Haunted Theater

By Joe Moore


Happy Halloween!

As far back as I can remember, Halloween was and is my favorite holiday. My first memory of All Hallows Eve is when I was 6 or 7 and was invited into a neighbor’s house where my two best friends lived. At one point, their mother showed me a small trap door in the ceiling inside a linen closet. She said that it led to the attic where Hector, their family ghost lived. As my friends and I sat around eating the candy we had collected earlier that night, I swear I heard something moving around up above our heads. Hector was my first ghost. There have been others.

Down through the years, I did my share of tricking and treating once the sun went down, and loving every minute of it. And the #1 reason (besides my never-ending hunger for candy corn) that I loved Halloween so much was that it was the one day of the year when I could be anyone or anything I wanted. I could take on a totally different persona and it was okay. Sometimes the real alter ego would emerge. Sometimes it would surprise my family and friends. Most times, it would surprise me. Interestingly enough, I’ve found a way to duplicate that Halloween identity switch every day. I became a novelist. Whenever I want, I can take on my characters’ identities and live through their lives within a world that exists only in my mind. What a cool job!

When our two boys were growing up and Halloween rolled around, I would take the day off from work and spend it getting the house ready for what we called Haunted Theater. I had a huge 6’ Sony front projection TV and an equally huge bay window. I would roll the TV up to the front window and move my big theater speakers outside. Each year we would show a traditional Halloween movie like Ghostbusters or Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy, and invite all the little ghosts and goblins to come back to our front yard after they had roamed the neighborhood. At our house, they could enjoy their sweet bounty while watching a great movie. We served Halloween spirits to the moms and dads from a caldron overflowing with dry ice fog. There were many years when we had 20-30 kids camped out on the grass watching that year’s feature film. It became a decade-long tradition.

Years later, when my wife and I would be out at the mall or a restaurant, we would often run into a stranger who would say, “Weren’t you the guys who showed the movies on Halloween?” It always reaffirmed that using up a vacation day each year to get the house ready was worth it.

So tonight when the knocks come on your front door and the shouts of Trick or Treat echo through the neighborhood, remember that Halloween is a night dedicated to kids and fun, and an evening that those boys and girls will remember for the rest of their lives. Make it special. Happy Halloween!

What about you? Any Halloween memories or traditions you treasure?

17 thoughts on “Haunted Theater

  1. What a great tradition you had– I bet a neighborhood full of kids have great memories now. Our current house is in a neighborhood tucked up in the mountains on property with enough acreage that kids go in town to trick or treat instead. I miss having little dressed-up ones at my door!

  2. Thanks, Julie. We have 14 homes on our street, and at the peak of the Haunted Theater Halloweens, we had 22 kids on the street with tons of others in the neighborhood. It made for some great times. Today, the kids are all grown and gone. Your mountain home sounds quite appealing now.

  3. I loved trick or treating, of course. But being tall for my age, one year some mother said, “Aren’t you a little old to be doing this?”

    Oh, the unfairness of it all! And yes, I was probably pushing the age limit.

    So the next year I hit upon a clever ruse. I took a sheet and cut two eyes in it. Easiest ghost costume ever. I’d go up to a door and then squat down until the sheet covered my feet. I’d get my ill gotten gains, turn, and waddle off until I heard the door close. Then I’d stand up again and walk to the next house, where my nefarious plan was once again put into practice.

    This proved to be too much work, so I retired the next year.

  4. Excellent plan, Jim. I always get a kick out of the high school guys that show up in their football uniforms as their costumes like no one will notice. But those are the ones that love Halloween (and free candy) as much as I do. All ages are welcome at my house on Halloween.

  5. I love Halloween too, Joe. Still do. My husband just spent days decorating our house into a Scare-fest of lights, frightening ghosties, & a looping sound track of screams & moans. We get truckloads of kids in our hood & we give out chocolate, the big draw, but the little gremlins have to survive a trek up our front steps. We decorate more for Halloween than we do for Christmas.

    I have countless memories of Halloween as a kid. We haunted & chased any kid who braved coming up our long winding dark driveway. My favorite prank came from the twisted genius of my younger bro. He orchestrated a horrific scene of death & nightmarish delights on our front porch where EVERYTHING moved by itself. He rigged stuff by fishing line with him being the puppeteer on our roof. Kids were already scared by the time they got to our door, but when branches shook & unoccupied shoes walked on their own, kids went screaming–especially when the hanged man came to life & chased them for a block.

    So I guess all of this is linked to my writing too. Ha! Some kids never grow up.

  6. How awesome. When I was of trick-or-treat age I lived in a classic bucolic California suburb that was perfectly gridded and well-lit.

    We were an unsupervised horde of locusts descending on the hood. Forget plastic pumpkins, those were the days of pillowcases. Your take was limited only by your cargo-carrying ability.

    Now it is all carefully scripted and usually a community party. That is neat as well, but just not the same.


  7. When I was in kindergarden, my mother made me a Jawa costume complete with lightbulb eyes that lit up. That pretty well ensured my love of halloween forever.

  8. Homemade costumes are one of my best memories–one year my mother made me a Monarch butterfly costume, complete with giant wings. I was crushed when I lost the costume contest to a girl dressed as a sunflower, also homemade! Another great memory is how we collected pennies for UNICEF. We had special cartons, and everyone went around saying, “Trick or treat for UNICEF.” it was a nice way of introducing kids to the concept of helping others, and turned a sugar-overloaded tradition into something meaningful. Of course, we all got our share of candy as well!

  9. p.s. Sechin, I had to look up what a Jawa is. What a great costume that must have been! You were in kindergarten when Star Wars came out? Omigosh, I’m so old! 🙂

  10. Jordan, we have way more boxes of Halloween decorations than Christmas, too. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    Terri, a pillowcase was what I used years ago, too. Times change.

    Sechin Tower, the Jawa costume sounds very cool.

    Kathryn, I remember the UNICEF Halloween collection drives. We did that, too. But Kathryn, a Monarch buttery costume on Halloween? Really? Were you trying to scare them into happiness? 

    Jim, I bought my candy weeks ago when it was two for one. I sure hope there’s some left for tonight.

  11. I love the movie idea, Joe! Growing up in Australia we had no trick or treating experience – it just wasn’t part of the culture. Now there’s a little bit more of it but round our neighbourhood there is nothing at all to even suggest Halloween is here:( My boys couldn’t go trick or treating anyway as they had their school play production – Beauty and The Beast (so I guess that’s kind of appropriate). We’re looking forward to moving to Denver so next year we’ll be able to have a ‘proper’ Halloween!

  12. I used to love Halloween. One year, I was sick and my mother wouldn’t let me go out. I was SO disappointed. This holiday is such an exciting time for a kid.

  13. Joe, what a fun and memorable Halloween tradition you had that is part of so many other family memories I am sure. I enjoyed Guy Fawkes day as a kid living in England with bonfires. But sadly once we returned to the US I grew up on a mountain in the woods with nowhere to trick or treat. I now live in the suburbs on a street no one comes down. We do take our son to the fun neighborhood where friends have a bonfire and cook hotdogs (with libations for the adults) – promise him never to move him to a deserted mountain top.

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