It is fair to say Halloween has become this appallingly commercial event, with those in marketing licking their lips at commercial possibilities. Where I live in France, there is only a muted enthusiasm for this event. There was a push to try to get it in the public eye, but it does nor rank too highly in the calendar. Last year I do recall some kids walking around in costumes. The notion of trick or treat however goes back a long way. Though its present format goes back a hundred years and is highly popular in the USA, you can trace its true origins back to ancient Celtic festivals, early Roman Catholic holidays, and medieval practices.
Halloween itself was originally the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on the night of October 31. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago and populated Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, believed that the dead returned to earth on Samhain. People would gather to light bonfires, offer sacrifices and pay homage to the deceased. The practice of “trick or treating” originates in Scotland and Ireland, young people took part in a tradition called “guising”, dressing up in costume and accepting offerings from various households. Rather than honoring the dead they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat, which generally would be fruit, nuts or coins. The dressing up part was like a defense mechanism, if they encountered a demon, the demon would leave them alone, believing them to be a fellow demon.
A trick is a form of prank…but what if a prank goes wrong?
Some people go to extremes during Halloween. What kind of father would pretend to murders his two children’s mother? The children being six and eight years old. The children escaped the gruesome scene to take refuge with the neighbours, who informed the police. The police no doubt were left wondering about the idiocy of the parents. It seems parents are not the only ones to succumb to such folly. Teachers, in a Massachusetts high school equally got up to a highly ill-judged prank. Imagine you are a fifteen year old student, there is a knock on the door, you open it and standing in front of you is a man with a mask carrying a chainsaw. You would freak out. This what happened, resulting in the traumatized student injuring himself in his trauma. Massachusetts seems to be place where there are a number of unhinged teachers. At the Institute of Technology, a man by the name of Phi Kappa Sigma, a fraternity member dressed up as the grim reaper and rigged up a contraption to emit smoke and shoot out Halloween party invitations into a crowded classroom. Instead the machine blew up, giving the student severe lacerations and prompting the bomb squad to be called in. Several campus buildings had to be evacuated.
Sadly some pranks can result in death. Eric Morelli, 18 killed his sister, Kristen Milano. He thought it would be funny to throw a lit sparkler into the family apartment. Pranks in which you kill one of your own siblings, would be weight enough on anybody’s conscious for the rest of their lives…
One of my stories “Little Mite” does not take place on the night of Halloween, but just prior to Christmas…it does involve a prank that goes horribly wrong. The idea for the prank came about after I read a real life story about a man shooting his own daughter. In my story a young girl, who goes by the name of Little Mite, enacts a terrible prank herself, when she glues the hand of a young boy to a coffee table. Her older sister is at the time of this prank in the process of arranging a dream marriage to the man of dreams. The young boy is her fiancé’s younger brother. The prank causes the fiancé to call off the wedding. Little Mite is grounded and in disgrace, the prank has not only a strong effect on her older sister, but other far reaching consequences. In order to win back her parents favour she decides to carry out another prank. While her family are away buying Christmas presents, she dresses up in one of her mother’s dresses and hides in a cupboard. When the family get home they imagine the house is being burgled. The older sister urges her father to get his hunting rifle. The father duly agrees…you can imagine what happens next…
Here is an exert leading up to a prank that goes horribly wrong…
“Little Mite, we’re home,” her father and mother yelled at the
same time, as they walked over the threshold, laden with Christmas
gifts, their guilt at leaving their youngest alone at home apparent in the
worried tone of their voices. There was no sign of Little Mite, but
there were clothes scattered everywhere.
“Little Mite, where are you?” her father called with growing
Little Mite, ensconced upstairs in her parent’s closet, rattled some
wooden coat hangers and stamped her feet to attract their attention.
Hannah, hearing the faint commotion upstairs, eyebrows
furrowed, said in a low whisper, “Dad! I think we’ve a burglar in the
Mr. Dashville looked at his daughter and then back at his wife
with grave concern. The two women, lead by Hannah’s remark, clearly
expected him to act. Hannah quickly came to the conclusion that the
situation had all the hallmarks of a Little Mite prank. She was up to
one of her antics, another pathetic stunt to win her undeserved parent’s
favor. Then Hannah thought of Connor holding Cherry strongly in his
arms, and her face twisted in rage. This situation presented an
opportunity to teach her brat of a sister a lesson, and, more poignantly,
the opportunity for revenge. Hannah put on a face of fear, tensed her
body, made her teeth chatter, and whispered in a quavering voice,
“Dad! I’m scared, please, do something!”
At first, Mr. Dashville seemed undecided, as if weighing the
situation. Then they heard another muffled thump from above. “I’ll get
my gun,” he replied and crept stealthily across the room to the gun
cabinet. Quietly unlocking the cabinet, he removed his hunting
shotgun, and loaded it. Cradling it in his arms, he searched the living
room, then the dining room and kitchen, and finding nothing
untoward, approached the stairs. At the foot of the stairs he heard
another rattle coming, he was certain, from his and his wife’s bedroom,
more precisely the large closet which was full of his wife’s clothing
and accessories, including a jewelry box laden with family heirlooms.
With visions in his head of some low-life meddling about in the closet
and stealing their most valuable possessions, he mounted the stairs.
Hannah and her mother watched as Mr. Dashville trod lightfooted
up the stairway and into the master bedroom. He was about to
demand that the intruder or intruders give themselves up, when the
closet door burst open and out sprung a grotesquely dressed figure,
shrieking and waving it’s hands menacingly in the air…….
I would suggest before you embark on some audacious prank, for Halloween, think very carefully about the awful consequences that might result.
Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter