I’m not sure when it happened… Halloween becoming an evil holiday. I mean, when I was a kid, it was right up there with Christmas. I mean you could dress up like a troll walk around in droves with all your friends rook people out of treats and eat candy till you spew. What could be evil about that?
Now I know there are a lot of people who don’t see it my way and that’s what I love about this country. There’s a lot of room for all points of view.
I remember one Halloween there were about 30 of us kids from our community headed to Red Star Hill where the good treats were.
We were all excited and chattering away, but over the sound of our voices, I began to hear the rumbling sound of a car approaching. When I looked back, there were no lights. The night was dark so I just knew no driver in their right mind would be driving without lights. WRONG! A group guys from Cordova, I think, eased up beside our group and nailed us with water balloons. About half our group got soaked. It was chilly before the attack, but after we were wet it seemed colder than a well digger’s…….let’s just say we were cold. Even thought were cold, we were troopers and we would not be denied by a little bit of water.
We had only walked another mile or so, when we heard that rumbling sound again, and it’s like the old saying “water balloon me once, shame on you, water balloon me twice shame on me.” As the old Ford approached, the riders got ready to soak us again, but my cousin Donald had a trick up his sleeve too. When the car was even with us and they were ready to toss their water balloons, Donald tossed a cherry bomb in their front window before they made their escape. The Ford traveled about twenty yards away before the explosion. They came to a screeching halt and seven angry (and temporarily deaf) football players as big as refrigerators bailed out of that car and wanted to beat us senseless and toss us like pumpkins.
All of us trick-or-treaters scattered like marbles on hardwood floor. We all hid in the woods and met up at the big tunnel near old Dora before heading on to Red Star Hill to get our Halloween treasure. We managed to get through that Halloween without a fatality.
What follows is a memory capture by Johnny Bobo Farris about her Grandmother Cora Thomas, who was one of the main reasons our little group ALWAYS went to Red Star Hill.
HALLOWEEN ON RED STAR HILL — Johnny Bobo Farris
You may be familiar with the big white house by the railroad tracks at the foot of Red Star Hill. It was my grandparents’ house when I was young, later was our house, and now is my brother’s house. My grandmother, Cora Bell Thomas, was known to the family and many others around Dora as “Mama” or Mama Tom.” These memories of Halloween are from my childhood, but this was a tradition she had carried out for years.
Halloween was probably Mama’s favorite holiday. Late in the afternoon, she would put on her witch costume, which consisted of a black dress and a home-made pointed hat. Her waist-length black hair, usually worn in a twist, was let down for the occasion. As darkness came, she would sit on the front porch and wait. Most kids in the neighborhood knew she would be there, but that didn’t spoil the fun. The house, itself, was the perfect setting for her performance. In almost total darkness, groups of people, grown-ups and children, would make their way up the two sets of steps from the street, and then scream like banshees when she stood up to greet them. A favorite trick of hers was to push her top false teeth forward, out of her mouth, and “grin real big.” (I hated this, even in the daylight).
With help from my mother, Fay, or my aunt, Alva, Mama would let a few kids at a time into the dark house. They would be led into the front bedroom, where the “Bow-Betty” would be waiting. This creature was positioned behind the bed, against the wall. “Bow-Betty” (Fay) would crouch down behind the bed, with elbows on the bed, hands clasped together, and Mama’s bonnet on her hands. A trick-or-treater would ask the “Bow-Betty” a question, and it would answer, shaking “Yes” or “No.” While entranced by the “Bow-Betty,” the guest would be grabbed by the ankles by “something” under the bed.
Other spooks were made from brooms or mops and placed in closets or corners. They would mysteriously move about the room (with help from Fay and Alva). Strange odors and puffs of wind appeared. Something cold and slimy might scare someone so much that he would fall down the front steps trying to get away!
Until I was old enough to be the “something under the bed,” I was scared, too. I think “Mama’s Spook House” was one of the best attractions in Dora.