I won’t lie: I love Halloween. It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love the autumn colors and the pumpkin everything. I love jack-o-lanterns and candy and dressing up in costumes and pretending to be someone you’re not.
I love creepy stories that give me the shivers.
But as I get older, I find my taste in scary stories has changed, however subtly. Now, spooky tales of ghosts and hauntings not only give me the creeps, they often make me sort of sweetly sad. The best ghost stories always have some tragic element or earthly pain.
I once lived in a house that, though I’m not supposed to believe in hauntings, I think was haunted. It was not a scary house. There was nothing malevolent there.
There was just a little boy.
At first, I thought I dreamed him. I woke suddenly in the night and a child was standing at the side of my bed. I started, screamed, and he was gone, leaving me wondering where that came from.
Note, I did scream, but I wasn’t scared. Parents can probably relate to the start of opening your eyes and seeing a child looming over you, even when it’s your own child.
But I didn’t have children.
Perhaps, that time, it was just a dream. Maybe I was dreaming again the other times I woke and found him standing there.
But I don’t think a friend was dreaming when he was watching TV alone in the middle of the afternoon, while everyone else was in another part of the house, and he saw a little boy peering at him around a corner.
I’m sure I wasn’t dreaming when electronic toys securely shut off and put away downstairs unexpectedly turned themselves on in the middle of the night. I went downstairs in the wee hours of the morning too many times myself to switch the noisemakers off again.
The remote-control car was a favorite.
But none of this was ever scary. It was all a little sad. One member of the family even tried to hug him once, thinking he was one of the children in the family. Just before she embraced him, he looked up, and she got a clear look at his face and realized he was a stranger. Then she was alone.
It’s been years since we lived in that house. My present residence is, I am certain, spook-free. Here, again, I can enjoy the fun and frivolity of Halloween, carving pumpkins and cuddling up with my kids to watch TV shows that really aren’t scary at all.
Only once in a while do I think about that old house. I’m not sure what “ghosts” really are. There are a lot of theories on the subject. I’m not even sure if that little boy was ever really real.
I wonder if he was. Or is. Or if the current occupants of the house ever catch sight of a shaggy little head peeking around a corner or standing by the bed.
I hope not.
Happy Halloween. Check out our Pumpkin Festival photo recap on pages 6 and 7 of this week’s paper, and as always, enjoy your MidWeek.