Thursday, October 8, 2015


By Jackie King

Halloween is coming and it's one of my favorite holidays. Often I dress up as a witch to hand out candy to the kiddies. This is one time of the year when I revert to my childhood.

Jackie King--Ready for Halloween

I was about four when my older cousins started scaring me with ghost stories. These were told in the bright sunshine, but at night I had to creep up creaking stairs to get to my bedroom at Grandma’s house. These monsters lurked along the way to terrify me. I can still remember the dread and the sick empty feeling in my belly.

The Good Old Days

Grandchildren weren’t pampered in those days, at least not by my grandma. She married at 14 so I doubt she ever had a childhood, at least not as we think of it these days. I realize now that she wasn’t a cruel woman, just one who had endured hardships, and in her declining years had received me on her doorstep while my mother trained to be a teacher. She did the best she could.

The Million Mile Stairs

There was no electricity to illuminate the steep stairs, so I was given a lighted candle and told to blow it out after I was in bed.

But what waited at the top?

Was it the murdered man looking for his golden arm? Would he chop off my head with his ax when he learned I didn’t have it, as he had with two dozen other children?

And the candle was sputtering.

Terrified of having no light, I’d put one foot in front of the other, knowing that I had no other choice. And finally I’d reach the landing. The soft glow of the candle lighted only a small circle, and each step into the blackness seemed almost certain death.

Finally, I reached my bed, set the candle on an orange-crate used for a bedside table and climbed in. It was summertime and hot, but I still pulled the dusty smelling bedspread over me. After a quick puff to blow out the candle the room was black as a witch’s hat. The counterpane (as Grandma called it) was the only protection between me and the evil ghost. I’d lie stiff as a board until I finally fell asleep.

The next morning when my cousins came to visit, I’d beg them for another ghost story.


Bill Kirton said...

My memories are very similar, Jackie. It's the demons we invent for ourselves in familiar places that are the worst. I have to admit, though, that it's decades since a story scared me and yet I keep looking for one that will.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Wonderful recollections, Jackie. My cousins and I would play with a Ouija board or sit in a dark room lighted by a candle where we would call on the spirits to lift a leg of a small table on which we all placed our hands. I remember us screaming and running out of doors when the table actually tapped in answer to one of our questions.

Jackie King said...

Bill and Jean, I've always known that children love scary stories. It's possible, though, that writers have even more active imaginations from birth. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Chris Eboch said...

I just wrote a post for a blog on middle grade historical fiction on "Learning History through Ghost Stories." So many kids (and adults) love Halloween, or spooky things in general. Spooky stories are a great way to get people interested in reading about the past.

Jackie King said...

Chris, what a good point! In fact, you've just given me an idea for my next blog post which will be October 22. When I was a young woman, my husband's grandmother told me a very scary story about something she said happened to her family. She was very young and they were traveling by wagon from Nebraska to Oklahoma. This had to be in the late 1880's.

Thanks for the tip!