Column: After the treats, Dad played his trick

  • Becky Sabky. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

For the Valley News
Published: 10/30/2021 10:10:12 PM
Modified: 10/30/2021 10:10:12 PM

As a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with Halloween. I loved the candy. I loved dressing up in glitter and makeup. (Eye shadow was a big deal as a 10-year-old girl.) But I was a scaredy-cat by nature. And while trick-or-treating was fun, there was always one holiday memory that was spookiest of all.

In my hometown, schoolkids would trick-or-treat on the residential streets near the lake.

My mother would drive us to a friend’s home, where we would gather with the California Raisins, Ninja Turtles and Cabbage Patch Kids. We would collect candy from decorated homes and then conduct the “Great Halloween Candy Trade.”

After the rules were established (three Hershey’s Kisses for every one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup), we would barter with each other until we were content with our own stash. We would pack up our filled pillowcases and head home on a sugar high.

But the scariest moment of Halloween never took place during trick-or-treating. For me, the most frightening moment of Halloween was arriving back home.

My family lived on a dead-end road off the highway with no neighbors. We lived in the woods, which by day were whimsical and inspiring — but by night, terrifying.

Every Halloween evening, as my mother parked the car in our driveway, my sister and I would start trembling. Our happy home would be dark, shadowy and noisy.

From inside the house, we’d hear music. The synthesizer notes sounded somber. The melody was severe.

And as we got out of the car and approached the house, the music would grow louder.

Inside the house, the lights had been turned off. There were no candles burning, no glow from the television. Just pure blackness.

The front door would be left wide open, creaking as it swayed in the wind.

“You go first, Mom,” my sister and I would whisper, trembling.

Mom would walk slowly toward the front door as we gripped to her legs. Our pale white knuckles squeezed her thighs as glitter from our costumes rubbed off on her jeans.

“I’m sure I just left the radio on,” she’d say as we’d tiptoe together.

At the door, the music would be deafening. The pipes and organs would echo through our haunted house, causing bone-tingling fear. I’d take a deep breath and follow my sister and my mother through the dreary threshold. Then …


Gasps and screams would follow. After our hearts resumed beating, Dad would step out of the darkness and smile.

“Gotcha,” he would say nonchalantly as he turned on the lights.

“Da-ad,” we would roll our eyes, never admitting our fear.

This innocent home scare happened every year. The song my father blasted was Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend. (We were not aware that, after a few minutes of the gloomy melody, the song picks up tempo and turns into a rock ’n’ roll jam.)

Although one would think that we would have learned our lesson the first time around (or at least the second or third), we were always frightened. We knew there was always that chance that a ghost-monster-vampire was in our house.

I’m the mother of two children now. And this Halloween, my ninja and unicorn will be hitting the streets of Norwich to collect their candies.

They’re excited to visit the decorated homes on Main Street. They’re giddy to see their classmates dressed as characters from their favorite books and shows. They’re buzzing about what types of lollipops they’ll likely receive.

But what they don’t know is what will await them at home. They don’t know that a favorite Elton John song has recently been downloaded to a special playlist.

They don’t know that while mom will certainly leave a light on in the house, they’ll at least have to brave a full minute of organ music blasting from within their happy home.

They have no idea that for the rest of their young lives, a special and spooky tradition will continue every Halloween evening.

And it all starts with a few somber notes from Elton ...

Becky Munsterer Sabky, of Norwich, is the author of The Little Rippers, a series of children’s chapter books about kids who ski in Vermont. Visit

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