I just adore Halloween. As a kid I loved dressing up as a witch or a ghost on this one day a year and heading out to trick-or-treat. Maybe I should have been an actress, so much do I get into the taking on of a different persona from the one I have 364 other days. I admit, I may have carried on a bit too much in my teens without benefit of costume, running around the park throwing eggs at classmates and getting squirted with chocolate syrup. We didn't vandalize, didn't steal pumpkins, didn't really cause any trouble. I suspect adults back then peered out windows and wondered if we would misbehave in a big way. We didn't. We just had fun, after which I went home late and washed eggshells out of my hair, the only victim of my night's events being a ruined pair of Hershey's- and yolk-soaked suede shoes.
Now I'm sort of old. Not exactly old, but...you know...older. Ah, but only older chronologically. My little Halloween heart remains young: I still like dressing up, although I admit eggs and chocolate are no longer in favor. And this year I got my Halloween fix early, at The Earlville Opera House.
For those of you who don't know (and who should mark it down on your calendar for next year), the wonderful opera house sponsors an annual haunted house night, free of charge. Dodie Page, of Black Cat Antiques in Earlville, and opera house executive director Patti Lockwood-Blais, put together a delightfully haunted evening at the opera house every Halloween. Last Saturday I was invited to participate as one of the volunteer ghouls. I couldn't wait...could...not...wait...and when Saturday afternoon rolled around I was in front of my mirror, globbing on black make-up and fluffing the wonderful ghastly hilarious horrible long black wig that I reserve for such occasions. There were still plastic spiders in the wig from last year, which of course I left in place. I smeared on blood-red lipstick, donned pointed shoes, selected one of the many masks that I keep in my special Halloween trunk, and roared off to Earlville, where I spent several spook-filled hours trying my best to scare the wits out of kids and adults alike.
Dodie and Patti deserve high praise. The historic opera house -- complete with skeletal piano players and eerie organ music and graveyard scenes -- did not disappoint. I was stationed in "the wedding reception" room, where table displays included nuptial treats like severed hands and rodent hors d'oeuvres. I drifted among ghostly manikins, freezing when kids and teens and parents arrived, causing them to wonder if I was fake or real, and ultimately reaching out to touch an arm belonging to someone who shrieked in surprise. A few children ran away, wailing and strangely delighted. One young fellow, enjoying the festivities so much, kept going round and round, finally admitting that he'd traveled from lower floor to upper 21 times. Breaking character, I asked him, "WHY are you here again??" He said, "This is fantastic! This is so much fun!! I want to volunteer as an actor next year!!!"
Good for you, kid. And good for Dodie and Patti and all the other adults who showed up in costume. This is exactly what we want, for kids to participate in good clean fun.
How many times, I wonder, have I said that I love a city life? This life, however -- this rural life -- is so much more rewarding. Putting on a black wig and shuffling off to a place where people work hard to thrill some kids on Halloween. For free. Oh sure, there was a donation box, but that wasn't really the point. The point was to open doors to a fabulous, historic building that the rest of the year features art and music, a place where people spend weeks in October setting up scary creepy scenes to thrill and delight families, to make memories for children who will look back someday and remember The Earlville Opera House and say, "Wow, that was something really special."
Both Patti and Dodie called me today and thanked me for showing up. Ladies, it was my pleasure. And please, put me on the list of October 2014.
I'm looking forward to seeing that 21-time kid next year. He got it, like I did 40+ years ago. Halloween isn't about stealing pumpkins or causing trouble. It's about good clean (scary) fun. Is that corny? Maybe. Probably. And so what? In my book, corny is a good thing. A fine and wholesome thing. In fact, in these strange days of violence and arguing and destruction, I'll take take fine and wholesome and corny all day long.
Kudos to The Earlville Opera House, and to all its volunteers. Thank you for taking time away from your regular lives just to give our kids such a good time.