Timing Is Everything
My husband and I were once invited to a costume party given in the clubhouse of a condominium complex. Because we were normally quiet and conservative, my husband decided we should go as Hugh Hefner and Playmate. He donned a pair of red silk pajamas, while I acquiesced to wear the bunny ears. We stepped into the brisk fall evening, looking forward to shocking our friends.
However, as we walked up the stairs to the second floor of the clubhouse, it was evident that this party was not a huge success. There was no sign of a rollicking time: no loud music, shrieking women, or bursts of laughter. In fact, it was - from all outward appearances - a rather sedate crowd. To our surprise, a man in a three-piece suit opened the door for us and ushered us into a circle of guests who simply stood and stared in disbelief.
Every person clustered about us was dressed in church clothes or better. Suddenly, I saw an ethereal flurry of white floating by. Immediately, I turned and fled. No, I had not seen a ghost: The blur of white was that of a beautiful bride. My husband stayed behind long enough to find out that we had crashed a wedding reception. Our party invitation had been for the night before.
Oak Grove, La.
Little Orphan Daddy
When our daughter Caitlin was about 4, Halloween coincided with the craze for the musical "Annie." Of course she had to be Little Orphan Annie. Her brother by then was not about to dress up, even for a sackful of candy. So it fell to her dad to don formal attire and a Daddy Warbucks bald wig and squire her around. He put our fuzzy white dog on a leash, and the three of them set off, Caitlin skipping along in her little red dress and enormous orange wig. As they approached the first door, though, Caitlin became too shy to knock, so her father knocked. Then, too shy to face the neighbors, she ran and hid in the bushes, leaving her dad to explain why a grown man in a latex wig, clutching a trick-or-treat bag in one hand and a dog's leash in the other, had rung their doorbell.
Saving the World
My most memorable costume for Halloween was in first grade. I wanted to be something really important, something that no one else would be. So I asked my mom if I could be a globe for Halloween. She gave me a puzzled look, a big smile, and said she'd try. We found a neighbor with a giant beach ball. The size seemed about right, so we borrowed the ball. Mom and I set about to create a fabric beach ball. We measured the panels, cut the blue broadcloth, and sewed the curves. Next, we purchased an XXL blue men's sweatshirt. We cut off the sleeves. Then we put the sweatshirt inside the cloth beach ball and connected them at the sleeves and the bottom hem. We took the deflated ball to the local packaging store and filled it through the neck with packing peanuts until it was bursting. Mom sewed the two necks together. When I put it on for the first time, I felt like a worm burrowing his way into an apple! I emerged a round, fully packed blue ball. I had cut out some felt continents. We sewed them in place, labeled the oceans, and put a star on our hometown.
The Halloween Parade was so exciting! I marched at the head of my class. I considered the route around the school my orbit, and even spun on my axis. I felt as if I had the whole world in my hands.
Then ... tragedy struck! I was so fat that I couldn't see where I was going. I tripped on a bump in the sidewalk and fell on my Equator. My arms and legs were too short to help me get up. Like a turtle on its back, I kicked and screamed for help. My teacher, a cook, a witch, and a football player helped me out. They shouted, "We saved the world!" We all went back to class for treats. I sat on Australia and ate pumpkin cookies. It was the best costume in the whole world.
La Grange, Ill.
Embracing New Tradition
Everybody in America seems to like Halloween, which was new to me, because in India we don't celebrate this festival.
Last year, I wore my first and best costume and it was a letter box!
My costume was a cardboard carton with colorful designs of butterflies, pigeons, and letters. It was designed and made by me. My mom made a contraption where people could put letters. When I went trick-or-treating, I didn't need to take a bag because inside the letter box I had pasted a bag. When somebody put candies in the contraption, they fell into my bag.
The most exciting thing that happened was that one lady thought I really was a letter box and put a letter inside my costume! When I saw a real letter, I told her that I was wearing a costume. She began to laugh so hard and I, too, couldn't stop laughing.
I think that this costume was my first and best costume.
Grade 8, Chicago
Last year I was a mad scientist on Halloween. Mom and I went to a secondhand store and found a white lab coat. We filled its pocket with pencils, calculators, rulers, a rubber snake, and a rubber frog. Our biggest expense was funny plastic glasses with bushy eyebrows, a mustache, and a big nose. We used hair mousse to make me look wild and crazy. Mom marked up my face with eyebrow pencil to make it look as if I'd had a close call with one of my wacky experiments. We found a store that had dry ice in small chunks. The plan was to fill a plastic bottle with the ice so I could carry a mysterious, bubbling experiment.
