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Halloweens Gone Wrong

The fine line between fun and fright

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Halloween is all fun and candy

SO MUCH FOR FUN Halloween is all fun and candy...until someone gets spooked. (Illustration: behance.net/runamokstudios)

Halloween: it’s fun until it’s not. For a holiday that in our world is supposed to be all about candy and pumpkin spice and friendly ghosts, Halloween has a tendency to cross the line from fun to fright pretty quickly.

We’re not talking about watching movies like The Exorcist or patronizing haunted houses where floors shake and “bloody corpses” jump out at people who pay to feel their stomachs in their throats. Somebody please tell me why any of that is fun?

We’re talking about regular old neighborhood Halloweens gone wrong. Like when The Buzz’s editor Jordan Magaziner Steinfeld’s grandmother thought she was being funny but wound up ruining Halloween for Jordan’s younger brother for a long time.

Ryan Magaziner, who founded Atlantic Recreation Group, a real estate investment firm, says his grandmother Flo Magaziner (who passed away several years ago) was the “sweetest, most caring, generous person we knew. She was always laughing and giggling,” he says. “If I ever had a long drive to work or was driving from Austin to Houston, I would just call her and talk for an hour and a half. She was my go-to person.”

But when Ryan was 3, Flo – a.k.a. Buby or Bubbie to her grandchildren – showed up to Halloween masked. “I have this memory in my head of kind of a monster-looking thing that covered her whole face and head, and I had no idea who she was when she walked in our door. I saw this person walk into my house and look at me, and that was it. I did not like this monster in my house. From that moment on until, really, I was in middle school, I hated the whole concept of Halloween. I went a decade hating it and pretty much refused to do Halloween. Elementary school days are pretty much peak Halloween, but I was not participating.”

Ryan says it took 10 years for him to realize, when he was maybe 13, that going out to trick-or-treat was cool. “She probably felt horrible,” he says of his beloved grandmother. “She was just trying to be funny, and it went wrong.”

A young woman who grew up in West U – what most of Houston sees as the epitome of an idyllic trick-or-treating neighborhood (it’s a Halloween night destination, if the cars entering the ’hood filled with trick-or-treaters are any indication) – says she’s scarred from her nights knocking on doors in the 77005.

“We had a neighbor, an older lady, who lived across the street,” she says. “She smelled like smoke, and it was always pounded into our heads that smoking was bad, so maybe that was the start of my fear. She also kind of looked like a witch to me, in my little-kid eyes.

“On Halloween, she had a green porch light. Or maybe it was orange. I don’t know but it was some weird color. You would knock on her door, and she would shuffle over and look down on you, because we were little, and I was like, ‘OMG she’s gonna eat me.’ But then she would hand you the bag of candy, and she was actually very nice. Just very terrifying. Don’t use my name because everyone in the neighborhood will know who it was!”

The young woman continues: “There was also a house we called ‘the funky house.’ It wasn’t that funky, but it was modern in the middle of all these traditional houses. They had this stupid red light – or whatever color it was, it was not normal lighting – and a smoke machine and a talking witch that said heheheheee when you walked by. It was enough to send me into a coma! I hated that thing. It always made me think of Fiddler on the Roof and Fruma Sarah [a ghost who appears in a dream in the musical]. “I thought she was coming for me. The sheets would be hanging from her, and she was blowing around in the wind. My dad would try to hype me up to trick-or-treat at their house. We’d stand there in the street, and he’d say, ‘Okay, go!’ and I’d be like, ‘No way, I’m not going. I’m good right here.’ The other kids would walk up to their door and get their candy and I would just stand on the street.” 

Her dad chimes in: “That witch startled me, too. But I got over it.”

The young woman shakes her head. “I didn’t,” she says adamantly. “The witch wasn’t worth it.”

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