Skeletons in the Closet: Halloween Memories

A terrifying Toto

graphic: Caroline Smith

graphic: Caroline Smith

I was five years old, and I was beyond excited to trick-or-treat. I had decided to dress up as a ballerina, and, around 5 p.m., I eagerly jumped into my frilly pink tutu, which my grandmother had made me for my birthday. Twirling around in my room, I lovingly gazed at my tutu as it spun around with me. After making sure its every layer was in place, I bounded down the stairs and pestered my eight-year-old sister incessantly until she was ready to leave.

My mother, sister, and I soon stepped outside into the cool, crisp autumn air and walked down the street, stopping to knock at each house. Swinging my small bag back and forth, I happily sighed as I imagined the dazzling array of candy and chocolate that it would hold in just a few hours.

“Alright,” my mom said after we had visited nearly every house on the street, “we should head home.” Well, that was just fine with me; my bag was already partly full of sweets and goodies, and I had gotten many compliments on and envious glances at my gorgeous tutu.

My evening completely turned around when we ran into our neighbors, and their dog, walking towards us. The neighbors’ daughter, who was around my age, was dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and her dog had a sign around its neck that said Toto, with the only resemblance between the dog and Toto being that they were both canines.

As we approached them, Toto began growling menacingly, and I bit down hard on one of my fingernails. I had seen Toto once before when he had chased down and killed a baby rabbit, so I immediately grabbed my mother’s hand when we came face to face with him.

My mother started chatting with the neighbors, but I couldn’t stop staring in sheer terror at Toto, who was now snarling and drooling, trying to break free from his leash. My neighbor, however, was not paying the slightest bit of attention to his dog, and accidentally let the leash slip from his hands.

All at once, Toto lunged at me. I felt one of his sharp claws graze my right forearm, while, to my horror, the other got caught on my precious tutu. As my neighbor wrestled to pull him off of me, I heard a sickening tearing sound, and, my breath leaving me, I looked down to see half my costume laying limply by my side.

My neighbors began apologizing profusely, but I wasn’t even listening. My throat constricting, I looked down at my tattered costume, watching a few drops of blood from my wound fall down onto it. I still had my candy bag, but I couldn’t have cared less. I would have given up all my candy to get my costume back.

For weeks afterwards, I refused to walk by Toto’s house, preferring to take the longer route around the block. Even though I have overcome that fear, no one can say the word “Halloween” without the sound of Toto’s claws tearing through my costume immediately coming to mind. For me, when I walk around the neighborhood streets, instead of turning my head to check for the presence of witches, ghosts, or zombies on a eerie Halloween night, I always find myself looking over my shoulder, half expecting to see a vicious dog ready to lunge at me. by Molly Zuckerman

graphic: Caroline Smith

graphic: Caroline Smith

The snowman now trick-or-treats

Remember back in the day when our biggest fear on Halloween was whether or not we would get enough candy to satisfy our sugar cravings? Now, it seems as though we have to worry about whether or not we can trick or treat at all. And I’m not talking about our age—we’ll never be too old for Halloween—but rather Mother Nature’s frosty wrath.

For the past 100 years, Halloween has been known as an autumn holiday, falling on October 31, weeks before the official winter begins. However, we’re now finding ourselves trekking through the snow to reach the coveted candy, questioning why on earth this white curse is here so early, hindering us from satisfying our sweet tooth.

As the summers feel more and more like infernos and the winters like frigid wastelands, the effects of climate change are showing up around our community faster than we would like. Five years ago on Halloween, it was a chilly 56 degrees and we were free to roam the streets on the prowl for candy wearing costumes without a parka. Now, however, we must dress up as polar bears or the like, not out of choice, but so we don’t freeze in arctic New Jersey.

Last year I found myself lighting candles on Halloween in my frozen, powerless house trying not to think about the differences between that night and my childhood image of what Halloween should be. Instead of carrying my candy-filled pillow case on the streets, jumping into piles of leaves and looking for the next bowl of candy to raid, I was kicking around the laundry on my floor looking for one last sweatshirt to put on. The only candy I ate that night was a Snickers that was partially frozen. As I was walking around, thinking why this freak weather was happening, I realized then that it’s vital for us to change our methods of obtaining energy.

Our society has begun to change its views and to focus primarily on improving our energy sources to help heal our greatly damaged ozone layer. This push for renewable energy and environmental protection has manifested itself in events such as the People’s Climate March in New York City, which attracted over 300,000 people. New advances in technology include solar cells that are cheaper and produce more electricity than their predecessors, and wind and hydro-electricity are becoming more easily accessible.

The evidence of climate change is all around us, and the motivation for change is knocking at our door. Our generation is faced with the challenge of digging us out of this oil-burning pit and giving us clean energy—not just for the sake of our ozone, but for the sake of Halloween. by Joe Gray

graphic: Caroline Smith

graphic: Caroline Smith

Halloween down under: the Australian way

It’s no secret that Halloween is a quintessential part of any kid’s life, and I know I cannot imagine a childhood without one night a year for trick-or-treating, haunted houses, pumpkin carving, and candy corn. But in Australia, kids somehow survive without the Halloween experiences that we’ve all had here in America.

Halloween down under is a relatively new concept, only enjoyed by the select few who know the traditions. When I moved to Australia in seventh grade from Paris, the friends I made there had never gone through the classic Halloween experience. Their Halloween knowledge was limited to what they saw on American TV shows, and their perception of the holiday was based on its portrayal in movies ranging from E.T. to Mean Girls.

As their unfamiliarity with the holiday would suggest, people in Australia are unaccustomed to the trick-or-treating tradition. I remember how, come October 31, my family would leave out a bowl full of chocolate on our doorstep, only to find out that by the end of the night, almost all the candy remained. When my friends and I went trick-or-treating, we would bump into only three or four other groups of kids. In general, the transition between October and November was smooth and unfazed, without the buzz and hype of a regular American holiday season. Regardless, my friends and I thought it would be fun to dress up in order to enjoy the holiday we had so often envisioned.

I remember one Halloween night in eighth grade with particular fondness. My friends and I stopped by the house of an old man, who regretfully told us that he didn’t have any candy. Expecting this, we politely thanked him and left, but about ten minutes later and a few houses down, we saw him running towards us, a box of cookies in his hand. He told us that he hoped the cookies would make up for the lack of candy he had to give us. It was so touching to see how even though people didn’t know what Halloween was, they were willing to give the strange tradition a try. The next year, I was thrilled to occasionally spot traces of the Halloween I remembered—a spooky skeleton cutout on a door, ghost decorations at the grocery store, or a carved jack-o-lantern on a windowsill.

Halloween is not about the candy you get, I’ve found, even though that certainly is a plus. It’s about the experiences that come with it. My friends and I in Australia knew we weren’t going to come home with bags of chocolate, and weren’t expecting the typical American Halloween experience, but we knew we would have a great time with each other and return with great stories. There’s much fun to be had in dressing up and spending the night with your friends, but the “Halloween spirit” can exist beyond this; anyone can be a part of the holiday in other ways, through simple appreciation, whether it is playing along, giving out candy, or smiling at the silliness and fun of it all. In the end, Halloween is about having a good time and helping others to do the same, however we choose to go about doing so. by Lopa Krishnan




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