream in the not too far distance. “The hell is that!” I said excitedly. We ran the next block over with great hope. There we found a cul-de-sac.
At the very end of the court stood a towering 2-story house that looked like it jumped out of a horror movie. John and I looked at each other in bewilderment as we made our way to the ghostly abode. Upon reaching the driveway, I heard something I’d never forget…
The blood curling shriek sent a chill up and down my spine. Next to me stood a monstrous executioner. “What is this?” We pointed to the line of kids just ahead of us on the driveway.
“Welcome to the Johnsons’ Haunted House!!!” he bellowed, his shiny ax gleaming on his broad shoulder in the faint glow of the street lamp. “Free of charge but beware… once you go in… there’s NO GOING OUT! MWAHAHAHA!”
John and I grinned at one another and hi-fived. Wow, a haunted house! And free, too! Neither of us had been to one before, and I’d always wanted to. This was turning out to be THE perfect night…
As we waited in line my imagination ran away. I thought back to last night — Doug’s Halloween Adventure. Was this a ride? No, it’s only a 2-story house, silly. My mind was racing a million miles a minute. I never felt so alive before.
Moments later, I glanced up. One window was lit under the glow of the moon. More screaming came from the garage. It was so intensely atmospheric, and to an 11-year-old, it was pure Heaven! There was a raw rush of adrenaline flowing throughout my body, and you could cut the anticipation in the air. All of us kids standing in line there that night were psyched to the gills!
8 minutes later John and I found ourselves at the gate. The night was so pitch black I couldn’t even make out my own hand in front of my face. The gate door creaked open with a loud sound effect. A light mist splashed its way into my eyes. In the near distance a loud chainsaw was buzzing. I wondered, “If I take four steps forward, would my head get chopped off?”
We forged on ahead, spider web tangling in our hair. Taking a turn on our left to the garage door entrance, we followed an S curve. Strobe light hit us from every which angle, and horror movie icons flashed in the darkness at all turns! Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and big ol’ Leatherface all on hand! And they were authentic. The knife Myers held was real, as was the chainsaw wielded by Leatherface.
Near the end a large trash can lid had a note scribbled across it…
“WARNING: REMOVE THIS LID AND DIE!!!”
John gave me the honors. So then, in the strobe-lit madness, with a ghoulish soundtrack playing loudly in the garage, I popped the lid open and out jumped a werewolf! For amateurs, the whole setup was unbelievable, full of first rate costumes, props and creativity. BRAVO, JOHNSONS!
Finally we made our way through the garage door, leading to their living room, which led to the front entrance where the haunted house trip concluded with candy. John and I were absolutely THRILLED. We thanked the Johnsons for their awesome efforts. Never in a million years did I ever imagine anything like this would happen…
ONE FINAL THRILL
John and I were walking the streets now, trick-or-treating some more and talking excitedly about what we just went through. Did we pick the right neighborhood or what! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more eventful… IT DID.
It was 9:45 now and the streets became incredibly dark. Everyone was gone. No more trick-or-treaters in sight. I looked up at the huge 2 story houses that lined the streets like an army of steamrollers. All the lights were now switched off. It was odd. It was… eerie. Like a ghost town. The mist started to roll in… it was getting to be that kind of night…
John and I were walking down this long dark street when, out of the mist, came these five taller and older boys. They must have been 13 or 14 years old.
Looking back, we probably should have turned the other way, but that night of Halloween 1994 we didn’t. Both parties kept walking toward one another… until we came face-to-face. The one in the middle was evidently the leader as he walked slightly ahead.
He stepped up to me and John. The five of them stared the two of us down.
Then, without warning, the leader snatched John’s candy bag!
The bullies laughed, hi-fived one another and jogged off into the dark night.
I’ll never forget that look on John’s face. A look of hopelessness, a look of devastation.
Two hours’ worth… gone. Like that *snap fingers*
I peered down that long dark street into the mist. By now the bullies were getting smaller and smaller until I could barely make them out.
I stared back at John once more. He was still frozen in a state of dead shock. Then, without saying a word, I dropped my bag and sprinted after the bullies. I snapped. I didn’t really think about it, but between seeing the violated look on his face, the adrenaline coursing through my body, and the INJUSTICE of it all, something inside me SNAPPED.
And the weirdest thing happened as I ran. Everything around me blurred. I became the only concrete object amidst an army of gorgeous 2 story houses. I saw myself running in third person… saw the moment happening from BEHIND MY BACK.
I had an out-of-body experience.
As I closed in on the unsuspecting bully, I swiped back John’s bag. I stood there with the bag firmly in my grasp as the lead bully whipped around to face me.
Another staredown ensued. It lasted 20 seconds, but felt more like 20 nights.
By now his goons came over and it was five of them all glaring at me. I didn’t know what was going to happen, quite frankly, at that moment I didn’t care. All I knew was, I wasn’t going to be the first one to blink. I stood my ground. Stared back at them. Come hell or high water, I wasn’t about to back down.
