Carving Out Memories, Boos, & Ghouls

Renae Brabham

Charleston—what a wonderfully eerie city for Halloween. Moss hangs like phantom apparitions from creeping old oaks, bones of twisted, hurricane-ravaged trees line secluded beaches. Concrete angels guard centuries-old graveyards. Marshes are aglow with glowing red eyes, bats flutter hurriedly to chimney and steeple alcoves at dusk. Gas lanterns glow yellow on cobblestone streets. Porches with blue ceilings guard against haints and evil spirits. Pirates' bones rattle in the marsh. Holy and Evil dwell together, veiled by the thin curtain of daylight. Yes, Charleston is a Mecca for the Halloween thrill seeker.


October 1st, the adrenaline rush is on for me. The first tree void of its leaves becomes a haint at dusk. A fist full of candy corn and I am conjuring visions of witches on broomsticks, sheets hanging from trees and masked men revving chainsaw motors. Although I've had my share of supernatural experiences (and I don't mean colon cleanses or juicing), I am the biggest fraidy cat in the world. I can hardly watch a scary movie with Don during the rest of the year. Mention Halloween, though, and I'm ready to stick knives in pumpkins, play creepy music, and scare the bejesus out of people. I know, it's shamefully pagan, but I can't help myself. I go a little batty. It's make believe—the one time of the year that it's acceptable for me to be totally ridiculous. 
So make believe it is.
My daddy is 74 years old. He lives out in the country amidst corn, cotton, soy beans, and pines. The only cars that go by his house on a daily basis are the mail lady and the neighbors at the end of the road. On Halloween he will scare the kids with a mask and then hook up the trailer to the tractor and take everyone for a ride down the country road. At Christmas he suits up in a Santa suit, full regalia, giving the kids rides on a golf cart or Gator. Once he bush hogged his field in his Santa suit. 
And I've followed suit, no pun intended. October 1st through 31st, the house is decorated for Halloween, even if there's not a soul coming over. Before moving here from North Carolina, we didn't have a single trick or treater for five years, but I was always in full costume.
One year, my ya ya's came to visit for Halloween. We had so much fun, just the four of us out in the boonies. That year I was a nun, with a few bad habits, hidden in my habit. 
Now my hubby Don loves a prank as much as I do and, knowing the girls were coming, he concocted this Halloween drama from a evening news story about an escaped research monkey from Wake Forest Primate Center. For weeks he worked on the prank—rehearsing the timing, recording the grunts and screams of the primate. He had the storytelling down to a science.
The night they arrived, it was already dark outside. Don had everything in place. He told the story about the escaped monkey like he was reciting it from a scrolling news bar off of the TV screen. The girls shuddered a little at the thought of encountering that monkey, but then moved on to other topics. As rehearsed, I took the gals to my bedroom to show them some paintings while Don set up the personally recorded tape of monkey grunts and screams. He projected it like it was coming from the woodpile at end of house.
I cued him that we were heading outside by flipping a light switch. We climbed the steps down to the outside patio to enjoy a glass of wine and some pumpkin-lit atmosphere at the table. As we climbed down the stairs into the darkness, the tape started, and we turned our ears to the direction of the distressed monkey sounds. The gals were on alert. While concentrating on the noises coming from the woods, the Big Monkey (aka Don) rushed them from behind, crouching and grunting in full black attire and a realistic monkey mask. They took off up the steps to the house. Watching their escape, I noticed there was no hand holding on the way out and concluded that this was every man for his self. My sister did a frightful jig with a glass of wine before running but spilt nary a drop.
This year, too, is sure to be a doozie.
Do you remember your first Halloween outfit? Mine was Yogi Bear, my brother was Casper, and my sister was a baby lamb. I have characters floating around in my head for years out. Let's see... Pocahontas, Amelia Earhart, Linda Blair, Carrie, Grown up Toddler Tiara. Lately, though, I've realized that there is a time optimization for being some of these characters. Although I still have my ghoulish figure, some costume options have sadly passed—e.g., Nurse Goodbody. The one constant with my costumes would be luxurious tresses (a wig). 
You just have to love a holiday that doesn't require a trip to Hallmark, gift buying, or re-gifting! Happy Halloween!