Halloween? Please … not yet


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



In slightly over two months, little Trick-or-Treaters will visit your front porch for a fistful of candy. But, if you have visited your local grocery store lately, you would never know it’s that far away.

A few days ago, as we walked into Kroger, I noticed Halloween decorations and candy are already for sale.

It has been widely reported that Halloween is now the second most popular holiday, coming in just behind Christmas. People now drive around town, a few days before Halloween, just to look at all the scary decorations. Halloween decorations are becoming almost as popular as the lights of Christmas.

As a Christian, I treasure the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. As a person who enjoys a good scary story about things that go-bump-in-the-night, I also enjoy Halloween. Over the years, we have made beggar’s night a family-fun-night at the Riley household.

Our kids always visit and bring the grandchildren with them. While we pass out candy and have fun with the ghosts and goblins who visit us, our grandchildren trick-or-treat around our entire neighborhood.

Debbie always makes tasty sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. We always have several gallons of apple cider heated up and ready for neighbors who are walking their kids from house-to-house.

The kids leave our house with candy and the adults walk away with a go-cup of spiced apple cider. It’s always a fun evening.

Whether a person believes in ghosts or not, it’s not hard to admit that some strange things have happened.

I recall a few evenings in the early 1970s when several of us would gather at a friend’s house. We sat, laughed and talked for hours. Then Diana wanted to try out a Ouija board she had recently gotten.

After a few more nights, I felt that we were being guided down a path I did not want to follow. Frankly, I was getting a little scared by some of the strange things that were happening. So, I quit going and resolved never again to sit with a Ouija board on my lap. That is a resolution I have kept.

My own Mother was very sensitive to mystical things. Mom was once visiting a friend in an old country home that she and her husband had just purchased. Her friend was giving Mom the grand tour.

As Mom explained it, they were walking side-by-side up the wide, wooden stairs to see the upstairs rooms. Mom saw a little girl sitting on one of the steps, so she dropped back and stepped to one side to get around her.

As they chatted in one of the upstairs bedrooms, Mom’s friend told her that the previous owner thought the house might be haunted. She told about sounds and whispers that could be heard at night.

Supposedly, a child had died on the farm due to a freakish accident. She told Mom that a few people even claimed to have seen a young blonde girl in a gingham dress wandering around the house.

Mom asked, “Like the little girl sitting on the stairs?” With a shocked look on her face, Mom’s friend turned and said, “What little girl?”

We have friends who talk candidly about the old lady who lives upstairs. Shortly after they moved into their nice home at the edge of town, they heard footsteps upstairs. They both heard it.

After a little investigation, they found out that a previous owner (a little old lady) had died in the house. Our friends have resigned themselves to sharing the house with … whoever, or whatever, is upstairs.

John once told me that he was sitting in their living room reading. He heard some steps that seemed to be a little bit different. He looked up and saw an apparition standing at the bottom of the stairs.

It startled him. He quickly turned back to his book. As he turned to look again, the foggy shape of an old woman started to disappear. Before his own eyes, the shape dissolved like a mist.

The tradition of Halloween began around 2,000 years ago. The ancient Celtics of Ireland and Great Britain celebrated their new year on November 1. They believed that on the evening before the new year the lines between the world of the living and the dead became blurred.

Bad things could happen to people on that night because of the ease with which the dead could reenter the world of the living. Bonfires were lit to ward away evil spirits. Costumes were worn to confuse the dead and to protect the living.

Over the centuries, the traditions started by the Celtics have morphed into our celebration of Halloween.

Are there spirits out there just waiting to haunt us? Is Halloween different than any other night of the year?

I’m not sure. It may be scary to some people, but not to others.

However, it is becoming quite annoying that all of our holiday celebrations are now starting months before the holiday actually arrives.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist