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NLogan's Retro Halloween Anticipation

By: NLogan


The rustle of leaves being blown by a chill wind. The skeletal fingers of the trees reaching for the harvest moon. The shopfronts pulling out decorations for Halloween. A walk through the dark woods. Ghost stories by the fire. The spot lights searching the sky, announcing the location of the spook alleys and haunted houses. My Favorite time of year.

As a child I vividly remember the preparations and anticipation all month long, getting ready for Halloween.

As soon as the leaves started changing color we would pile into my uncle's Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon and head along the state highway north through orchard country along the "fruit way". Farms and orchards passed by on each side of the road, leafless and harvested skeletal cherry orchards, fields of squash, pear trees marching off in the distance in single file, dilapidated barns, dusty rows of corn fields, and roadside stands where you could stop and buy produce. We would stop at an apple orchard and drink steaming hot apple cider purchased by the cup, and eat caramel covered apples on a stick. We viewed the world in reverse from a rear-facing rumble seat as we headed to our destination, the pumpkin patch.

As we tumbled out of the back when the door was finally opened we spilled out into the pick your own pumpkin patch. My uncle was given garden shears to snip the stems from the vine; and we set out in search of the great pumpkin, or at least as big a one as we could carry (which for a kid wasn't very big).

We would collect our prizes around dusk and head home in the dark already planning how we would begin carving them into frightful grins to scare the spooks and goblins on Halloween. Before we made it my uncle had other plans. Perhaps he had planned it all along or maybe he was drawn in by the circling search light on a whim. We pulled off the highway in the town of Pleasant View and started angling up a winding dirt road heading for a mansion on the hill surrounded by a long rock wall.

We had no clue where we were going but my uncle did. Aptly titled Rocky Point it was originally built as a restaurant in 1965 but was destroyed by fire only three years later. It stood gutted, roofless, and derelict for nearly a decade. Strange sights and sounds, and eerie lights were heard and seen at night on the hill more likely caused by trespassers than undead spirits, but nevertheless it gained a reputation as being haunted. The owner's son convinced the owner in 1979 to let him have a haunted house/spook alley on the premises. For a few years it was a haphazard affair but soon grew to draw large crowds. In 1986 some teenagers asked to be able to continue the spook alley in the mansion that was being restored and the owner relented. Appalled at the liability and accidents waiting to happen the owner's daughter threatened to shut down the whole affair. Instead she became involved. She picked up insurance and corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, and actually ran it for 27 years donating the proceeds to the Special Olympics. Unfortunately the original Rocky Point burnt again by fire shortly after the Halloween season ended in November of 1996. The attraction moved to an abandoned grocery store and continued until 2007 being one of the most popular haunted attractions in the state. For me however it was only the original that mattered.

I remember as a child the dread anticipation and excitement as I climbed the stone stairs after my uncle clinging to my brother with nervous smiles on our faces passed the searchlight cutting a path across the sky to draw in more victims. As we toured the various spooky hallways and creepy rooms, I distinctly remember a cannibalistic scene in the dining room where the unlucky main course still moaned and writhed on the table half eaten. On the way home, perhaps because of our age and impressionability, my uncle felt obliged to explain that the meal's legs were actually under the table cloth and the visible legs that were being eaten by the ghouls were fake. He need not have worried however, as we had already figured out the trick and were planning our own versions at home already in our heads. Much later in the week we tried it by sitting on the couch under the cushion over our legs with our body coming out of the crack in between the cushions. With fake legs (balled up socks and clothes) in a pair of jeans ending in empty sneakers on top of the cushion. Even though we had the basic mechanism right we could not achieve complete success because the mostly bumpy legs and flat empty waist were less than convincing.

