When Halloween Meant Tricks, Treats, and Trashed Outhouses on the School Lawn

Farm of Horror:  As this video shows, a farm in England has been transformed into a house of horrors for the Halloween season. Of course it has to include a demented clown and a chainsaw maniac.

Halloween–Down on the Farm 

My childhood Halloween days on the farm were filled with small-time pranks, beggars’ visits to the neighbors, and a scary movie or two. We were amateurs compared to the older crowd that ruled the scene in the late 50s. That’s the era when a few James Dean imitators decided every Halloween weekend was a time to trash the streets.
We kids would stare out the windows as the folks drove us to town on November 1. We passed the school building featuring toilet paper trees, soaped windows, and shaving cream graffiti. An outhouse served as lawn decoration. “Probably from the Rogers place,” Dad said. “Some years back a few of the boys hid in the dark until they saw the old man make his nightly visit. Then they tipped the outhouse over on its door. That’s a tough way to finish the day.”
Dad had another story for us when we’d drive by the Zearing Cemetery. The mausoleum has been renovated in the past few years, but back when “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein” made us wet ourselves, the building looked like something Edgar Allen Poe would have used for the setting of a demonic tale. “Some years before I was in high school,” Dad said, “I guess a few of the older boys took an underclassman to the cemetery and locked him in the mausoleum. He may have spent the night in there with the rats, cobwebs, and souls on the shelves. Didn’t do his nerves much good from what I heard.”
Post-Halloween streets in our small town often became obstacle courses. Cars had to weave around hog feeders, hay bales, and old tractors. One year they added a stolen manure spreader to the mix. I imagine the feces hit the fan after that; the vandalism craze seemed to die down some. By the time we grew into our delinquent stage, Halloweens had become football Fridays, bonfires, and keggers in the woods—outhouses became as scarce as zoot suits and Edsels.
Trick or treat nights still occur in our neck of the woods, but now the scary aspects seem to be warnings about razors in apples and high sugar content in the candy. The kids deck out in impressive outfits, and generally it’s become an occasion to score some junk food—with maybe a few granola bars and bananas thrown in to alleviate guilt. I’m all for healthy eating, but back in the 60s, celery sticks and baby carrots would have had us moaning like zombies.
When we visited neighboring farms, the creaking windmills and the barking dogs were spooky enough, and when the old farmer’s wife came to the door, we gave in to her demand—“I’ll give you a treat after you perform a trick.” So we’d sing a Davy Crockett song or do somersaults. I think we had it all wrong. Isn’t it supposed to be that if they don’t give you treats, you do a trick or prank on them? We didn’t get out much back then.
But we had fun—the costumes were minimalist, the treats were Snickers and popcorn balls, and the townsfolk were neighborly. It was nothing fancy, but the ghosts of Halloweens past on the farm still float by with a Casper-like smile on their faces.   
by dan gogerty (top photo from fbcustom.me; bottom pic from jimzippo.com)

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