Halloween Memories: A Mangled Matters Celebration Pt. 1

On a chilly and damp morning in the middle of October, with only a lucky thirteen days before the coolest holiday on the calendar is upon us, we begin our trip down memory lane with some of the most creative independent artists on the horror scene. 

What follows is the first of a two-part post where some of my closest horror junkie buddies share their most cherished memories of the day that celebrates anything and everything weird and creepy!

So come on, grab a cup of cider, plop down wherever there’s room and get comfy.  Don’t mind the pumpkin guts on the coffee table.  On the menu, the breakfast of champions- Jiffy Pop and a few buckets of trick or treat goodness being passed around. 

Let’s get started…

What Is Your Favorite Memory Of Halloween?

Steve Mezo (reviewer, blogger, horror aficionado):

From the time I was five years old, Halloween has to be my favorite holiday ever.  I get to dress up as whatever I want, hang body parts and skeletons all over the place, watch horror movies all day, buy monster cereals and lots of monster mask!  Okay, so I do that every day anyway… but I don’t get weird looks when I do it in October.

I know other kids are all about Christmas, but my birthday is ten days before it and report cards always came the day before Christmas Vacation… So Halloween became my number one real fast.

When I was four years old, the first Halloween costume I ever picked was a skeleton. This sounds cool and all but the thing is it freaked me out so bad out of the package, I wouldn’t wear it. So I wound up sitting that Halloween out.

But when I was five, that’s when I got to start a tradition that lasted for five years and gave me some of the best Halloween memories ever.

Now, that lousy December birthday I told you about earlier actually worked to my advantage, because of me not being five by sign up I didn’t start  school until I was six.  And this gave me the chance to really celebrate my first full day of Halloween.

My mother worked from six to two in the afternoon during the week so my Aunt Vera would watch after me those days.  Once a month, Aunt Vera would visit her mother at the nursing home.  This was also when I got my Famous Monsters magazines and Horror Comics from the paper store nearby.  The people there were really cool and I could never get enough of hearing all of the cool war stories and how it was growing up back when they were kids and they totally rocked Halloween!  Even if it was just them getting a simple costume made of pieces, they were happy to be celebrating it.

So my Aunt Vera thought it would be fun to go in costume to visit her mom.  She was a Halloween Witch and I was one of the Soldier Gorillas from Planet of The Apes.

Aunt Vera and a young Steve Mezo, monkeying around

When we got there everybody loved it and we were total rock stars!  The nurses asked my Aunt Vera if we could stop by a few rooms.  She said yes, and it was so cool seeing everybody light up as we wished them a Happy Halloween.

After that we took the bus back home, met up with my cousin Ellen and she drove us to The Old Wagon Wheel Farm.  It was an apple orchard and every October they would have hot and cold cider, hot chocolate, story time, “Mr. George” playing the piano, a petting zoo and the “Pumpkin Family”.  The Pumpkin Family were scarecrows propped up in chairs with pumpkins for heads, and a few ladies behind the backdrop that you couldn’t see would do the voices for them on a P.A. system.  But it was the coolest thing ever three years straight!!!

After that it was back to town to visit The Filkin’s Halloween Castle.  Mr. and Mrs. Filkin were a really nice older couple that knew most of the kids in town didn’t have much and would have the ultimate trick or treat along the front walkway of their house.

You would get on line going up to their house then you would walk past tables with all kinds of boxes of cool dime store Halloween toys and get one of each.  At the end of the tables, you would get a goodie bag of candy and a cup of cider.
 

The house was a adobe style, but to us kids it was a castle on the bay.  The Filkins passed away years ago and the home has gone through a few owners, but it’s still there putting a smile on my face every October when I drive by it.

The legendary Filkins’ Trick Or Treat Hall

Then to top the whole day off, my mother took me Trick – or – Treating after work all over town.  Now, the town is only a mile by a mile, but when your five it was like walking all over the entire state of New Jersey.  Even though I had a pillowcase three quarters of the way full of candy, I was pretty much done with Trick – or Treating. The main reason for that is I’m not much of a candy eater.

There were always It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and Mad Monster Party since the 1960’s.  But in 1976, Paul Lynde had a Halloween special with KISS, The Wicked Witch of The West and Witchepoo from H.R. Puff n Stuff.  Then there were all the cartoons and television shows doing Halloween Specials and episodes all October.

Halloween memories just got better from there, like the time my wife (then girlfriend) dressed as a Playboy Bunny for Halloween and we went to five Backyard Haunts in one night.  

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 Char Hardin (reviewer, horror fanatic, podcast maestro)

Outside, it’s art in motion as the trees have started to shed their shades of green for amber, red and gold tones.  Pumpkins and scarecrows are popping up in yards and on front porches all throughout my subdivision and there is a nip in the early morning air.  Fall is sweeping away the last days of Summer and I can’t help but smile…Fall is my favorite time of year.  My friend Marie Lynn and I agree fall means “pumpkins” and HALLOWEEN!

For the past 15 years, my daughter and I dress up and go Trick or Treating in the big subdivision behind ours and have a good time.  All this time, I just assumed we would do it again this year, but I have been forewarned she is going out with boyfriend and their friends.  It will be my first Halloween without her and I am little sad.  So, when this opportunity came to talk about my favorite Halloween, I told my mother about the topic and she cracked up.  She surprised me with one her favorites because it was one we shared and then she laughed when I told her the other one of mine.  Hers was the Halloween she had a funeral in the den, when we lived on Central Boulevard and mine was the day a Witch came to Moffat Road Baptist Church’s Kindergarten Halloween Party.  A funeral at Halloween?  Witch in a BAPTIST CHURCH?  What the hell?  I should warn you about the giggles that will come from reading this story.  Even as a child, it was never boring around the Hardin’s house.