On Halloween at my school, we parade in costume from the school to the courthouse and back. When we return, we parade before the teachers, who give prizes in various categories
Last year, as we marched back from the courthouse, we heard an explosion at our school. Here's what happened: My mom was refilling a plastic bottle with dry ice so that I would have a fresh supply when I passed before the judges. Since dry-ice "smoke" dissipates rapidly, she thought she'd screw on the cap to make it last longer. As soon as the cap was tight: Kaboom! Janitors and secretaries came running from all directions. They found my mom holding a bottle that no longer had a bottom. Mom, wet and embarrassed, mumbled something about needing to go back and take Chemistry 101.
The good news is that there was enough dry ice for me to carry in another, open bottle before the judges. I won first place for "most creative."
But who was the real mad scientist?
Grade 6, Mariposa, Calif.
Too Real for Some
In the 1960s I was a freshman in college. A group of students rented a room at an apartment complex and planned a party with the theme, "Come as a Hippie."
We went to Army surplus stores, the Salvation Army, etc., to find appropriate clothing; we secured long-hair wigs, mustaches, and such, to really be authentic.
The fun had begun, when someone apparently alerted the police in this large, Midwestern city that there must be a big drug party going on.
The police came in full force, with several patrol wagons, the local news reporters, and sirens blasting! They put us all - there were about 30 of us - against a wall, handcuffed us, and took us to jail.
The president of the university had to come and post bond to get us all released.
No drugs were found on anyone. The daughter of the mayor was one of the so-called hippies, and we've had a few good laughs about our time as "cell-mates."
'Hey, I Know
The most memorable Halloween costume was one that Katherine, our three-year-old granddaughter, wore last year. When our daughter and her husband, Art, brought Katherine over for trick-or-treat, Art asked if I recognized her costume. "Not really," I replied. "Look again," he said. There stood Katherine with untied saddle shoes, too-short navy blue pants, wrinkled white shirt, bow tie, dark freckles, and a thug hat pulled down over her forehead.
"Well?" Art said. A long pause as I searched my memory for similarities. "She's you!" he exclaimed. "And you know what?" he continued, "We took her trick-or-treating around the neighborhood before we came here and stopped at your banker friend's house. Katherine wouldn't tell him who she was supposed to be so I said, 'She's her grandfather.' 'Hey you're right,' he said. 'I know that guy! And she looks just like him!' "
His Sister's Idea
My younger brother was only 7 the year that my best friend, Brenda, and I took charge of his Halloween activities. We were 11, and since the adults were occupied with my little sister, whose birth had taken place just five days earlier, we were also permitted to force our choice of costume on him. I'm not sure why Jay agreed to our proposal, but somehow we convinced him that my outgrown red-and-white-checked taffeta party dress would be the perfect disguise. To hide his little-boy haircut, we deftly positioned one of my mother's silk head scarves and knotted it under his chin. Although I can't remember, and no one took photos, I am certain he must have negotiated the streets of Tulsa in a pair of my cast-off Mary Janes.
Jay's costume was such a success that people who didn't know us openly expressed their pity for the "poor little girl" who didn't even have a mask to wear. By the end of the evening, his treat bag contained twice as much candy as ours, and sympathetic but unsuspecting grandparent types had also given him five masks, one very large rubber Frankenstein head, and a black balloon shaped like a cat.
Judith Samuel Fleming
Two Heads Are Best
The favorite costume I made was a broad-shouldered, two-headed man. The heads were identical, of course. My son Stephen inhabited one, and the other was on a pole that he held in his left hand under the built-up fake torso. A fake left arm was pinned to the front, holding the candy bag. Steve developed several routines where the two heads carried on a lively conversation. This always got a good laugh. That is, up until one appreciative lady made a wrong assumption and looked sincerely into the eyes of the dummy head and thanked him for coming. When the other head answered, she shrieked and almost dropped the candy. Of course, she ended up laughing.
Bainbridge Island, Wash.
* There were so many good stories! Many thanks to everyone who entered.
When I was five years old, my mom made my most memorable Halloween costume. It was Catwoman. I wore a black suit and a mask and my mom drew whiskers. I'm 7 now, and I want to be Catwoman again.