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What happened to Halloween?


My dad used to tell me about his childhood in Ontario, when families and friends got together to listen to the radio.

Melissa Jenkins is a reporter/photographer with The Compass community newspaper.

Late in the night, after the sun had set, an old radio program used to be the method of entertainment. Its intention was to scare those who listened.

The rules were simple; open the basement door and sit with your back to it. Then, gather around the radio and listen. And no matter what they heard, they could not turn around.

Ghost tales and sound effects would be heard over the speaker, including footsteps that some kids swore were coming from the basement stairs behind them.

My dad said it was a fear like no other. It brought the idea of ghosts and ghouls to life. It reminded children there were scary things in the dark. And sometimes even frightened kids to not go into the dark, damp basement alone.

Some people don’t like the idea of scaring children, especially with ghost stories. But those from my dad’s generation, as well as many from outport Newfoundland prior to the 1970s, told these tales, and many believed them.

But, after the times of televisions, movies and computers, many of us have lost that sense of fear.

I am not ashamed to admit I still don’t like watching horror movies by myself. Not many do. But getting that fright is a feeling like no other. Adrenaline rushing through your body, goose bumps on your neck and feeling like there’s someone watching you. It’s about allowing yourself to get pulled in to experience the fear, the fright and the unpredictable happenings.

Halloween is approaching, but there are very few haunted houses, scary yard displays or local activities that make the night one of mayhem. Things have changed.

For the kids, it’s about candy and dressing as their favourite Disney character (I bet there will be a lot of Elsas and Annas this year).

For teenagers, it’s about eating the left over junk food, going to a school dance or just not giving any interest to Halloween at all.

Some adults worry if they’ll have enough candy. Others, worried they’ll have way to much. We had six kids stop at our house last year, on a main road in Carbonear. Six. And we’ve always went all out for Halloween.

But those of us who still have a fire in our bellies for the wicked, the frightful and the true meaning of Halloween, still hope for someone to say, “Did you hear, so-and-so is doing a haunted house this year.”

Not only does it allow us to get back into the spirit of the night, it also helps continue our traditions with following generations.

I will always think back to when I went through a haunted house many years ago. The sounds of chainsaws, the creaking of floorboards and shrieking of those who were ahead of me was part of the excitement.

Maybe some day, we’ll see it happen again. Until then, I’ll be sure to have plenty of treats on hand in case we get more trick-or-treaters this year.

Melissa Jenkins is a reporter/photographer with The Compass newspaper in Carbonear. She can be reached at melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

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