When I was little, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I loved to play dress up anyway, and Halloween was the perfect dress up occasion.
My favorite costume was that of a witch. Now mind you, my only conception of a “witch” was the one I saw on the annual programming of “The Wizard of Oz.” Of course there was “Glenda” the good witch, but she wasn’t nearly as impressive as the bad witch with her warts, crooked nose, pitch-black attire and that curly-tipped pointed hat.
I perfected my wicked laugh in front of the mirror for days before Halloween.
In those days, my daddy drove me all around our part of Madison County for trick-or-treating. There was no walking like I saw the kids do on TV – we lived in the country and darkness came on way too fast to walk the distance between our house and those of our neighbors.
But I have to say that the very best part of Halloween, the part I’ve remembered the best over all these years, have been the spooky stories I heard growing up.
This was before the days of the slasher movies and vampire mania. A ghost story was just that – a story about an encounter with something you couldn’t quite explain. There was only one person who could tell a ghost story that would make the hairs stand up along my arms and the back of my neck and that person was my sweet, lovable Aunt Donnie.
Aunt Donnie was my daddy’s sister. She never married – her parents died when she was a teenager and she had taken on the care of her younger siblings.
She and my daddy grew up on sharecropper farms and the family often moved from house to house in and around the Bluestone Community.
But no matter where they lived, she said, there was always the “White Thing,” a panther-like creature, pure glowing white, who haunted the woods around the farmlands. The White Thing (pronounced ‘thang’) screamed “like a woman” and often thwarted coon hunters by getting their hunting dogs off the scent. My Aunt Donnie swore it ran across the porch she and her siblings were sleeping on one steamy night. They may have been hot – but they all went to bed inside after that.
There was also “Rawhide and Bloody Bones” – a skeletal figure in a shroud that roamed the woods and (I thought) would peek in the windows at night. To this day I have trouble looking through a window at night.
My aunt told of living in a haunted farmhouse – where a ghost (or something) pulled all the buttons off a blouse that hung on a chair by her bedside.
Then there was the “three-knock” mystery.
Often, about three weeks before someone in the family died, aunt Donnie would hear three knocks on her door late at night. If she opened the door, there was anyone there.
Her father told her the story of how, when he was a young man, he encountered “something” riding home on horseback one evening at dusk. As the story goes, he came to a crossroads and saw what appeared to be an old man dressed in a dark cloak sitting on a bench, hunched over a cane. It was still light enough, so her dad tipped his hat and said “how do you do” as he’d been taught. The figure did not respond, but as soon as he rode by, someone (or something…) jumped on the back of his terrified horse, who galloped all the way home with him and his uninvited guest hanging on. When the horse rode into the yard, he jumped off and ran inside his house without looking back. I never pass the crossroads without thinking of that story.
I miss my Aunt Donnie, who passed away years ago and who was more like a grandmother to me and to many others in the family. I also miss the certain innocence that was associated with Halloween, or so it seems, in those days. Nevertheless, today’s horror films can’t compete with a good old ghost story told by my Aunt Donnie.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.
11/02/10 at 07:03 PM
I'm afraid the art of storytelling is not practiced much these days. I, too, remember scary stories from my childhood. One, in particular, was about some big scary creature who lost his big toe. Some farmers inadvertently dig it up from the garden with their potato crop and stow it away in the cellar with the rest of the taters.
Thanks so much for the article and for bringing some pleasant, albeit scary, childhood stories to my remembrance.