Tricks and Treats
Ghosts of Halloween past

pumpkin by Eric Haddix


I remember when candy was a goal. When, consequently, Halloween was something to be eagerly anticipated all summer long.

I always had my outfit planned sometime around Labor Day - living in terror that we'd have a cold snap and my mom would make me wear my heavy winter coat over my costume.

Now if I want candy, I just go buy it. And if I want to play dress-up in, say, a French maid's outfit, well... that's not exactly a story for the whole family.

But I still have glowing memories of my childhood Halloweens.

My favorite was the year I went (displaying a dazzling lack of imagination) as a princess. I must've slept with that rhinestone tiara on my head - the combs gouging out chunks of my hair and scalp - for a solid six weeks (which probably explains a lot).

I remember my grandmother buying us little orange plastic jack-o-lanterns to trick or treat with - and my accompanying skepticism that they would be big enough to hold all the loot (so I stowed a couple brown grocery bags in the car, just in case).

I remember the early years, when we wore those cheap plastic dime store masks with the rubber band that would break halfway through the neighborhood and I remember the later years when a store-bought costume seemed like the only thing that mattered in life. That was the same year my arch-nemesis-and sometimes-best friend, Laura Pintner, went as a full-scale vampire. She had the fake fangs, a black velvet cape, and squibs of fake blood. I was out of my mind with jealousy.

In college, we dressed up for all the de rigueur costumed frat parties - the sluttier the better. One year I went in devil's horns and a red bikini. Those photos will safely keep me out of public office for the rest of my life.

After I moved here, we switched to more adult celebrations - like black pepper pasta and pumpkin bisque at Lucie's (where no one could figure out, in my pink dress and baby powder-sprinkled nose, that I was Barbie-with-a-cocaine-problem).

But when I moved into my first house here, on Hanover, I couldn't wait for Halloween.

I was through with apartment living. I was through with roommates. It was the first time I really felt like a grownup. Bear in mind that, as the only single and childless adult in my family, it's NOT uncommon to STILL find me seated at the kids' table at holiday gatherings - so I tend to look for the validation of adulthood where ever I can find it.

And passing out candy at Halloween - in the tradition of my ancestors - definitely qualified.

I went and got an orange light bulb for my porch. I bought a big ceramic pumpkin and filled it up with about six bags of Hershey's miniatures (the good stuff) and put it by the door.

And I waited, and I waited, and no one came. Not one little sprite or goblin. Not a single ghost or monster. No one.

I was crushed. I turned off the porch light. I ate all the candy (that part actually did quite a bit to alleviate my incipient depression). And I pretty much boycotted any of the trappings of Halloween from that point forward, refusing to participate at all, beyond the minimalist viewing of scary movies with my boyfriend (Jacob's Ladder one year, Alien another, this year probably The Exorcist on the big screen... definitely preferring "disturbing" to gory).

I live on a busier street now, but the kids who come to my door on Halloween look like 15-year-old thugs. They don't live in my neighborhood. They don't even make any pretense at a costume. They just bang on the door and demand candy.

And I'm forced to set the dogs on them. -Rhonda Reeves

War and Pieces (Reese's, that is)

Few people understand the tactical importance of the candy fort, but those who do include my brother (the Count) and I (Super Grover). As we scrambled for candy on Halloween night, running into trees and tripping over roots in the dark, were we seeking not only a toothache but strategic armaments over each other. For when we would dump our booty on the living floor that night, we would not eat any of it immediately, but instead construct elaborate fortresses out of the candy. Suckers were guns and cannon; gumballs were bombs to be launched, candy bars formed the thick walls that prevented intrusion. Halloween evening and the many to follow it would always consist of deciding how much of one's candy fort one could eat while keeping the balance of power between the two forts. We relished in our aggression as long as we could, trying to ignore the devastating effects the rationing of candy was having on our tummies. But in a few weeks, the outcome was always the same; the forts would be slowly dismantled, here a wall, there a gun, now the electrified licorice fence. Eventually, the forts would be ruins, tattered testaments to the hounds of war and the candy we hated (the ever nasty Bit-o-Honey bivouacs always withstood the test of time) and peace and cavities would reign throughout the land. -Rob Bricken

Bricken Brothers terrorize the streets

All work and no play

Strangely, the word "fun" can be found in the phrase "company function," and yet there is so little fun to be found at them. Ironic, don't you think?

I had just started working for a newspaper in North Carolina when all employees were urged to attend the company Halloween party. Showing the enthusiasm that can only be found in the newly hired, I rolled into the party decked out in my finest KISS makeup.