I matched him eyeball for eyeball. His painted pirate-y face against my cheap Walgreens $1.99 white skeleton mask. And when it was over, only one glare was left standing, and it wasn’t his.
Easing off, he signaled for his cronies to follow suit… and they left. Not a single word was ever exchanged between us.
I watched them disappear into the mist of the night as John caught up to me, huffing and puffing.
I handed him his bag. We didn’t say anything. Not because we had nothing to say, but because we knew nothing needed to be said. We just stood there, two 11-year-old boys, in the middle of one of the blackest nights I’d ever seen.
There isn’t a Halloween that passes where I don’t think back to that fateful night in ’94. I remember it vividly today as though it happened just last month. Finally, I experienced the Halloween I always wanted. But in my wildest dreams growing up, I never imagined it’d be what it turned out to be. It was the greatest Halloween a kid could ever ask or hope for.
EPILOGUE + THE SEQUEL (HALLOWEEN 1995)
My cousins moved from that great neighborhood many years ago… about 20, in fact, circa ’97. It was pretty much my second home growing up. In 1995 I met up with John again, both of us looking to reclaim the magic of the Halloween before. We had a blast in ’95. It was my second favorite Halloween and a worthy sequel indeed. We trick or treated in the same neighborhood, but sadly the Johnsons were not able to do their traditional haunted house this year. Something about their sons not coming home from college in time, I recall. Still, John and I told the parents how much their haunted house last year meant to us. In turn, they told us they did it for kids like us… that they were only doing what they could to make Halloween extra special for at least one kid. Hey… I can think of at least two. And I’m sure the Johnsons have created fond Halloween memories for dozens and dozens of lucky young trick-or-treaters. God Bless them. More on them a bit later.
After we circled the neighborhood once or twice, my cousins took us to the local haunted house. It was my first taste of the “REAL” thing. What a HIGH that proved to be. When you’re 12, it’s Heaven. We were a group of seven. Going down one dimly-lit hallway, out of nowhere Michael Myers appeared and chased us down the hallway and into the next room before disappearing back in the shadows. Being stalked by my all-time favorite villain was a nightmare come true. The first time I saw the original Halloween in 1989, I dreamt that night Myers was stalking me. Six years later, 1995, that nightmare became reality!
Halloween ’95 was a worthy sequel indeed, but as great as it was, the original (’94) was that much better.
In October of 2003 I shared my Halloween ’94 adventure in college for my public speaking class. My professor loved my story and speaking style so much that she asked me to share that same story later that month at a night workshop for beginning storytellers. I gladly obliged, and had a blast sharing my story with a room full of freshmen. Because it was at night and closer to Halloween, it made my story that much more effective. In all, I’ve probably shared my Halloween ’94 story at least 50 times, easily.
H10 — HALLOWEEN ONE DECADE LATER
TEN YEARS LATER… I returned to that same ole neighborhood. I went trick or treating with my (at the time) girlfriend, and guess what I discovered…
The Johnsons STILL live there and they STILL do the Halloween haunted house! Every year, in fact. I nearly ran up to the end of the line! I felt like a little 11-year-old kid again (I was 21 at the time).
It was surreal going through it ten years later. As Mr. and Mrs. Johnson handed me a Snickers bar at the exit, I told them I was a 11 year-old-kid 10 years ago who loved it so much. They almost fell over! We talked for 10 minutes. About the haunted house, about how the S-curve was first implemented in 1994, about the neighborhood… about LIFE.
It was SO good to know some things in life stay the same. In an era where people move often and stop doing traditions — those damn Johnsons still live in that gorgeous neighborhood… and every Halloween… they recreate the magic for kids… kids like John and me… kids who I hope will experience the kind of night we did on that fateful Halloween of ’94.
Six years went by. It was now 2010. On a whim, I decided to take a trip to Kenya for a missions trip. I was passing out pledge letters and decided what the hell, I’ll stop by the old neighborhood and see if the Johnsons are still there. They were, but Bill had passed away due to cancer. I didn’t know him per se, but the news crushed me. On the bright side, Becky and I got to reconnect, and we keep in touch even to this day. Most recently, she retired after over 30 years of teaching, and we met up for lunch this past summer to catch up and talk about life, Bill, Halloween and such. There isn’t a Halloween that passes where I don’t think of Bill and Becky. I’m grateful our paths crossed.
I will always love this time of the year. The crisp cool October night air. The falling leaves. The days growing shorter and the nights growing longer. Halloween will always hold a very special spot in my heart. It’s given me some great memories over the years, and who doesn’t enjoy snuggling up with a bowl of popcorn and a horror movie on a rainy night?
This year marks the 22nd anniversary of one of the greatest nights of my life. Life is crazy. The lady in the haunted house — Becky Johnson — who knew meeting a random stranger on a night 22 years ago would lead to a lifelong friendship? One of these days Becky and I have to recreate the haunted house. In the memory and honor of Bill Johnson. Perhaps Halloween 2017.
Whatever you end up doing this year, I hope you have fun, stay safe and create some fond memories. Oh, and one more thing…