October 30, 2010

The Witch, The Devil and Miss Dottie ~ Memoirs of a Trick-or-Treater Scared Silly

When you were a child, was there one house in your neighborhood where the people there put a little something extra into the trick-or-treat experience?  Maybe it was some extra spooky decorations (back in the day before you could purchase movie quality Halloween props at your local big box store).  Perhaps it was a simple mask or some creepy organ music cranked up from a cassette deck?  This post is dedicated to the purveyors of TRICKS (as well as treats) from my childhood, for whom there will always be a special place in my heart...

It is often said that things appear much larger through the eyes of a child.  I'm sure this was the case with my first Halloween memory.  I was five years old, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood in Culver City, CA.  There was one house that all the children spoke about with trepidation -- "The Witch's House".  I have no memory of what this house may have looked like by day.  It must have gone through some sort of magical transformation at night.  By day, an average single-story, 1960s construction house, by night ~ a putrid, glowing green Gothic mansion with no less than 500 steps twisting and turning up to the threshold.  I never made it up those steps.  I stood about half way, petrified, yet unable to look away as the other children continued on, knocked on the door, and were greeted by an eerie cackle, and the exact likeness of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.  I'd love to go back in time, see that house, those steps, and that witch, and see just how much my 5 year old imagination embellished!

When I was six, my family moved up North to the quiet golf resort community of Pebble Beach.  Most people in our neighborhood were retired, and the rest of the homes were second homes, visited only during the warm part of the year.  There weren't many children in the neighborhood, so trick-or-treating was a very low-key affair.  But there was this one house -- The Devil's House -- that was the topic of much excited discussion between me and my brothers in the weeks leading up to Halloween, and was always the highlight of our night.    

Here's how the scene played out at the "Devil's House":  After much debate and cajoling, one of us would meekly knock on the door and immediately retreat back to the rest of the group.  The door would slowly creek open and a gnarled red hand would appear.  Then suddenly, the door would be thrust open, and the face of "The Devil" would appear.  This man, who to us looked about 9 feet tall, in his red rubber mask, never spoke a word, but merely beckoned us with one taloned finger, while holding a full-size candy bar with the other.  He could have offered us a single tiny Tootsie Roll, and we still would have eaten-up his performance (but the big candy bar sure was a nice payoff for being scared out of our wits)!

My last special memory is of our neighbor, Miss Dottie, a widow who lived down the street.  She didn't wear a mask, play spooky music, or scare the wits out of anyone.  In fact, she did quite the opposite.  Miss Dottie provided me with my first "Martha Moment".  When you trick-or-treated at Dottie's, you didn't just stand their at the door, you were invited in.  The grown-ups were offered a glass of wine, and there were bowls of popcorn and delicious lemonade for the children.  Was the lemonade fresh squeezed?  I don't know.  Was the popcorn imbued with magical properties?  Probably not.  But, what I recall is that the lemonade and popcorn were the most delicious that I ever tasted.  The house had a warmth and spirit that was magical, and it was the first time in my life that I remember thinking how wonderful hospitality and being a generous hostess could be, and how I wanted to be like that when I grew up.

With all of these memories, all it took was a mask, some makeup, or some warm salted popcorn to create this Halloween "magic".  The "Witch", the "Devil" and Miss Dottie knew this sort of "magic" was possible.  They set the stage, lit the lantern, and carved out a very special place in my heart.

Who are the special "spirits" from your childhood?

This post is linked-up to Halloween Happenings over at my favorite source for the best blogging tips:


  1. There was a scary house on one of the streets i lived on. I was too scared to go there.

    Great memories!!

  2. Haha! I love your description of that devil man. Tonight at trunk-or-treat, my son was so afraid of this one set up with a lady sitting behind a crystal ball. But she held up a candy bar and he managed to build up his courage and get close enough to take it! Oh, the motivation! Haha!

  3. Thanks for sharing those scary memories.

  4. I love this post. It makes me happy. Those are really great memories.

  5. Haha..I lived in the scary house growing up! My parents house was a nursing home way back in the day...many stories to tell... ;) I had friends and even some family that wouldn't stay over! On halloween it was even spookier... it's my mom's birthday and she always decorated the house super spooky! It was great!!
    Thanks for sharing your adventure...


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