Autumn has come to The Hollow and everyone is getting ready for Halloween and most houses have Jack-O-Lanterns sitting on steps. Only one house remains undecorated - dark and silent. On the top of Watch Tree Hill sits Old Mrs Hoot’s house. No one has lived there in almost 4 years and the grass and weeds have taken over. Sometimes, when you are walking by after dark, you hear skittering and creaking - almost as if the house is trying to talk to you. The kids think it’s haunted, especially since Henry swears he saw lights flickering inside. “Not like our lights,” he explains, “but more like a ghost carrying a candle.” Sam asks how Henry would know what a ghost carrying a candle looks like but Henry just says “if you saw it, you would know.”
Sam doesn’t argue this because there are more important things to discuss such as Halloween costumes and Trick or Treat routes. This is the first year they are allowed to go out for Halloween (almost) on their own. Brian, Henry’s big brother will be going with them but he’s promised to leave them alone if they each give him one of their (big) candy bars. Henry, Sam, Pete & Frank have spent most of October planning the optimal Trick or Treat route. They know which houses to avoid (Mr Franklin who just hands out raisins) and which to go to first (Mrs Wight who has homemade donuts - but they run out fast).
Finally, Halloween night arrives and the boys are ready to go. Sam is an explorer, Pete is a dragon, Frank is a detective, and Henry is of course a pirate. Before they leave, Sam’s dad says “You can go anywhere in The Hollow but stay away from Mrs Hoot’s house. There may be squatters living there and I don’t want you bothering them. Mr Squirrel & Mr Badger saw lights there the other night.” See?” hissed Henry. “I told you!”
The boys run off with Brian ambling along behind. Everything goes to plan and they have bags full of candy as it starts getting late. As they head home, the boys are trying to scare each other with ghost stories when Brian says “I dare you guys to go to Mrs Hoot’s home and see if anyone is there.” The four boys look at each other. “I’ll go,” says Henry, who is not afraid of anything. “Me too” says Sam, who always wants to be brave. Then they look at Frank and Pete who shuffle their feet and say “oookay - but you go first.”
The boys creep quietly up the steps to the porch where there is a large knocker on the door in the shape of a bird’s beak. The four stand looking at one another, jumping at every sound until Frank darts forward and bangs the knocker loudly then runs back to his friends. The door slowly creaks open and they see a huge shadow standing in the doorway. “Hello?” whispers Pete. “Sam? Frank? Pete? And of course, Henry. What are you four doing here?” asks the shadow.
“Mr Owl?” squeaks Sam. The shadow turns on the porch light and there is their school principal. “What are you doing here?” ask all four boys together. “Mrs Hoot was my mother” explains Mr Owl, “and no one has lived here since she died. I thought it would make a great haunted house for my Halloween party so we’ve been fixing it up all month. We had to work after school - mostly at night - which led to stories of ghosts and squatters. It all helped build the spooky image I wanted. But come in - do you want to see what we’ve done?”
Inside, there is a long hallway with doors on either side. The first thing the boys see is an owl statue dressed in a long green cloak and a top hat with goggles pushed up, holding a tall metal staff. As Sam walks by, the statue slowly winks. “Eeep!” squeaks Sam. “The statue just winked at me.” “Whooo me?” comes a deep voice behind them. “Billy!” laughs Mr Owl. “That’s my brother,” he explains to the boys.
“This is the Costume Room” says Mr Owl as he opens a door. The walls are lined with all sorts of clothing from long frilly dresses to suits that look like panthers. “This is for anyone who doesn’t have a costume.” “Or for anyone who wants to be something different” pipes a voice. There is Mrs Dab, their art teacher. “Costumes are my favorite way of becoming someone new,” she says. Tonight she is wearing a dashing black and orange witches hat with purple striped socks and black, pointy shoes.
“Moving on” says Mr Owl. “This is the Trick Room where nothing is as it seems.” “Look at that” breathes Pete, pointing to a huge white cake with fluffy icing. “It’s made of meatloaf and mashed potatoes,” laughs Mr Gilly, their Social Studies teacher. “And the donuts?” asks Pete. “Cardboard circles with icing on top” answers Mr Gilly.
“It’s much better in the Treat Room” says Mr Owl. Henry gasps happily when he sees a plate piled high with bright pink, orange, and green cookies. “Macaroons” he sings. (They are his favorite dessert.) ‘Later, Henry” says Mr Owl. “It’s ok” whispers Miss Kyle as she slips one of each color onto a plate. He loves his home room teacher!
The boys follow Mr Owl through the doorway into a dark room that has a single table with a cauldron in the middle of it and drinking glasses along the edge. Smoke billows out from the cauldron. “The Drink Room” booms Mr Owl. “What’s making it smoke like that?” asks Frank, fearfully. “Dry ice” explains Miss Tierney, their science teacher. “It helps keep it cool but don’t worry - it’s just fruit punch” she smiles.
“And finally,” says Mr Owl, opening a large door at the end of the hallway. “Here is the party.” There, in the backyard, there are orange, green, purple and yellow lights hanging from the trees. There are games set up in different parts of the yard and it is full of people. Most of their schoolmates are there as well as their parents. “Dad!” says Sam. “I thought you told us not to come here!” “Because I knew that was a sure fire way to get you here” his father says. “And if that didn’t work, I told Brian to dare you to come up to the porch.”
Brian snickers and wanders off to find his friends. Mr Bunny continues “We’ve all been working in secret to get this party ready for you kids. But Mr Owl and your teachers did most of the work so make sure you say thank you! Since the party is for you, we’re going home but we’ll be back at the end to walk you home. Enjoy yourselves!”
And that’s how we celebrate Halloween here at The Hollow!
Happy Halloween All! 🎃