Friday, October 31, 2014

Memories of haunted Halloweens gone by

1991 vintage Flash mask
PANAMA CITY — When my son was 3, I took him to a kid-friendly haunted maze at a Kmart store’s garden center. His sister was a newborn down the street at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, and our first photographs of them together show him in his Flash costume.

She turns 23 today, our little Halloween treat. But a visit to the Panama City Jaycees Haunted House under construction earlier this month set my mind on a minor event of that momentous day in 1991, and from there the Halloween memories began to tumble.

Apparently, the red-and-yellow plastic coveralls with the lightning logo conferred upon her brother the super-speed powers of the comic book hero whose adventures he had viewed on television. At least, one would think so, to see him running everywhere he went.

The mask and costume also rendered him fearless. Near the end of the haunted maze, a man in some kind of scarecrow/clown outfit squatted down and made spooky noises at the boy, who drew back his right arm and promptly punched the man in the nose of his mask.

I apologized, the man laughed, and Flash propped his fists on his hips in a heroic pose, having vanquished evil.

Jessi and Nathan
The Flash’s greatest adventure was on my mind when I walked the unfinished maze above Panama City Marine Institute, which has sheltered the Jaycees Haunted House for 11 years. (You can view a video tour through the haunted house at PanamaCity.com, and see the schedule on pages 10-11 for times and details on the event.)

Will Hancock, who has supervised the Haunted House project for the Jaycees for several years, told me last week that the event is “very alive” and doing robust business.

“I am pleased with all the hard work and dedication put in so far,” Will said. “The ‘13 Ghosts’ room and the ‘Oculus’ room have been the most consistent (frights) so far, but that can change tonight. We are adding more sound and lighting as we speak.”

The scares, while safe for adults and teens, are not appropriate for little children. I just hope no one gets punched in the nose.

No frightful creatures jumped out at me during my tour — which was lucky, since I had no hero handy to leap to my defense. But suddenly, 1991 seemed like only yesterday. When I wondered where the years had gone, I could feel them piled up like a bottleneck, heavy and thick with sweet memory.

Jessi playing with makeup.
... Sitting with the kids at a fire in a friend’s Cove area front yard, reading “The Raven” and handing out candy.

.... Wrapping the kids like toilet paper mummies during a contest at another friend’s Halloween party at Pine Log.

... Walking the sidewalks of North Shore neighborhoods to gather massive hauls of candy.

... Playing “pin the fangs on the monster” at one of Jessi’s earliest birthday parties in Century.

... Dressing in costumes to grab supper at Golden Corral on yet another Halloween.

So many autumn evenings, pumpkins carved, yards decorated, homemade costumes, movie nights with the house full of her friends, and outfits I can’t even begin to recall.

In that moment, picturing the boy in the Flash uniform holding a newborn little girl in a hospital room, I wondered if ghosts of the past truly haunt houses, or if they only haunt old men whose children have grown up.


Peace

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