Which came first: the pumpkin or the seed?

Or in other words --

Did the house I grew up in seem scary because I'm a natural scaredy-cat, or am I a scaredy-cat because I grew up in a naturally scary house?

It's a Halloween conundrum to be sure.

But I'm going to vote for the latter. To this day I don't like to be home alone, and I have a hunch it's because I used to d-r-e-a-d being home alone here:

This is a recent photo from a local newspaper, and it only shows an itty slice of the enormous house. But isn't she a beaut?

If you were a spooky ghost, a menacing murderer or a ridiculously hairy spider, wouldn't you want to move right in?

Someday I'll tell you all about it, but right now it's time for a Halloween party. And I can't imagine a better party than the one I threw at my childhood house last year.


(If you've already received a better invitation, I understand and I hope you have a wonderful time and get lots of candy.)

Everybody got your costumes?

(You're not seriously going as an
underarm model AGAIN, are you?)

And now I'm going to use a little blog TRICK

to bring you a recycled Halloween TREAT:

Small Works is brought to you today
by the letter "S" and by the number one.

Welcome, Friends! Come in to my very sincere pumpkin patch.

Today it's my blog Halloween party!
I'm glad you could come. First, let's have a story:

Mac will do exactly what I would do . . .

Because I am really such a scaredy-cat. That's why the letter S: S for Scared.
But why the number one, you ask?

Because one is the loneliest number. (Now I hope I haven't put that song into your head, because I want you to get in a scary and lonely mood for the next Halloween story . . .)


I grew up in a very big house. Seriously. If you could see it you would say, "Wow. That's a big house. I wouldn't want to be in that house alone in the dark."

You would be correct to think that.

Here's a picture of me in my parents' bedroom, and I think it captures quite well how I felt living in that big big house.

Do I look like a frightened little mouse in a great big room? Because that's what I was, for almost my entire childhood.

(For the record, I must admit that it was also an incredibly cool and wonderful house, but this is a spooky blog story . . .)

Raise your hand if your house had a suit of armor in the dining room -- because mine did. It also had funny names for the rooms (it was the kind of house where you would give the rooms names, like "the receiving area", "the music room" or "the butler's pantry." It was a little like growing up on a "Clue" board, except instead of Professor Plum we had Professor Harold Hill.)

One of the places in the house was
"The Long Dark Hall."

The "LDH" was indeed long, with a dark wood floor and two iron gates at either end. There were floor-length red velvet drapes hanging on sets of french doors all the way down one side. There were two medieval-looking chairs against the wall on the other side.

And there were ghostly footsteps in the hall when I would lay in bed at night. I think the steam in the pipes made them, but they sounded exactly like slow and deliberate steps made by a ghost in black heeled boots. When I had to pass the yawning entrance to the LDH at night, (which I did have to in order to go upstairs), I would of course run. And I think my face looked like Mac's face.

So in honor of Halloween, I thought we could venture down the long dark hall together and have some spooky fun. I bet it isn't as scary as I thought it was.

First, let's have some
spooky organ music . . .

That's the Long Dark Hall
(now imagine some iron gates . . . scary, huh?!)

Let's tiptoe together.

I wonder what we'll find?

Here's a door -- let's open it . . . .

cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

EEEKKK!!! I knew it! That's the kind of thing I always knew lived here!
That's it -- I'm running . . . .

Here's another door.
Should I open it?

cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

I expected scary but I didn't expect the rack.

Still running . . .

Next door . . . cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

Should we go on?

Okay, just one more door . . .

cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .


This is much scarier than I intended. Enough film noir . . . black and white films are always scarier than color films. Let's change film before we open the next door . . .

cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

A nightmare of being chased by Man-Eating Fish?
By an artist I really admire?

This is getting better.

I think we should continue. . .

cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

Whew!!! It's just Leaf-Man.

(I don't know what Li'l Russ has to look so grumpy about. I think his mom did a fantastic job bringing his vision to life. Speaking of which, I used to be very sad and jealous because I only got store-bought Halloween costumes. I felt like my mom didn't care enough to make me cool costumes like Leaf-Man. But I was recently talking to a friend who told me they always felt sad and jealous because their mom didn't care enough to get them store-bought costumes. There's a Halloween moral there somewhere . . .)

But shhhh! I hear talking . . . .

cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

Oh good!

