Packard Foundation, Ashoka Changemakers award empathy grants

Gary Hedden/Special to the Town Crier
Several hundred guests attended the Los Altos-based Packard Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Open House Oct. 22. Along with snacks and tours, the event featured an awards ceremony that honored winners of the Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change online grant competition. Grant recipient Carmel Jud, above, founder and executive director of Rising International, trains women and teens to launch social businesses and market crafts handmade by women survivors of war, rape and human trafficking.

The Los Altos-based David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers Oct. 23 named the six winners of the online grant competition they co-sponored, Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change.

The organizations announced the winners at the Packard Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Open House, during which winners and finalists shared their ideas with several hundred attendees.


GreenTown events boost sustainability

Courtesy of Margaret Suozzo
Members of Girl Scout Troop 61058 attend a GreenTown Los Altos-supported bike safety and maintenance class at Performance Bicycle in Mountain View.

GreenTown Los Altos’ Farm to Table Dinner and Auction at the Los Altos History Museum Oct. 5 drew a crowd of nearly 100 local residents.

Justin’s Catering prepared the dinner featuring seasonal, organic produce from local farms including Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills and Happy Quail Farms in East Palo Alto. Auction items ranged from a Sun Valley ski getaway to a tour of Bonny Doon Vineyards, a Trek steel bicycle and baskets of local goods.


Walter Singer's journey: The story behind the Community Plaza memorial

Charles Halleck/Town Crier File Photo
“Mr. Los Altos” Walter Singer, left, stands with his wife, Marie, outside his Los Altos store in this undated picture from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Editor’s note: Walter Singer’s bust in the Community Plaza was the subject of a recent Los Altos City Council debate. Although the council voted to relocate the bust from the plaza to the Los Altos History Museum, discussion continues among those who disagree. Some want the bust installed in front of Singer’s old Los Altos Stationers Store, now Le Boulanger.

The council’s decision has prompted the question, “Who was Walter Singer?” Longtime Los Altos resident Robin Chapman provides the answer below.


Readers heeding call for haunting tales – in record numbers


thesillywitchhalloweenstoryOur heads are spinning! We received a record number of entries for this year’s Town Crier Spooky Stories Contest, including 21 from one Bullis Charter School first-grade class alone. What we couldn’t run for lack of space here, we have included on our web site, losaltosonline.com

Entries include some terrific tales of terror, so there’s tremendous competition for the three prizes (to be determined) we’re offering this year.

Per usual, we invite readers to select their favorite stories. The story with the most votes wins first place, the No. 2 vote-getter takes second, and so on.

Tell us which story you like best by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We’ll announce winners and prizes in a future issue.

Now, onto the stories.

A Taste for Blood

By Kara Loo

It was Halloween, and mom had to work, so it was just me, my little sister Kelly, and our cat, Whiskers.

My mom felt bad that she’d be gone, so she left us money for pizza and a jack-o’-lantern carving kit. We had a few pumpkins in the backyard, and Kelly and I picked out the biggest, fattest one to carve while Whiskers rolled around by our feet.

We had one of those cheap carving kits where the blade is kind of bendy, and we could barely get it to cut through the pumpkin. We managed to saw off the top and scoop out the insides of the pumpkin, then we started carving the eyes and mouth.

It was hard work, and we couldn’t really get the carving knife to go where we wanted it to. We wanted a grinning, happy face, but we ended up with mismatched, angry eyes and a smile that looked more like a sneer … or a ravenous toothy mouth.

“I want to do the nose,” Kelly said.

“It’s too hard,” I told her.

But as I went to cut into the pumpkin, she made a grab for the carving knife and I accidentally sliced right into her finger. Blood covered the blade and dripped down right onto the jagged mouth of the jack-o’-lantern.

Kelly started wailing – loud – and I had to run to get her a Band-Aid. Whiskers was hissing and screeching, his fangs bared and back arched.

When I’d calmed Kelly and Whiskers down, I cleaned up the blood.

After that, we put a candle in the jack-o’-lantern and left him on the stoop while we ordered the pizza.

We don’t get trick-or-treaters, so Kelly and I watched a scary movie while we ate our pizza and then decided to play with Whiskers – but we couldn’t find him.

“When was the last time you saw him?” I asked.

