OK, it’s time to make a startling confession.
Let me start by saying that autumn in Illinois is, by far, my favorite time of the year. I like it to be just crisp enough to wear a light jacket, I love high school football games, and I love watching the farmers in the field.
But I hate Halloween.
OK, “hate” is a little strong. Let’s just say that it’s not one of my favorite holidays. This realization probably dates all the way back to when I was a little kid growing up on the farm. When you live on a farm, trick or treating sucks loudly. For one thing, if you don’t have a ride, you’re screwed. Do the math…trick or treaters usually roam their own neighborhood, right? My neighborhood covered about 20 square miles, and our nearest neighbor was about a mile down the road. My older sister would drive my brother and I around, but when you’re covering that kind of ground, you’re not going to get to too many houses, so the candy bags were kind of light.
And then there are the costumes. I don’t like to dress up in elaborate costumes. It makes me uncomfortable. This was especially difficult once I started going to high school and college parties. It’s sometimes hard to drink and smoke when you’re wearing fake whiskers or make-up. It’s even hard to sit down at times. After all, if you’re going to be in a costume all night, you want it to look GOOD all night. The last thing I wanted was for someone to come up to me at a party and say “What were you when you got here?”
And you want to talk about pressure? I’m a creative person, but I just couldn’t get creative with Halloween costumes. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t come up with anything that made me think I was going to be the coolest one at the party. This realization was magnified out of proportion when I worked in radio. WBNQ would sponsor a big Halloween party every year, and some of the costumes just blew me away. I could never even come close to being that creative with a costume. One year, a guy came wearing a complete gallows on his back somehow, with a noose around his neck and everything. The gallows even had his “Wanted” poster nailed to the back. The sucky thing was that he had to walk around that way all night, but I think he won a hundred bucks for first prize.
The following year, I couldn’t wait to see if the same guy would show up, and what he would be wearing. Sure enough, he was there…wearing an aquarium full of water and fish around his head. Again, he had to wear it all night, and again, he won first prize. It bugged me a little at first, because I knew I could never come up with anything that creative. But the night ended on a good note…I got a phone number from a girl dressed as a hot-looking nurse. Only went out once though…I must have been in love with the uniform.
And that brings us to a very popular attraction around these parts…Haunted Houses. They often are put together by charities trying to make money, so I guess that’s ok. But every time I’ve gone through one, I’ve never been scared. It’s hard for me, knowing that these are all actors, and no one is going to hurt me, and they’re going to do their best to scare me. I expect to be scared. I guess that’s what ruins it. I have my guard up the whole time. They always jump out with a yell or scream, and I just stand there and say “huh…nice job, man”.
The first time I ever went through a haunted house was when I was working in Peoria radio. Jeff Murphy and I spent an evening taking the WWCT van to all the haunted houses in the area, and doing reports from each one, telling people how late they were open, and how scary they were (I had to lie a lot). The last one we went to was in Washington. We were hanging out at the van afterwards, giving some things away, and a couple of junior-high-age kids came up to us and told us how much they liked listening to each of us. Then they asked us for our autographs. It was the first and only time I have been asked for an autograph. I thought it was crazy, but I also didn’t want to hurt their feelings. We didn’t have anything to write on, so Murph and I each pulled out a dollar bill and signed it for them. About a week later, a guy who was working at a convenience store called me while I was on the air. He said that he was making change earlier that day and noticed a dollar bill in his register that was signed by Jeff and I. What a punk…he probably bought cigarettes with that dollar
I hate Halloween.