ESCANABA - When the last golden maple leaf flutters to the ground and the oak leaves are all turned leathery brown, bizarre creatures trod the north woods. Headless hound's men and swamp monsters prowl. Scarecrows, ghosts and pumpkin heads dance across the fields and forests.
It's that eerie season again when shenanigans are in the air. Tricks meant soaping windows, tipping over outhouses or woodpiles and carving scary jack'o lanterns.
Treats were a fresh picked apple, a popcorn ball or maybe a piece of licorice. In great-granddad's day Halloween was not such an organized thing. It wasn't drawn out over three or four days of parties, carnivals, trick-or-treating and harvest festivals and outings.
Karen Wils photos
Like the headless horseman from Legend of Sleepy Hollow, we have the headless hounds man of the U.P.
Oct. 31 traditions were pretty simple. The day before Halloween, Mom got down that big, old box of cast off clothes. Battered hats and baggie bloomers became clown, gypsy or hobo costumes. An old bed sheet and Gramma's old shawl became ghosts, witches and mad scientists.
If you were lucky enough to have an old tube of lipstick or a few dabs of shoe polish, you could fix your face to be anyone from Godzilla to Miss America.
Today, Halloween decorations, costumes and activities have gotten a lot more sophisticated. But when the garden is all bare but for a few cornstalks, silly things happen. When there's a cold nip in the night air and the moon is full, strange beings wander the woods.
I think we've all read about the headless horseman, but I have seen the headless hound man!! I swear this is true, I have caught a glimpse of him in the dense cedar swamps where the beagle hounds chase the bunnies. In his huntsmen red coat and his knee-high boots, he stomps down the muddy trails.
Over the baying of the hounds you can hear his hysterical laughter. If you set down your coffee or a pop, this hooligan is sure to steal it.
And let me also warn you about the wild roaming pumpkin head of the north. She's a sneaky old girl. Don't let that big grin on her face fool you, she's trouble with a capital T. I know for a fact that this goblin goes into camps and cottages in search of doughnuts and chocolates. One time I really frightened her though. I lured her into camp with a trail of M&M's. Then I placed a big fleshy baked pumpkin pie in the middle of the table. You should have seen that pumpkin head high-tail it out of there!!
Enjoy the season with your family. Bob for apples and carve pumpkins. Keep it simple and keep it saintly. Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day can be a time for reminiscing and fun.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.