It's just three adorable little trick-or-treaters, Li'l Russ, Dave and Big John, the cousins from next door. They must have been told to either look tough or to look like the sixth grade bullies just stole their candy.
(Li'l Russ, you are a darling scarecrow but didn't you ever smile on Halloween?)

Now I'm feeling much more relaxed. We're almost to the end of the hall, and the gates are open so we won't be trapped here.

Another door . . . cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

Now here's a happy memory! I'm sure Lindsay's must be the one in the middle and Chelsea's must be the one on the left. Judging by the tablecloth, Hannah was too young so Russ must have carved the one on the right for her.

Alas, no little pumpkins in my house this year!
(Maybe we'll go out to dinner.)

Well, now I'm pretty out of breath. We're at the end of the LDH.

All I see is the HALLOWEEN VAULT.
Should we open it?

It looks a little scary . . . . cccrrreeeaaakkk . . .

Whew! It's only full of Susan's old artwork:

And Li'l Russ yelling . . .


Happy Halloween!


Judy said...

Love this post. I'm suddenly feeling all Halloween-y. You've got some great pictures that made me laugh and shiver all the way through--especially the ones of little Russ. Thanks for the wonderful tour of your LDH.

Jeanie said...

The thing that scared me the most about your parents house when I lived there was that life-sized doll, Hattie, in the basement. If you walked by Hattie's hallway in the dark you were sure there was some intruder standing there. Hattie always gave me a bit of a fright. Love the pictures of Little Russ. I'd forgotten about Leaf Man. My mom did come up with some cool Halloween costumes.

Marjorie said...

What a great mood setter for Halloween. I feel like I've had a good and proper scare, now, and can start watching for the candy!

VO said...

GREAT post! Great story, great illustrations.

stfrank said...

The suit of armor was definitely creepy.  That and the dark rooms in the basement that I never, ever saw the inside of. I must admit; however, I loved the long dark hall but then again I love Halloween - I fear I'm a bit outnumbered here. Grandma Ruby was an awesome seamstress and costume maker which passed down to my Mom.  I have always decorated my house to the hilt even though I haven't lived in reach of a trick-or-treater in 17 years, now my tactic is solely based on freaking out my husband. The last trick or treater I received was an admitted pity case with my new neighbor pointing out she felt sorry for all my work because "we don't get trick or treaters here" - a fact I was painfully aware of. I sent the little mermaid and captain hook off with a package of Top Ramen and a jar of hot fudge sundae sauce.....and never saw them again.

susan m hinckley said...

Ha ha ha! I'd certainly rather have gotten the hot fudge than the top ramen . . .

Russ and I lived in the basement the year after we were married. Even after new wallpaper and a little remodeling on the bathroom, the rooms were still s-c-a-r-y!!

Allie said...

Given my childhood imagination, I would not have survived your house. I remember being banned from watching Dark Shadows - remember that? and sneaking over to a friend's house to watch it. At night, after watching it, the ballerinas on my bedroom curtains would become Cassandra's face as she came after me. Nope, I would've died of fright before my 10th birthday....

susan m hinckley said...

I too was banned from "Dark Shadows" -- also from "Marcus Welby MD" because I was too suggestible and developed symptoms of ridiculous things like leprosy. But that's okay because I banned myself from all things scary by a very early age. My brain managed to come up with enough horror stories on its own. I made the mistake of seeing the shower scene in "Psycho" by accident, and it was a BAD MISTAKE. And the movie "The Andromeda Strain" completely terrorized me for some reason. But then, I was easily frightened because I used to imagine "The Blob" oozing in under my bathroom door. Actually, it was an exhausting childhood.

luanne said...

Your friend Nancy Drew was what sent me over the nightmares edge, or so my mother thought, and thus I was Nancy-deprived forevermore.

My mother was a nurse, so we grew up knowing that every new symptom represented the possible onset of some dread disease; but absent a fever, we still had to go to school and have them call if we weren't feeling better by lunchtime.

Chelsea said...

i had to make this correction last year too! my pumpkin was the one in the middle. i remember because i had just come home from school where are class pumpkin had half-moon eyes and i thought they were so cool that i made them for my pumpkin. and i had just discovered that a circle looked a lot like a mouth saying "boo!!"

susan m hinckley said...

Oops! . . . sorry Chels. I actually remembered that you made the correction last year, but then I forgot to correct it when I re-published. Soon you'll probably have to be putting me in a home for the forgetful elderly. Enjoy me while you have me!

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