“When we got the pizza. He was staring at the jack-o’-lantern.”

We went to the front door, and I almost screamed. I sent Kelly back inside before she saw. It was something I could never explain. There were long scratches all along the side of the pumpkin, like Whiskers had taken to scratching it – not the slow scratching post kind, but frantic … deep. And the jack-o’-lantern’s wicked, lopsided grin dripped fresh, red blood.

We never saw Whiskers again.

The Silver Dog

By Kelly Yang

Fourth grade, Bullis Charter School

It was a perfect day to go on a long hike. Although I knew I wasn’t supposed to be out in the forest alone, I headed out into the woods behind my backyard.

I was hoping to spot the huge silver stray dog I had noticed the last few times. This dog was the biggest one I had ever seen and had strange green eyes. I hid in an area where I last saw the dog.

I had almost fallen asleep when I heard the rustle of leaves. Padding silently toward me, the silver dog came into view. I backed away silently and grabbed a dog treat I had put in my pocket. Slowly, I stood holding out the treat.

“Hey, boy! Over here!” I said.

The dog ran over and sniffed. Out of nowhere, he bit me!

“Ouch! Bad boy!” I exclaimed as I dropped the treat from the pain on my hand.

I felt a tingle going up my arm on the way home and started feeling dizzy. Probably just shock, I thought, since I didn’t lose much blood from my wound. I walked home quickly and bandaged myself up.

That night, I had trouble falling asleep because the full moon was so bright. I kept sweating, squirming and shivering, until I fell into a troubled sleep.

Suddenly, I woke with a start and found myself wet and cold, covered in mud on the porch.

“What am I doing here?” I thought.

I ran in the house and showered before my parents could notice and headed to school.

When school was over, I was ravenous. I saw that my mom was defrosting steaks and before I knew it, I gobbled the meat down with my bare hands.

For the next few weeks, I found myself stealing raw meat from our fridge when no one was looking. One day in gym class, we were racing, and I was the fastest boy in our grade. This was bizarre, since I was never a fast runner.

One night, I started feeling tingly and feverish again. I looked out the window and noticed another full moon.

Before I knew what was happening, I felt myself running into the woods to meet the giant silver dog. On the way out, I glanced in the mirror with my strangely green eyes.

I was never seen or heard from again.

The Difference between a Scary and Non-Scary Halloween

By Noah Levy Fourth grade

Many people think a scary Halloween is where you get scared by ghosts, zombies and ghouls, and then you walk up to some stranger’s door and sing some stupid little chant about feet and candy.

People also think that a non-scary Halloween is not getting scared at all. The truth is that a non-scary Halloween is when you barely get scared and you can’t even remember that you got scared for 15 minutes.

Most Halloweens are such non-scary Halloweens. If you have had a non-scary Halloween, then you should march down to every haunted house and every house that you went to and sue them, because they have deprived you of a real Halloween experience.

Also, if you have any questions about doing this process, do not contact me. Do you know why? It is because this is just a story and not some ask-the-author chat where you can actually ask questions or anything like that.

I’ve had a non-scary Halloween and trust me, I wanted to sue everyone on my block, but my parents did not let me get a lawyer or even feel badly for me. The time I had that “Halloween” I was trick-or-treating, or maybe I was treating then tricking, but it doesn’t matter. I was wearing a Harry Potter costume and the only thing that was even close to scary was a man in a bunny costume.

We have lost scary Halloweens for who knows how long.

A Distant Halloween

By Olivia Gonzales Age 12, seventh grade

I could feel the room shudder each time I stepped, each wall give a lurch, the roaches skitter across the wood.

I came upon a room, lit only by a pale glint of moon from the window. A breeze fluttered the curtain to half-reveal a grimy window.

“I shouldn’t be here,” I mumbled to myself.

Not in this time, not in this place. I could see the figures of my friends outside through the dust, anxiously waiting for me to come back out, to come screaming like the rest of them had.

One thing was for sure – even if I was here, I shouldn’t have come alone.

I turned around to face the rest of the room. The wallpaper peeled off in various places, a shattered glass chandelier hung from the ceiling. The molding was molding, and I squinted to find the doorway again.

In my haste, I hit the wall next to the doorway and the light switch. Ever so slowly, the chandelier flickered to life.

