Hallowe'en's avid fans put on a hell of a show


Greenwich - Riding to the airport to report on the Quebec referendum, I am afflicted with guilt about abandoning the family. This time the pangs are worse than usual. There is a danger that I may not be back in time for Hallowe'en.

While not quite on the level of missing Christmas, being away on Hallowe'en is a serious misdemeanour if you live in the United States and have small children. This is arguably the holiday in the year they enjoy the most, although there will be no presents to unwrap or stockings on the bed.

When the sun goes down on 31 October, all of picket-fenced America surrenders itself to the trick-or-treat terrorism of over-stimulated tinies (and not-so-tinies). Friends allege that if you are not ready for the onslaught and armed with a bowl of sweeties, you risk having the house pelted with eggs.

Believe it or not, the consumption of candy is secondary to the thrill of dressing up. It is a costume parade that lasts for several days. The build-up to the evening spans at least a week in the school classrooms and much longer in the card and gift shops, and beckons the participation not just of children but plenty of grown-ups too.

It helps if what you wear has a ghoulish theme, although for most children that is not de rigueur. In the past few days in the streets of our town I have spotted fairies, pirates, scarecrows and one small baby metamorphosed from head to toe into a toddling pumpkin. The Hallowe'en procession at my five-year-old son's school is this morning, and he will be going as a gaudily wrapped birthday parcel.

For those among the adult population who opt to pitch in, the satanic spirit of the holiday is usually taken much more seriously. Where in a few weeks time there will be reindeers in flight and Santa Clauses on front porches and lawns in our neighbourhood, there is now a gruesome collection of ghosts, gallows and carefully crafted crones on broomsticks.

Then there are the haunted houses. In increasing numbers in recent years, groups of people, often from the churches, have been getting together at Hallowe'en to stage a ghostly experience in one of their homes, or a hall for those with the courage - and a few dollars - to visit after dark. I would like to nominate two of this year's harvest for special Independent "Haunted House" prizes. One for the most convincing, imaginative and humorous presentation, the other for the sickest.

The nomination in the first category goes to the youth minister at the First Church of Christ in Greenwich and his band of 30-odd ghosts, goblins and scare-experts. For two nights last weekend they occupied the church's empty, 100-year-old rectory on the main street and turned it into a Hallowe'en theatre event. Worthy of the Psycho house, it is, aptly, set in large grounds planted with twisted yews and hemlocks.

My $5 dispensed, I was invited to await the butler at the bottom of the steps to the front door. Stone-faced and dressed impeccably in black tie, he emerged when, fortunately, three other customers had joined me. "General and Lady Putnam will see you now," he announced, showing us through the door into a hallway made smoky with dry ice and barely illuminated by red bulbs on a giant candelabra.

For 10 minutes we were guided by assorted gurgling characters up and down flights of stairs into the attic, the basement and through bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. At every turn another tableau presented itself: a hellish dinner party with a live severed head on a platter, a chef preparing maggots and "Domino Brain Pizza" - to go. Hands appeared from under doors to grasp at our ankles and voices screamed for help. A waiter leaped from a parlour to offer a plate of eyeballs, severed ears and, especially tempting, a "thumb-a-la-Ritz" - a severed digit on a cheese cracker.

The sicko prize is awarded to a Pentecostal church in Arvada, Colorado, that used its mansion to ponder the "waste" of homosexuality, abortion and teen depression. This I did not visit, but it attracted sufficient attention to find itself featured on the evening news and many newspapers. The punters were shown a gay man in a coffin dying of Aids, a woman lying in a bath after an abortion, a bloody towel around her middle and a table alongside with a plate of dead animal parts; and a teenage boy with a gun to his head, preparing for suicide.

Paul Valiquette, the Arvada pastor, thought he was doing society a service. "The message is about decisions people make and the consequences." He said of the gay man, played by one of his congregation: "This is the terrible physical devastation brought on by his decision to lead that kind of lifestyle." Hallowe'en is a holiday when suburban America shows off its most generous,community-spirited side. A pity Arvada had to come along and stain it.

There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

PHP Web Developer (HTML5, CSS3, Jenkins, Vagrant, MySQL)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: PHP Web Develo...

Network Engineer (CCNA, CCNP, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£40000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNA, CCNP, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice