How do you feel about Hallowe’en? Do you dress as a ghoul and bob for apples? Maybe you wonder how ancient festivals to frighten away spirits have been so completely overtaken by commercial exploitation of children and their parents. Perhaps you worry that celebrating Halloween can tempt people into worship of the occult. Or maybe you’re a pumpkin grower, happy to make good money selling ninety nine percent of your pumpkins to people who don’t care what they taste like because they just want to carve it up and throw away the tasty bit in the middle.
When (and where) I was growing up, Hallowe’en was no big deal. There was no trick or treating (aka demands with menace), no spurting fake blood or enormous packs of spooktacular sweets. Hallowe’en was about ghosts and scary things. We thought it enormous fun to jump out from dark shadows to frighten each other and sometimes gathered in dimly lit rooms to whisper tales of ghosts and spirits until we were too scared to leave the room alone. But that was about it.
I confess that I have no carved pumpkins sitting on my doorstep ready for this evening and I’m not going to wear my clothes inside out and walk backwards in the hope of meeting a witch. We could of course turn down the lights and sit in the flickering light of candles telling tales of ghostly apparitions as we wait for shadowy footsteps to halt outside the door. It wouldn’t be unknown in this house.
One evening, when my parents-in-law lived here, they heard someone coming up the three steps that lead up from the side door. They weren’t expecting anyone to call round that evening so Father-in-law went to see who it was. There was nobody in the hallway. Nor any of the other rooms. He checked the outside door to see if it was locked and sure enough, the key was turned and the bolts across. How mysterious. That wasn’t the only time the footsteps were heard as Mother-in-law heard them again and though she’s not the sort of person to have fanciful notions, she could find no logical explanation.
When we first moved here, I occasionally noticed a peculiar smell when I walked into a room; a mixture of tobacco and something else that I couldn’t work out. Nobody in the house smokes, nor had done for the previous thirty years, so it seemed odd but not spooky. I’m sure there’s an obvious reason – maybe a mouse had died under the floorboards or something like that. Have I heard the footsteps on the stairs? Well, it’s an old house so there are often noises that are hard to pinpoint, but no, I haven’t heard the footsteps.
However, one day I opened the kitchen door to go through and stopped dead in my tracks because someone was standing just the other side of the doorway. For a split second I was convinced that someone or something was blocking my way, even though I couldn’t see them. It was probably just a trick of the light, but the kitchen door does stand at the top of the steps that lead from the side door, so you never know …