I closed my eyes and breathed in something masked beneath the musk – the feeling of clear air, in which I could almost envision a brand-new room. One with bay windows and velvet furniture, one with people dressed in old-timey clothing perched upon carved wooden chairs, writing with a quill or their nose stuck in a book.

I could feel another Halloween, a distant one.

I ran out the doorway without hesitation, before I was too lost in the illusion.

Halloween Fun

By Kelly Kokka, Charlotte Hoo, Jeslyn Gao and Violet Pasmooij Third grade, Springer School

Scaredy cats and pumpkin pies


white ghosts with yellow eyes

Pointed hats, witches brooms

Chanting spells in dark lagoons

Children running down the streets

Looking for some candy and treats

Black cats resting under streetlights

While bats are swooping through

the night

Jack-o’-lanterns shining in the

middle of the night

Their ghoulish faces glowing,

in the candlelight

Haunted houses with a lot of rust

Spiders strolling through the

clouded dust

A ghoul is wailing in a house

Scaring a cute little squeaking


Wolves howling on mountain


Scaring children and making

them shriek

Demons sneaking around

Convinced they can’t be seen

But a child already saw one

And let out a great big scream

Pumpkin patches, curly vines

Candles glowing from inside

Candy falling out of bags

Getting eaten by ghouls, ghosts

and hags

Spiders spinning webs that go

round and round and round

Their webs are catching insects

without a tiny sound

Halloween monsters creeping

and spying on you

And suddenly they all pop out

and shout ... BOO!

The Offer

By Max Doty

A young man lived in a cramped cottage with his baby daughter. Only a few months old, the baby would cry and cry through the night, making it impossible for him to sleep, and some nights he’d walk outside until he could no longer hear the baby’s howls.

One night, the man walked and walked, but no matter how far he went, he couldn’t escape the sound of his daughter’s wailing. Looking around, he realized he’d reached a clearing in the forest he’d never entered before. Large boulders formed a ring in the field, and in the center of the circle sat a small, brittle man, reading a book bound in black leather.

“Come closer,” said the weathered old man. “Into the moonlight, where I can see you.”

Unafraid, the young man walked out past the trees and into the circle.

“Well,” said the old man. “What do you want?”

“What do I want?” asked the young man, bewildered.

“You must want something,” said the old man. “Or else you wouldn’t be here.”

The young man thought for a few minutes and then said, “To sleep.”

The old man nodded and scratched his chin.

“Name?” he asked, and the young man stated his full name aloud.

The old man began flipping though the pages of his book, carefully looking at each one. At first, he read slowly, but as he continued, a perplexed look crossed his face. He flipped faster and faster. Finally, he reached the last page, closed the book, and started laughing softly to himself.

“What’s so funny?” asked the young man.

“There will be no deal,” said the old man. “You’ve got nothing I want.”

His heart heavy, the young man turned and started walking again. Thirsty, he stopped by a stream and knelt to drink, but when he brought his cupped hands to his lips, he tasted iron and saw his hands were covered in blood.

He stood and walked across the stream, away from the village. With every step, his daughter’s cries grew louder in his ears.

Grandma’s Trick

By Talinn Hatti, Age 7

Sarah and Jack were 8-year-old twins who lived on Orange Avenue.

A few days before Halloween, Sarah said, “I’m going to be a princess for Halloween.”

And Jack said, “I’m going to be a pirate.”

On Halloween night, they both wore their costumes and went trick-or-treating for lots of candy. Their parents had let them go alone because grandma’s house was right around the corner.

The street was very crowded with witches and superheroes. When they reached grandma’s house, it looked really dark and haunted.

Jack rang the doorbell excitedly, but no one answered.

Sarah said, “I don’t want to go in there!”

Jack said, “But it’s grandma’s house, we have to go in there!”

So they went inside. Everything was quiet in the living room. Suddenly, a chair started moving. Then, white ghosts started rising from the couches.

Sarah and Jack screamed, “Aaaaaah!!!”

They ran into the kitchen, where they saw skeletons making evil potions in a cauldron. They rushed out of there into the dining room. On the dining table stood a huge treasure chest. Jack opened it slowly. The chest was filled to the brim with gold coins and gems in every color. Jack accidentally scratched a gold coin and discovered CHOCOLATE! The gems were candies, too! Just then, the lights came on and out stepped grandma with her friends.

