I think it’s called for that I enlighten you as to why I am so afraid on my walks to work through the foggy, dark forest. It’s a little embarrassing, but all very true. I have PTSD as the result of witches. Maybe that’s a thing? If not, it should be….
On this All Hallow’s Eve, I have a confession to make: I have never donned a witch costume for Halloween.
As a little kid in the mountains of New York, superstition surrounded and suffocated me. We’re talking the land of Washington Irving – “Sleepy Hollow” before Johnny Depp or that new tv show got its claws into the solid, chilling tale. That part of the country feels so much older; every old home is centuries old and comes with its own set of ghosts and stories that grown ups loved to quietly relay to me because of how terrified I would become. In my memory, fall seemed to stretch on for three times as long is it does now, oak leaves rustling beneath my sneakers on the walk to school, hanging up those flimsy, punch-out decorations in our windows and on our walls.
For me, the greatest things to fear were ghosts, since apparently every house was haunted. But ghosts took an easy second place the year my older brother Frank decided to be a witch for Halloween.
It was likely inspired by a camping trip we had taken that summer. A cabin was being constructed, and to keep us little kids away, we were told it was a witch’s cabin – nothing messed-up about that, right?! I skirted it daily and would never go out at night…until one night when Frank left our cabin to take the dog for a walk and did not return. Darkness descended upon the lake, and my step-dad worried the witch had gotten him. My little brother and I – both under the age of five, mind you – accompanied him to look for our older brother. I imagined all sorts of fates having found him at the hands of the witch. A shadow flickered near the witch’s cabin, and my heart caught in my throat.
Springing from the door frame, she cackled just like the witch on “The Wizard of Oz,” coming at us with a long, black cape flying out behind her. We ran circles around my step-dad, who had taken a knee and was trying to gather us up. It was a full-on freak-out – as in, I grabbed the snaps of his shirt and ran a circle around him, ripping it off and just in general bawling and screaming my head off. My little brother peed his pants so badly his diaper was hanging out of his pant leg by the time all was said and done.
The witch turned out to be Frank, and the cape was an old Army blanket. But I had been traumatized and scarred beyond repair.
And no wonder! I cannot imagine pulling this prank on my little ones. Cruel, I tell you!
That fall, I watched my mom do a witch’s makeup job on Frank that would’ve sent Hollywood calling had they been spying on her. The green was shaded just-so with black, ruddy streaks running through his cheeks. The hat went on, and it was her, the scary lady I imagined jumping out of that cabin at us all over again.
That night he gave out the candy to our trick-or-treaters. As we littler kids arrived up the front walk, lined by a white picket fence, carrying our heavy bags of loot from strangers, I heard a rustling. My breath just had time to catch before a witch jumped out at us from behind the fence, high-pitched cackle in full effect.
Truth be told, I get breathless even writing this. Is that silly or what? The rest of my childhood, on dark nights on mountain roads in the car, perhaps coming home from a Girl Scout meeting, I would imagine witches flying low on their broomsticks just behind my parents’ car, raggedy dresses trailing behind them as they tried to get me. When I got that chilling feeling in my room at night, that feeling that someone is next to you, and hid beneath my blankets, it was a witch I had imagined standing on the other side of the cloth. Stopped at a train crossing one Halloween night as a teenager in my own car, alone, I could’ve sworn one ran by my window, but when I blinked, she was gone.
And nightmares? Always witches. Always. It was a joke at my dad’s house some mornings – “Were the witches getting you last night? All we could hear down the hall was ‘ooooooooh! ooooooh!” Yep. The witches.
And the witch costume for Halloween? Maybe it’s time. Or maybe next year? Maybe it could be cathartic. And I do have a wicked cackle.