Before the recent development of a generally safe jack-o-lantern cutter, carving the pumpkin was a harrowing experience around our house. I’d cover my eyes or leave the room as independent-at-birth daughter Emily carved her pumpkin “all by myself.”
Luckily for us, the only blood spilled on Halloween was the fake or ketchup variety. Both kids have passed trick-or-treating age, but we’ve built some strong Halloween memories through the years, as have many of our Lake Highlands neighbors.
Headless goblins, eerie music and ghostly lighting have been an October tradition for Brian and Llona Crabb on Capri Drive. Brian, who has worked for his whole life in stage scenery construction, brings a cemetery setting worthy of Broadway to his front yard each Halloween. Younger children creep warily past the tombstones wondering if it is worth the risk for a candy treat.
For many years now, Craig Daniels has passed out his personal gift of terror to his Lake Highlands neighbors. When he was living in a different part of town, a gentleman on his street set up an elaborate haunted house each Halloween. Daniels was inspired, and soon after moving to Winding Ridge, he established his own neighborhood tradition.
Daniels freely admits his 6-foot, 5-inch, 250-pound frame makes him the biggest, scariest and ugliest witch around. And he loves being scary!
One Halloween night a few years ago, sitting in his darkened front courtyard in full witch finery, he overheard a conversation between a particularly self-confident nine-year-old and his mom.
“I’m not gonna be scared by some fake haunted house,” the young man proclaimed.
“Well, then – go see the witch,” his mother told him.
The witch-giant watched the boy, chest puffed out, make the trip from the car across the sidewalk, up the series of steps to the front porch and into the darkened area. Daniels maintains that after he turned on a flashlight to illuminate his face and came out of the chair to his full height, the young man was so frightened that during his escape back to the car, his feet didn’t touch the ground more than three or four times.
Jack Depew remembers the years during the late ‘60s, when Halloween on Milltrail Drive was an enormous block party. The City barricaded each end of the street, individuals had duty assignments for the party, elaborate haunted houses were erected, and festivities included the sheet-clad ghostly figures of Dallas Cowboy football players Dave Manders and Chuck Howley, who lived on the street at that time.
Over the course of an evening one year, the neighbors on Milltrail provided hayrides on a wagon pulled by a tractor and handed out more than 1,200 free hot dogs. The event became too expensive for the folks and was regrettably dropped. But those years are unforgettable for Jack Depew and his neighbors.
Barbara Reeves recalls how the dentist down the block always gave toothbrushes and toothpaste to the goblins on her street and how her kids came to expect the gooey popcorn balls from the woman on the corner.
Barbara regrets that safety concerns today would preclude most homeowners from passing out anything that isn’t in a double-vacuum-sealed package.
For the past few years, the Lake Highlands High School service clubs and the Lake Highlands Exchange Club have helped the staff at the Lake Highlands North Recreation Center set up a wonderful and safe Halloween carnival for area children. They operate booths, haunted mazes, fun activities, and offer food goodies for hundreds.
Before they recruited the extra help, the recreation center staff conducted an outdoor trail of terror in the woods along the creek behind their facility. The natural habitat lent itself to tableaus such as a group of vampires and an actual coven of witches stirring up a brew in a cauldron over a real fire.
The fun will continue this year for all of us children, no matter what our age may be, so have your treats ready to pass out, and continue to create Lake Highlands Halloween memories.