They were laughing, and grandma shouted, “Yay! We tricked you!”

Grandma explained, “The ghosts were actually my friends hiding under white bed sheets and moving on the living room couches. Aunt Mary and I were the skeletons stirring soup in the kitchen. How was that for a trick, kids?”

Sarah and Jack looked shocked and relieved. They said, “Cool!!! This Halloween trick was better than all the treats, except for the ones in the treasure chest, of course!”

They began filling their baskets with candy from the treasure chest and then turned around to say, “Grandma, promise you’ll do a new trick for us every year. … Grandma? … Grandma? ... Where are you …?”

Welcome to Motel 6

By Maeve Hopkins

“Room for 1,” I said to the clerk at Motel 6.

“Our bellhop will show you to your room,” said the man rather sleepily.

“Hello, I am Nate,” the bellhop said gloomily.

I handed my bag to his hand with a fancy white glove, but he didn`t take it. Instead, he walked off toward my room, leading me.

“This is your room,” Nate said.

He opened the door and I walked in. I turned to set my bags on my bed. CREAK. My door shut on its own.

“Probably just wind,” I thought as I heard a knock-knock. “Come in.”

A maid came in, set towels down, said nothing, but made a growling noise. Now I was scared.

I went to bed. During the night, I heard a lady crying. That was really weird – I distinctly remember Nate telling me I was the only guest. Then I heard footsteps. I stepped out of my room – it was another maid.

“Excuse me, miss, are you crying?” I asked.

She said nothing, like the other maid. She just turned around, and where her face should be was black.

“THIS PLACE IS CRAZY,” I said as I picked up my bags and sprinted to the lobby.

I slammed my hand on the bell. Nate came out of the back, rubbing his eyes.

“I WANT OUT!” I yelled at him.

“What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“The problem, buddy,” I answered, “is that my door shut on its own, the bellhops won’t touch me – it’s like they are ghosts – the maids are lacking faces and I heard a lady crying that shouldn’t exist!”

“Oh,” Nate grinned. “Sir, the bellhops just got new gloves, and they don’t want them to get dirty. We just installed this new door system that closes doors for you. And the lady crying was a woman who came in at midnight. She was crying because she lost at a slot machine down the road. The maids are on strike, they refuse to speak or look at anyone, so they wear black masks.”

The next morning I got on my flight home. We had to crash-land in a field, and a total of six people went to the hospital.

“That’s weird,” I thought. “That was the name of the motel I stayed at.”

The Halloween Costume

By Aurora Tollinger, Age 8

A couple of nights before Halloween, Aurora and Jessica were looking for Halloween costumes. They went to a store. Jessica was looking for a scary costume, and Aurora was not sure what she was looking for.

They started looking for a scary costume for Jessica. But all they found was an orange fuzzy witch costume. Aurora decided to wear the orange fuzzy witch costume.

So they went to a different store. They asked the lady at the desk and she said that little kids get scared by scary costumes. Though Jessica looked, she couldn’t find a scary costume.

So they went to another store. Aurora really wanted to help Jessica find a scary Halloween costume. So Aurora asked the lady at the desk and she said, “We don’t have any scary kid Halloween costumes.” She looked anyway.

The lady at the desk took many different parts of Halloween costumes to make a very scary costume. She took skeleton pants, a gray cape and a monster shirt. Aurora showed Jessica the very scary Halloween costume. Jessica didn’t like the costume, but she bought the costume anyway.

Then Aurora and Jessica went home and Aurora got to work making a very scary mask. She painted it black with white scary designs and she stuck orange pumpkin stickers on the mask and wrote all sorts of scary messages, like “Boo!” and “Scat!” and “I’ll rattle your bones!” She painted skulls all over it.

When Aurora was done, she showed the mask to Jessica. Jessica liked the mask. She wore the scary mask with the Halloween costume they bought at the store, and that’s what she wore at Halloween.

My Favorite Holiday

By Chubby the Squirrel (Eveliena Pasmooij, 10)

Oct. 1: Halloween is here! Pumpkin pie is everwhere – let’s cheer! Down the tree to the garden I go. … Crunch, nibble, nibble, munch smunch, yum, yum, yum! My family down the tree is so kind to me. They grew these pumpkins just for me! Yippee!