Upon arriving home from the pumpkin patch the more pressing task at hand of carving the pumpkins pushed our fantasy haunted houses to the back burner. Plans were drawn up using a marker long before the first cuts. The lids, we learned at an early age, were to be cut angled in so you didn't lose your lid falling to the inside.
This is demonstrated by my brother in this picture of a season's carvings. It was also prudent to include a smoke hole notch in the lid for the candle's heat and smoke to escape. Funny, kids now-a-days will probably never see those as most people use battery powered multi-colored lights instead of candles to light the jack-o-lanterns of today.

Somehow I always over-cut and had to save my pumpkin's eye or nose by inserting toothpick stitches to hold him together year after year. Meanwhile grandma would be collecting and preparing the pumpkin seeds, stirring them in melted butter and salt before spreading them out on a pan to roast in the oven. The aroma filled the house.

My dad loves Halloween nearly as much as I do. When there was a crisp chill to the autumn air, he would start rummaging around in the basement under the stairs for his homemade Halloween decorations to put up in the yard and decorate the house with.

I, having found a special talent for it at a young age, was employed in stringing fake cobwebs along our fence, over the hedges leading up the walk, and on the bricks of the house around the front door. The key to a convincing web is to stretch the wadded up cotton batting as far as possible between two points making sure that the ends are securely anchored on corners or points out of sight and pulling apart the wispy strands and attaching them to anything and everything they would adhere to, radiating out from the focal point. You cannot get lazy and just quit separating leaving a giant blob of white. If necessary use scissors to cut away unnecessary material for another web somewhere else. Only the choicest of plastic spiders would do, used very sparingly. One in a corner here and one dangling from a strand there. No ring spiders were allowed.  I was a master in my craft. I knew exactly what I had in mind and was trying for every year.

Having already set every arachnophobe on edge before they even made the porch we proceeded to decorate the yard.

First came the tombstones of painted plywood with R.I.P. (rest in piece), momento mori, etc. gracing the head of the stones followed by funny sayings or rhymes my dad or my brother and I would come up  with.

An ashen face beyond the veil

Pallor Mortis

Your blood will cease,
as you grow pale.
But you'll not live
to tell the tale.

As cold as death

Algor Mortis

It warms my bones
in my tomb,
to know that soon you'll
face your doom!

Here lies the stiff

Rigor Mortis


Death's embrace is
cold and hard.
Like a statue
in the grave-yard.

One in whom the blood has pooled

Livor Mortis

We all must face it
when it's due,
I've met my death
and so must you!

We would create a little cemetery inside our fenced yard with rows of headstones. I still make them for my yard.

My dad would make plywood frames and we would put old clothes on them topped with a Halloween mask or head made of paper mache. We would stuff the dummies and have them populate our graveyard. On Halloween night as we got older we would stand among the dummies in costume, having stuffed our sleeves with newspaper, and pulled our fingers out of the gloves. The curious or the wary would always attempt to feel the suspicious looking dummies to see if they were real or not. But having felt the crinkle of the paper or having not found fingers in the gloves they would drop their guard. We would even stand against or put parts of the wooden frame in a pant-leg to appear supported as we adopted awkward positions to appear even more dummy-like. We would remain motionless until the unsuspecting victim turned their backs to us to point us out to their friends with a nervous laugh. "Heh, for a second I thought that one was real." They would see the fear in their friends' eyes first as we crept up behind them. Sometimes they would even pose for a Polaroid with us and we would move slightly menacing them in the photo and return to position. My dad had taught us how in our younger years by watching him scare the daylights out of the night's visitors.

We would hang a ghost from the tree made of cheese cloth or a billowing sheet wrapped around a skull.

On the doors and walls inside the house we posted our own monstrous artwork.

We also hung store bought die cut cardboard cut-outs from such famous Halloween decorating companies as Beistle, Dennison, Peck, and Eureka. Besides homemade decorations it seemed like wherever you went the cut-outs were the same be it in windows of the homes in my neighborhood, on the walls of the classrooms at school, on the doors of the library, or hanging in storefront windows. They became the icons of Halloween for me and defined the season. Monsters, pumpkins, skeletons, devils, witches, black cats, owls, ravens, ghosts, haunted houses, spiders, all under the stars and moon.