Sadly, there was only a smattering of people in attendance and of those pitiful few, just a handful bothered with costumes. (Some tried to pretend they were in costume, but the limp joke of "I came as myself" really only goes so far.)

As I wallowed in the moment of being the dim kid who "fell for it," the big boss arrived. (This boss was the one most reporters rarely saw beyond the day they were hired.) Of course, she wasn't in costume either, enhancing the sense that costumes were the mark of those whose career ambitions didn't extend much beyond coming in late, stealing office supplies and playing the lottery.

Let's just say you can't make a stronger impression than greeting the über boss with a fake blood packet drizzling down the chin.

But looking back, I'd say the KISS costume was cool and the problem was the alleged "party." Work is work whether it's the Monday-thru-Friday setting or the novel circumstances of a "function." No matter what the setting, you're still surrounded by the people who hire and fire.

Don't let anyone tell you "to be yourself" at work; they just want to inherit your stapler. -Alex DeGrand

Party like it’s 1999: At last year’s Halloween bash, Alex (left) flocked with two of the pitiful few who bothered with costumes (before they broke out the lampshades).

Halloween can be a drag

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, ever since I was a little tyke. Maybe it's because my birthday is in October, or maybe I just like those miniature Snickers bars a little too much. I think a more likely reason is that I've never gotten over my obsession with the childhood game of "dress-up."

My senior year of high school was about the time I first started to get interested in female impersonation. Granted, I had never seen a live drag show or even a live drag queen, but for some reason I thought I could be one. So on Halloween of 1997, my clique headed to a place where we knew we could be freaky and glamorous and no one would care. Need you ask where? Why, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course.

The whole group decided to go as glamorous divas, but androgynous freaks was a more accurate term for the results. As the ring-leader of the gang, I spent three weeks working on my costume. You see, I wasn't just going as any old gal. For one night, I was going to be Madonna.

Now more recently I have actually impersonated Madonna, and, I assure you, I've come a long way since then. But even though my costume sucked that night, I guess I was radiating celebrity vibes because when I went on stage for the costume contest, there was a pretty good audience response. Playing off this, the vulgar host grabbed my crotch and asked if he could "justify my love." I declined this invitation.

I ended up with Honorable Mention, losing to a girl who carried a tableclothed card table on her shoulders with a hole in the middle for her head. There was a knife and fork glued to the table next to her noggin, and she wore a sign that said "Jeffrey Dahmer's Breakfast Nook." And we thought we were deviant.

I once won a two-liter of soda and a pizza coupon from a radio station. Other than that, this Honorable Mention is my only claim to fame. Yeah, the costume was pretty amateur and so was I. But on my way out of the theatre, when some woman screamed "Madonna!" and cozied up to me for a picture, I knew that it had all been worth it. -Victor Maze

Tale from my crypt

I was eight years old and had been racking my brain for two weeks, trying to think of what to be for Halloween. My mom, bless her heart, came up with the well-intentioned idea of making me a mummy. I hadn't come up with anything better so I was all for it. It was enough to get me out on the streets, and I kind of liked her idea. So we went to work.

I wore a set of long johns and she wrapped me in white crepe paper. A couple layers. It looked good. I didn't look scary - too white and clean - but I was unmistakably a mummy. My younger brothers, sister and I hit the road, ready to bag our loot. My brother was a bug and my sister was a peanut and my baby brother was a grizzly bear. Because I'm the oldest, I led the group. And it went well. My costume was pretty successful. The adults that answered their doors recognized my costume, and I didn't get any rocks in my bag.

But my crepe paper fell off more and more until by the last house we visited, I stood in someone's lighted doorway dressed only in pair of long undies. The adult - and this person should have known better - even had the bad tact to call me out and ask what the hell I was supposed to be.

"A mummy."

Confused look.

"All my wrapping fell off."


And she gave me a damn apple.

-Steven Tweddell

. Halloween Hottentots

Holiday perspectives from the mouths of babes By Rob Bricken

Sure, Halloween is a holiday hundreds of years old, rich in religious meaning and superstition. But it's also about loading up America's youth with the sugar needed to keep them hyper and jittery through the night and the next day at school.

The Focus Group

To understand the true meaning of Halloween, Ace formed a select committee of seven schoolkids (first through fifth grade) at nearby Harrison Elementary school to get to the Tootsie center of the matter. We asked the important questions: tricks vs. treats, the best and worst candy, and what the costume rage is in the year 2000.

The panel consisted of Johnathon Sykes, Jean Morgan, Mary Burkett, Karen Garcia, Kerri Kiger, Sara Warner, and Gerald Martin , and moderated by Associate Principal Kakie Hester.


