The Story of the
Castle of Doom
(Or, "how I never really grew up and still like to play Ghosts & Goblins on Halloween"...)
I am often asked, "why do you do this? Isn't it a lot of work?"
The building and setup of the "Castle of Doom", along with an ever growing party that accompanies our favorite time of year is very time consuming. And, I couldn't calculate the out-of-pocket expenses laid out over the last 17 years, for something that is in essence used for two nights for a total of about 6-8 hours. We have never charged admission nor desire to do so.
So why indeed?
I have a few stock tongue-n-cheek answers that have served me well over the years, such as; "when the first teenager screams, it's all worth it." Or, "some folks play golf, I play with Halloween."
But to really understand, I have to describe a magical moment that occurred many, many Halloweens ago. A moment of bonding between a father & son, the moment when I came to realize that Halloween offered MUCH more than begging candy door to door, more than any "fun" that could be had doing the traditionally destructive and frankly illegal vandalism that some considered part and parcel to that day marked October 31 on the calendar.
A moment, allowing a man that must claim mortal
existence on this Earth of over 1/2 century, to feel truly young,
in every sense,
at least one night a year...
(Now, since I am what some might consider old, I will be making references to years and possibly dates that are my best recollection and would not wish too much scrutiny therein. Suffice it to say that coming close should be good enough.)
Installment 1; The Awakening.
When I was about 10 years old, making it perhaps the Halloween season of 1967 or '68, I was, as usual, eagerly awaiting what had already become my favorite day of the year simply because I loved candy and, coming from a modest household where money was spent on necessities and not typically on unneeded, frivolous things, the thought of a whole night set aside socially for the sake of providing every youth that came to one's door a freebie bag full of diabetes-waiting-to-happen, WELL, it just couldn't get any better than that!
As I lazily considered what I would wear for the evening of "Trick or Treat, (smell my feet)" greetings I and my cohorts would extol on as many of our poor neighbors as humanly possible between 6 and 9 PM, I noticed my father was busy in our garage, working or playing with some of his old stereo equipment. Always curious about such things, I set aside the "costume" issue for the moment and endeavored to watch.
I did recognize the reel-to-reel tape deck, the microphone, but not so much the other device that had tubes sticking out in open air from a small metal chassis about 6"x 8" in size. There were a couple of old speakers, mounted in wood boxes that were not of store bought vintage, as my Father could build anything with some plywood, a tin shingle, and a few 5 penny nails which were always around due to his line of work as a Journeyman roofer.
I watched my Dad connect the tape deck to the tube thing, the microphone to the tape deck and the speakers to the tube thing, what he was now calling a "pre-amp". After all the wires were sorted out and power applied to this seemingly Rube-Goldburg-esque contraption, he held the microphone to my lips and said, "say something". To which I responded "what?" The ensuing screech, blending the word "what" with the feedback that comes from an amplifier pumping too much power to speakers that were far too close to a microphone held to the lips of a child that never spoke softly in his life......It was MAGIC!
With a little volume control, for both the equipment and your humble narrator, the screeching feedback was replaced by my young voice, disembodied, floating mysteriously out of the speakers, now some distance away. Directly, my father hastily put together a manikin of sorts, using some old pants and a shirt, propped it up on a chair near our front porch and went to stuffing one of the speakers into its belly.
Moments later, he asked again, "say something". This time there was no feedback, only the sound of my voice emanating from this lifeless dummy, sitting as someone who would intend to "greet" anyone that came along.
As I began to ponder the possibilities that this setup could afford, on a night where endless hordes of young candy-begging children were due to arrive, (not all of them "friends" at that), it was then that I decided that "trick or treat" could happen without my ever leaving the yard. And, that the previous year would be my last delivering the "smell my feet" line in hopes of being granted free sugar-laden confections.
Ah, that faithful Halloween night so many years ago, I learned that Halloween could be SO much more than that....
This ends installment one of "The Story of the Castle of Doom".