1980s Beistle Skeleton

1980s HMS Skeleton

1980s Haunted Houses

1980s HMS Haunted House

1982 Peck Skull and Witch

1980s Witch

1960s Ghost with Owl

1970s Beistle Glow Ghosts

1960s Peck Ghost

1970s Beistle Ghost Castle, Skull and Black Cat, and Kilroy Witch with Cauldron

1979 Beistle jointed black cat, jointed skeleton, pumpkin, witch, and flaming skull

1985 Beistle monsters

More rare were the older die cuts and cut outs.

1950s H.E. Luhrs' witch house and black cat yowling at a pumpkin on a post under the moon. These designs were later appropriated by Beistle and reproduced in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

My maternal grandmother had this great Beistle jointed skeleton from the 40s.

Some of the most rare of all and my personal favorites were unlicensed monster likenesses from movies and film companies.

1980s C.A. REED company unlicensed Universal Monster likenesses Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster and a generic Wolf Man

1982 Peck Inc. Bloomington Indiana version of the monsters with one side being flocked. Their unlicensed Universal Monsters likeness of Lon Chaney Sr. as the Phantom of the Opera and Oliver Reed as the Werewolf from Curse of the Werewolf, an unlicensed American International Pictures likeness of Robert Quarry as Count Yorga, and a generic Frankenstein's Monster.

Late 70s Dennison's unlicensed Universal Monster likeness, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster

1981 Eureka of Dunmore Pennsylvania produced a unlicensed Universal Monster likeness, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man

1981 Eureka's generic count and countess and unlicensed Universal Monster likeness Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster. My paternal grandmother had the monster on her door each Halloween. I have since been able to find one to relive those memories as I hang it from my door each year.

Here are my boys with it last year.

At least sometime during the month of October we would make our annual pilgrimage to the Arctic Circle hamburger stand to
get a Square Pumpkin kid's meal with a C-Prize inside.

It was practically the only time of the year I ever ate there. You could have only experienced it in the western United States as that is the only region that Arctic Circles are to be found. Maybe the "C" in C-Prize stood for circle but I really don't know. In 1981 I went to an Arctic Circle with my aunt and twin brother. I got my first Square Pumpkin.

More of a rectangle pumpkin but you get the idea. The box itself was a jack-o-lantern. It had a witch under the moon and a starry sky on the sides.

On the top near the handle was a coupon for a free Kiddie Cone ice cream.

On the back was a haunted house game.

Inside we received a "C" prize which was usually a fairly cheap toy like a spinning top or a plastic harmonica in their regular "C" meals, each restaurant was locally owned and I think each owner put different prizes in. I think the Halloween Square Pumpkin meal that I got came with vampire teeth and a spider ring. Also inside were the player pieces and the paper die that we had to assemble to play the game on the back. When you cast the die it barely rolled at all making it fairly easy to cheat by throwing for the 6 each time as my brother soon discovered as we played while we ate.

It is funny what sticks in your memory. A decades old trip for some fast food is permanently logged there for some reason. It became a family tradition that we still do to the present as I take my children there. Oddly enough it is still pretty much the only time of year I eat there. The C prize these days is usually a spooky flashlight.

Each year my mom and grandma would decorate for Halloween parties as the family gathered together. They would have spooky themed tablecloths, plates and napkins, black and orange balloons, crepe paper steamers, garland, with terrifying treats, popcorn bomb balls with licorice fuses, and haunted food items.

My family still gets together and we eat pizza shaped like jack-o-lanterns while we watch classic Halloween cartoons and movies, waiting for the magic trick-or-treating hour.

My grandma always made spooky cupcakes with Halloween toppers on them.

When grandma passed away, I was helping my mom clean her place and managed to save some of them.

