Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Twisted Halloween Memories at Aspen Grove

Most Halloweens at our scary mansion on the hill were very stark. I believe a few times we had mediums come to do seances. To me, they were just a fun time to dress up and hit the neighborhood until midnight--yes, we used to use pillowcases for our loot and in those days (60s/70s) you could go all night and no one thought it was odd.

The nights were very dark with no streetlights on our estate, and never had anyone once braved the extremely long driveway, over the bridge, and up the hillside to the huge columned front veranda with a swinging light overhead. Mom bought candy every year, but I think it was just for her secret stash. One year, the Toole family braved the driveway. I believe there were perhaps six or seven lumberjack-looking Irish sons who were strong enough (and plenty old enough) to come to the door. What a shock that was! I still think of those boys who lived on Glenmere and know they were quite brave indeed.

My first Halloween trick-or-treating, my older brother "allowed" me to tag along. I was perhaps 4 and he was 9. I think I wore some fluffy bit of princess nonsense. I hadn't yet developed my full-blooded thrill for the season yet. All I knew was I was guaranteed candy if I said a few words.

Our first stop was one of the two carriage houses on our property. Mom rented them out to college boys at George Mason University. I believe Craig Hobbs was living there at the time and having a full-out college Halloween party. In the kitchen entry there was a lady with a crystal ball giving fortunes. I was thrilled by the mystery of what she saw in that glass orb. My brother led me into the main living area and there were crowds of people in costumes that were rather benign, hobo's, gypsies, a dracula. Suddenly people roared and I looked up and saw a tall man in a suit, holding his head in his arm! He was headless! I remember screaming in a shrill tone. In retrospect, it was pretty funny because my big brave 9-year-old brother was backed into the wall crushing me between him and the wall. He was scared more than I was.

Admittedly, I had a defeat that night. I cried in my father's arms and refused to go with my brother. He took my bag and got it filled, claiming his sister was "too sick to go out." Instead, I opted for the dark mansion and the sounds and creepiness that went with it. It was a familiar scary to me. Perhaps that's why I ghost hunt now. Old dirty scary places are "home" to me. I'm comforted by the unusual and unexpected life of a building.

The next year, I managed a full-fledge round of trick-or-treating with my brother. Each year, I found more interesting costumes. Each year, I went further from home. Each year, I tried to hide in the bushes behind the famous "killer's" house and see if he came outside with his wife in a trash bag as we all suspected he'd offed her.

After that, I was hooked. Halloween was all about the atmosphere and at the end of a good long hunt for more and better candy, it was always exciting to launch over the fence and walk into the dark boxwood maze behind the mansion and feel my way in the dark to the house. One candle in a window. Lots of creaks and moans and voices in the night.

Every night was Halloween at Aspen Grove.

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