Halloween, New York Style
The month of October is great time of the year. Mainly because of the Halloween season and all the events that happen during the 31 days. Although, here in Florida, the Halloween season is awesome, with tons of events to go to like Screamfest, Howl-o-Scream, Halloween Horror Nights, etc, but I do miss that time of the year living in Upstate New York. October has a totally different feel up there, for one, the leaves being to change and start to scatter all over the streets. The weather starts to get a bit cooler and you can feel that cold winter is around the corner. Before you know it, Halloween decorations start popping up everywhere, whether it was on someone’s front lawn, inside the hallways of your school, or just displayed at the local department store. The last time I was in my hometown of Utica for Halloween was almost 15 years ago. So, around this time of year, I kind of miss seeing the colorful leaves on the ground and the cold breeze in the morning. I think about some of my Halloween memories when I was a kid. Here are some that come to mind:
As far back as the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, Halloween was more of a fun time than scary one. One thing I couldn’t wait for was what I was going to be for Halloween. Back then they had the cheap-o costumes that were made of thin plastic that almost felt like wearing a garbage bag and the plastic masks with a rubber band in the back. The costumes use to always rip and the rubber band kept breaking when you would put your mask on, even though they were really bad, but back then they were the coolest thing ever. I remember I had a Spider-Man and Batman costume and also a ton of Star Wars ones from Luke to Darth Vader to Chewbacca. I also had an Indiana Jones one as well and a few others. The best time was Halloween at school when you got to dress up and when you were in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade, they took the class to the other class rooms for trick-or-treating. Then later that night it was through the neighborhood for the real trick-or-treating. You hoped to get lots of candy that would hold you over for a week.
As I got a little older I wanted to check out some of the haunted houses. They always had one in the mall but the good ones were set up at a few farms outside of the city. In the small towns of Clinton and Vernon, most farmers that sold pumpkins also would set up a haunted house in their barn. Some were really cheesy but others would scare the hell out of you. I remember one where you walked through the barn and everything was pitch black and people in masks would just pop out of nowhere and scare you. As a kid I was terrified. You had to walk through the rest of the barn to get to the door on the other side while you were being chased. Once we reached the door it was locked and we couldn’t get out. They put something up against the other side of the door for they would keep us in terror a little while longer. The people in costume would just stand there staring at us and if we moved a little they would jump out and scream. Finally they decided we had enough scares and opened the door. Everyone ran out screaming including myself. That haunted house really scared me as a kid and still remember that experience till this day.
Also up on the farms they would have haunted hayrides during the day and at night. Those were really fun. The ones during the day were more for kids and weren’t that scary but the ones at night were cool. One of them had someone getting decapitated in a guillotine. The head would roll on the ground and the headless body would get up and start to chase us on the hayride. They would also have some one come out of the woods dressed as Jason in a hockey mask but would be wielding a chainsaw at us. One time they even had someone in a gorilla suit locked up in a cage. He would break out and start running after the hayride. Years later the Utica Zoo started a haunted hayride around Halloween. It was all right but not as good as the ones on the farm. They even had a couple of elements from them, like Jason with a chainsaw chasing after everyone.
As a teenager, Halloween was different to me, but still cool. I’d outgrown trick-or-treating and now was into horror movies, so that time of year was a great time to catch a lot of scary movies on TV. USA Networks at that time always had great horror movies through out the weekend all year round, but had a little extra around October. WPIX Channel 11, a station out of New York City had tons of horror flicks every week of that month and all night long on Halloween. For one Halloween year back in 1990, MTV had a series called This is Horror that just lasted the month of October. It was really just best of clips from Stephen King’s World of Horror specials, but it had some really good clips from films like Night of the Living Dead, Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm St. and tons of Argento films. Also that year, they broadcast the Horror Hall of Fame special with host Robert Englund. They had one the following Halloween but that was it after that. At the mall and departments stores they had great deals on classic horror films on VHS. Around that time I bought a few monster masks that were the full-head rubber ones. One year I got a Freddy Krueger mask and glove and wore that for Halloween.
Also, I couldn’t forget to mention some places that were haunted around Utica. They were a number of them. One of them that sticks out in my mind is an old psychiatric hospital that has been closed for decades. Legend has it that patients were tortured and killed there. There was an underground tunnel that connected the two buildings of the hospital. Inside these death tunnels they use to chain up the patients and would perform different acts of torture to cure them of their illnesses. After it was shut down it was rumored that the place was haunted and the ghost of the patients would roam around the place. The building still stands today. It’s all boarded up and there’s a tall fence around it, but for years after it closed there was easy access to this place and lots of kids use to trespass on the grounds. I never went in the place, but one of my cousins did with a bunch of her friends on one Halloween night. She told me she saw some chains on the wall and a chair where they did electro-shock therapy. They didn’t see any ghost, though. The place creeped them out and got out of there quick.
So, that’s Halloween, New York Style. I had tons of great memories back home that made each Halloween fun and scary. Hope you enjoyed them and have a Happy Halloween.