The tense meeting got off to a rocky start on the discussion of tricks.

All of the delegates were positive about the holiday. Many of them, such as Gerald Martin and Sara Warner, claimed Halloween as their favorite holiday. Martin backed down when reminded of Christmas, but Warner stood fast. Her reasons: "Because I can go up and down the streets and Christmas I have to stay home and get all hot. Whenever I'm in my house and asleep, my mom puts on the heat."

It may be such seasonal tragedies that have led Ms. Warner to her firm anti-trick stance, preferring only treats. Jean Morgan was in opposition to tricks, while Martin, Burkett and Kiger were in favor of tricks. Martin favored the "jump out and scare 'em in a dark alley" trick, a classic, while Burkett also favors the 'scare' tricks. While remaining silent on her oeuvre, she mentioned her primary target was her mother. Kiger gave everyone a chuckle when related her classic tale of when she "had this toy spider and my grandmom's afraid of snakes and stuff like that an I put the spider on the floor and she looked down and she screamed."


Candy was a mixed bag for the panel, no pun intended. While almost everyone agreed that the best part of Halloween was the procurement of candy, few agreed on either the best or worst type of candy.

Conservative Gerald Martin favored suckers of all varieties, while Mary Burkett denounced suckers, exhorting the universal appeal of chocolate instead. Jean Morgan and Sara Warner formed a coalition for peppermints early on; Karen Garcia could not speak highly enough of Jolly Ranchers.

The infighting reached its most vehement when Sykes and Kiger discussed their unique predilections. Sykes, to the confoundment of panel and audience members alike, chose Gummi Worms as his favorite candy, only to immediately claim Gummi Bears as his least favorite! Sykes refused to clarify his decisions, claiming only that he would "throw 'em [the Gummi Bears] at his baby brother."

Kiger was unwilling to let Sykes's conflicted stance remain unchallenged; she exclaimed that Gummi Bears were not only the superior Gummi product, but that Gummi Worms ranked the lowest of the low as far as Halloween candy was concerned. Some shouted that Tootsie Rolls were despicable; some defamed candy corn; Garcia couldn't contain her disgust for the candy that "comes in a white package." The mood was tense and infighting abounded, but the other panel members quickly moved on to the next topic before hostilities rose.

In the end, a quick poll was taken to see if any consensus could be reached. The poll revealed that six of the seven delegates like chocolate best; then when asked if any preferred chewy candy best, the same six raised their hands. The polling process was immediately abandoned; outside lobbyists have been blamed.

The Best-dressed are wearing...

Luckily, a mutual consensus was reached on costumes. While many believe America's youth is losing touch with its history, is too obsessed with popular culture, these kids see the greatness in the past. No Pokemon or Digimon plastic masks, no vinyl X-Men uniforms, and goodness knows, no Jar Jar outfits for them.

While cynics might blame the dearth of pop culture costuming on the lack of a viable summer franchise/ phenomenon for kiddies, the fact is that most of the seven children are going in traditional Halloween costumes. Sykes shall haunt his streets as a ghost. Burkett will rattle around as a skeleton, but not just a skeleton; she'll be going "with a snake and I scare people," unwilling to rest on her laurels.

Kerri Kiger will be Cinderella and Sara Warner a ballerina.

Gerald Martin is going decidedly modern as Scream, his affectionate name for the Munsch-inspired crazed killer garb in the Scream trilogy. Karen Garcia was undecided at press, but is adamant about her love of the classics; she was Dracula last year, and "not a lady Dracula, but a Dracula."

Jean Morgan was also noncommital, but many doubt this year's choice will equal the cutting socio-political commentary of last year's triumphant costume, which guised her as a "dead princess," who died "in a car wreck."

At this point the talks broke down. In order to keep relations friendly, two bags of candy, Sweetarts and Crispy M&Ms, were offered to the participants for their services in the Halloween focus group. The seven kids swarmed the bags as if they contained gold bouillon (both reporter and photographer were severely injured in the fracas), ripping them open and scattering the sugary contents across the Harrison Elementary School gymnasium floor.

Associate Principal Hester called for the candy to be divided fairly, which the kids reluctantly agreed to. When the divvying was over, four bags of M&Ms and four Sweetart rolls remained (which we'd hoped to divide among the Ace interns who were hard at work back at the office, washing our cars). We pointed out they already each had three bags of M&Ms each. But "there's more," they said in a fair approximation of Children of the Corn. We gave them the candy, thankful to escape with our lives.

Please remember, should you chance to encounter these delegates at your doorway this Tuesday, please give generously. They told us to ask you.