Funeral at Central Boulevard

The year was 1974 and I was four years old.  My mother was a hair dresser and my dad was a fireman, we had a pit-bull named Duchess (until she bit the music director’s son in the butt…another story for another occasion) and I was an only child allergic to EVERYTHING!  I spent most of my early years indoors, but it was that magical night, when I could be a witch and dress up and wear make-up and go door-to-door collecting peanut butter chews for daddy, Milky Way bars for my mother and what in the heck could I eat…bubble gum and sweet tarts!  Well, this is where my memory gets fuzzy, but according mom this is what happened.

My cousin Mike was a TALL guy and he was totally cool.  He loved KISS and it’s from him, that I got my love for the band and their music.  He was also a huge fan of horror.  So when my mom called him and asked if he would like to attend a funeral at our house, he said, “I don’t know what you are planning Aunt Pat, but I am in!”  His sister Leslie came with her little sister Jenny and took Jenny and I trick or treating, while Mom and Mike set up the “funeral”.  She dressed him in a suit and teased his hair and had it standing up and sprayed the mess out of it.  He did his own make-up and they put one of her old wooden tables in the den and propped him up on top of it.  She had chamber music playing and lit candles.

When we got back, he was laid out and since his sisters were used to Mike being weird, they walked right past him.  I didn’t understand what was going on and started to cry.  I ran to him and put my head on his hand and he sat up and I screamed!  He scared the snot out of me and he felt bad, but he apologized and explained that he was pretending.  That’s how I came to understand that they would be pretending he had died and mom was having a wake for him.  She was dressed all in black and had let him do her bereaving make-up.  Leslie turned on the porch light, then the doorbell rang.  Our first guests had arrived for trick or treating.  I giggled and ran and hid behind the gold winged back chair over in the corner with my hands over my mouth.

My mom what a good actress!  She opened the door sniffling and reached for her handkerchief.  She told the little boy and his momma, “Come in we are having a funeral.”  The woman took a step back and reached for her son.  Mom turned on the tears and pointed to the basket of treats.  The little boy saw the goodies and came into the house.  His mother followed him.  Mom stepped back and allowed them room.  The woman told her son to hurry and then the music stopped.  The woman and her screamed…Mike had risen up and was standing up!  The little boy turned and bumped into his mom and pushed the woman out of his way and made for the door.  Mom closed the door and we all howled with laughter!  That one woman went running up the street after her son shrieking like a banshee.  After a few more times, the mothers wouldn’t even come up on the porch! Inside, Mom, Leslie and Mike cleaned up and we ate pizza and watched horror movies and laughed the night away.

A Witch goes to a Baptist Church

A whole year has passed since Mom had a funeral at our Central Boulevard home.  I was now five years old and a kindergartner at Moffat Road Baptist Church.  Our back yard was my doorway to learning how to write my name and read my name.  Every morning I would leave through my back yard and walk to the playground of the church and then cross the street with my mom to go to the kindergarten.  My teacher’s name was Mrs. Lauber and she gave me the greatest gift- a big fat red pencil and taught me how to write my ABC’s and then my name.  From that moment on, my writing was born.  All the stories in my head had finally been given a portal to becoming something I could share.  I loved that kindergarten teacher and it would be many years later, I would join her in choir and make her husband say a cuss word during Easter music program (the barrette holding my thick pony tail broke and popped off and hit Mr. Lauber in the nose, his response, “OH SHIT!”)

Well, it was October and we were having a Halloween party in the gym.  This was before Halloween was replaced with Harvest Gathering or some garbage.  Well, we were all running around on the basketball court and having a grand ole time, when the door opened and this old woman came shuffling inside.  She was hunched over with a humpback, dressed all in black with crocheted shawl wrapped around her shoulders and scarf covering her frizzy grey hair.  I was at the other end and not up close like some of my classmates.  I just figured she worked at the church and turned my back on her and went back to playing hokey-pokey and then a shrill scream bounced off the walls and one scream became twenty shrieks, I spun around and fell down in fright.

The woman had pulled out a black cauldron and wooden broom and she was chasing my classmates and getting closer to me.  The room erupted with the pounding of feet running all over the court and screams bouncing off the walls.  She caught me and she was cackling and laughing.  The woman was laughing.  When I get scared…really scared…my ears start to ring and then I pass out.  I shut my eyes and started counting.  My face was white and I collapsed.  She caught me and was fanning my face.  When I opened my eyes, that witch was looking down at me and she had tears in her eyes.  I quickly closed my eyes again and she jerked her mask off…instead of a warty old witch, it was my beautiful red haired mom and she was crying.  I had scared her.  ME…little me ,passed out Charlynn, had scared my mom who was playing make believe.

I had forgotten what I said, but mom remembers.  She said I looked up at her and said, “Momma, see what happens when you play make believe, you scared me dammit.”  I got up and had punch and cookies and she showed the other kids it was just a mask and all was okay.  That was the last time the Witch went to Church there.

These memories still crack me and mom up. It took her an hour to tell me about the mock funeral, because she kept stopping to laugh.  Then we both filled in the blanks with the Witch memory in another hour.  Afterwards we made a pot of hot spiced tea and ate windmill cookies she had found at the store, my favorite cookie from when we lived and laughed in the house on Central Boulevard.  Ah, memories of Halloween…good times.

I sincerely thank Steve and Char for sharing such sweet and warm memories of their Halloween pasts. 

It doesn’t stop here! Check back in later tonight, when the likes of Kevin Spencer, Inker Bella, John Ginder, Barb Breese and Nez Wilburn share their haunted memories!!

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