My mom let me have several of grandma's Halloween tin noisemakers from the 1920s to 1940s. The T.Cohn green witch one has a crank lever that twists around making a screeching, yowling cat sound. The black cat Kirchof "Life of the Party" one spins around making a clicking ratcheting noise.

Vintage U.S. Metal Toy MFG co. tin shaker and another Kirchof noise maker with witches.

A haunted T. Cohn tin shaker noise maker with ghosts.

I have seen this Pumpkin blow mold lamp with witch hat all my life and these were my very first pumpkin trick or treat pails. When my sons were old enough to carry a pail they carried these too.

After over 40 years the lamp still works. As far as I know the light bulb has never been changed.

This is a cool ceramic ghost lamp that has been with my family for several Halloweens.

Here are some random pumpkin containers and characters I have gotten over the years.

Planning and preparing for Halloween is always a big part of the holiday for me and my family. I usually don't put up Halloween decorations until mid month after my oldest son's birthday now-a-days. I will always remember the feeling of anticipation before the big night, each and every Halloween.

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Superman Posted on Nov 15, 2018 at 11:26 PM

Great article. It was oozing with Halloween nostalgia. I enjoyed reading about your Halloween traditions. Rocky Point sounds like it was a very cool location. I'd love to visit somewhere like that one day.

NLogan Posted on Nov 05, 2018 at 10:50 PM

@sturm you and me both buddy. If you ever find any pictures I definitely want to see them.

@the post Halloween blues have settled in here. But I am staving them off by making a Beast costume for the Beauty and the Beast play at my sons' school. That and eating their candy.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Nov 04, 2018 at 05:20 PM

I was saving this to get me over the post Halloween blues and it did the trick...or treat. We had that Peck Skull from 1982 growing up! I love tale of your Dad teaching you how to fake people out and scare them. I used to do the same thing when I was character at Disneyland, I called it "Playing Statue". Here's to more years of fun trick or treating with your niece.

sturm316 Posted on Nov 01, 2018 at 09:22 PM

I remember you posting a similar article on Retrojunk years ago. I also grew up in the Salt Lake area (Murray) and have many similar memories, including the March of Dimes Haunted House on State Street in the old Murray Laundry. I've long been looking for someone who has pictures of it, both with the monsters painted on the front and the later skull entry version.

NLogan Posted on Oct 23, 2018 at 10:23 PM

@vaporman87 you are welcome sir!

@vkimo unfortunately there aren't many photos of the yard decorations growing up. There are plenty of my dad's efforts as the years went on and we had already left home (over the top and cheesy), and if you mean decorations of my own house well...

The truth is I don't decorate overmuch now because my neighborhood doesn't receive a lot of trick-or-treaters. I live on a hill on a dead end that ends in a circle. No one wants to hike the hill and steps for every house. We get like 20 max each year. I put out tombstones, carved pumpkins, and metal pumpkin lights each year. One year I did decorate my mother in laws' porch with an elaborate mini haunted house with dungeon corridor I spray painted on cardboard with window openings to jump out and scare people with, skulls, a cauldron with dry ice mist near the candy bowl for those who made it, chains and manacles hanging from the walls, etc. Somehow no photos except one were taken. Me popping out to yell Happy Halloween in a Pennywise voice and I didn't even paint the inside of the window shutters. My boys are getting old and may want to party instead of trick or treat. There may be some decorating in the future. However my twin brother just had a baby girl necessitating another decade of trick or treating.

vkimo Posted on Oct 23, 2018 at 12:40 AM

Finally got a chance to sit down and take a look at this gem! Rocky Point sounds like a awesome spot! In California we didn't have much for spooky haunts save for the Winchester Mystery House - but PA seems to have dozens. I'd like to see a picture of your house decorated.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 08, 2018 at 03:08 AM

Nothing can get those Halloween juices flowing like a full-on NLogan piece. Thank you for that sir!

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