To this day I can’t explain what actually happened that night, but not a Halloween has gone by since that I haven’t thought about it.
I headed out the door that night dressed in my dad’s overcoat and a cheap felt fedora. A plastic cap gun stuck in the pocket was the finishing touch on my detective costume. As usual, I had planned to meet some kids at dusk for trick-or-treating but was feeling a bit uneasy about it. We had all grown up together, but I had started to feel disconnected from them. Even though we were 11, cliques were beginning to form at school and I was finding myself on the opposite end of the popularity spectrum. Nonetheless, Halloween night was tradition and not even arbitrary social standings were going to tarnish that.
However trick-or-treating wasn’t completely on the minds of my friends that night. They were all armed with eggs and shaving cream, ready for a night of mischief. I wasn’t happy about this. I wasn’t interested in egging innocent people’s houses, I was focused on going door to door and getting enough candy to take down an army of diabetics. But not wanting to ostracize myself, I went along with the group.
We meandered through the neighborhood, knocking on a few doors here and there. Some dollops of shaving cream were left on the hood of a car. An egg or two was thrown carelessly into the street. It was a pretty lackadaisical night of mischief. It felt as if my friends were going through the motions of what they thought they should be doing instead of what they really wanted to do. After a while, the thought of a bag full of candy propelled me to to what I knew I should not, venture off on my own.
The areas in between the houses in my neighborhood were covered with thick woods. I was as familiar with them as any kid who lived there. A woodchip-covered path ran down the center and we walked it each morning to get to school. But this night was cloudy and I lost my bearings. I ended up in a clearing where a new house was being built. There was barely any light as the moon was not visible and there were no streetlights yet.
I wandered through the frame of the house, cautious not to step on a loose board or nails, when suddenly I heard a whooshing sound. Before my brain could tell my feet that it was probably just a cat and it was okay to move, the area was suddenly bathed in a brilliant white light that made my eyes sting. The whooshing got louder and turned into a piercing wail. This chaos only lasted for a moment. Then it was gone and I was plunged back into the darkness of the night.
I dropped my bag and got out of there as fast as I could.
I ran through the woods. I ran without stopping. I burst through another clearing and found myself back on the main road. I heard my friends close by. Like me, they had given up on mischief and were taking advantage of the last few minutes of trick-or-treating. I didn’t tell them what had just happened. They ridiculed me enough as it was. Halloween night was soon over.
The next day, I confided in my friend Jay* who convinced me to take him to the house. The construction site was surprisingly easy to find. The bones of the house didn’t feel nearly as ominous in the afternoon sun. In the corner where I had been standing the night before was my bag of candy, lying just as I had dropped it and fully intact. Careful inspection showed that there were no lights anywhere in the area. It didn’t even look like it had been wired for power yet. There was nothing we could see that could have made that light or that noise.
That was the last year I went trick-or-treating as a kid. By next Halloween I felt like I was a little too old for it, and frankly I was still bothered by what had happened the previous year.
I never believed in ghost stories before that night. There were dozens of rumors about how parts of the woods in our neighborhood were haunted, but I never paid that much attention to them. They always seemed like stupid stories made up to scare us kids from wandering too far from our houses. But after that Halloween night, I couldn’t be so sure.
--Daddy Geek Boy
*The person is real, the name is not.
2 years ago