Oct. 13: Look at my fans! My family down the tree can’t stop staring up at me! Should I go out on a limb and fluff my tail? That is the least I can do to thank them for the delicious pumpkins!

Oct. 17: What’s this – a playground just for me?! Now I have jungle gyms and wire mazes all around my pumpkins! I love exploring! My pumpkins taste even more delicious after all that exercise! Thank you family down the tree!

Oct. 25: Happy birthday to me! I am not 103. Skip, skip, hop, hop, down the tree I go and what do I find? The wind of destiny has delivered an invitation! It is from the family down the tree. A party for me? That is so nice of them to write “Dear neighbor.” For my birthday, it will be pumpkin cake for me! And that’s not all … every pumpkin food “known to mankind” will be served. I think they meant “squirrelkind.”

Oct. 27: Today I will sneak to Boutique Squeak to get an outfit for my party tomorrow. Perhaps pumpkin earrings?

Oct. 28: It’s party day! Can’t go to a party without a hostess gift! What to get. … What to get. … Flowers it will be for my favorite family down the tree! With rosebuds and a pumpkin bloom, to the party I go!

Skip, skip, hop, hop, up the stairs, hello there! I knew they would be happy to see me, but not this excited! Listen to the family down the tree scream with delight! Wow. And here comes a large hat. … Wait a second, family down the tree, I already have an outfit! Maybe this party is too much for me. Skip, skip, hop, hop back to my tree without even a nibble. Flowers on the menu tonight it will be.

Oct. 31: Happy Halloween! My family down the tree has made the pumpkins look rather scary today.

I’m sad to say goodbye to pumpkin pie time. But maybe a pie made of candy canes will do just fine.

A Spooky Night

By Donovan Carlson Age 6, First grade Gardner Bullis School

Once upon a time, there was a witch who loved to take rides on her broom.

On a scary night, the witch was taking a ride on her broom and what do you think she saw? A cat! The cat liked to bite. So she bit the witch’s BROOM!

At the end of the story, the witch landed on the ground and put the cat in her hat. And then she threw the cat into the chimney and the witch lived happily ever after!

Witch and Her Friends

By Yael Gottesman Age 6, First grade Gardner Bullis School

Witch was playing with her friends, when suddenly she heard a door that went “creak.”

She and her friends went to the door. They were scared. They looked behind them and their friend Zombie was gone! They were a lot of scared when Zombie was gone.

They liked Zombie because he was funny and brave.

They came to the door. The door went “creak,” and Witch opened the door and Zombie was there, and he said, “Boo!” And they said, “Happy Halloween!”

Ghost and Witch

By Gunnar Eklund Age 6, First grade Gardner Bullis School

There was a ghost and a spooky witch playing in the graveyard. They were having fun until they heard thumps! They were so scared!

Ghost hid in a gravestone and the spooky witch hid behind the cook pot, but they heard something.

It was a very, very deep voice.

It was a giant zombie and the thumps were the giant zombie’s tap shoes!

A True Halloween Story

By Ingrid Sperow

This is a true story. My son and I live in Malibu, and my son was born to me 11 years ago.

When I was 11 years old, I was already having psychic premonitions and communication with the dead. I don’t always want to hear what dead people have to say, and I certainly don’t want them wandering around my home – but sometimes ghosts need to talk.

On Oct. 8, we had a total lunar eclipse and a blood moon. To some, it was an omen of dreadful things to come; but to me, those who have passed are passing through a thinner veil between living and not living – and that’s when ghosts are wandering about the most.

Oct. 8 was a Wednesday – a school night; we’re usually in and getting ready for the next day. Did we finish homework? But this Wednesday it was my next-door neighbor’s birthday; we were invited to his dinner party. Just before we left our house, the patio doors were open and I couldn’t find the cat. I called the cat – but no cat.

I thought to myself, “We’ll get him later before we go to bed.”

I had already packed my famous vegetable lasagna to bring to our neighbor’s birthday dinner.

As we were heading out, getting ready to leave, I felt something brush against my lower leg. I totally assumed it was the cat but couldn’t look down because I was holding this heavy glass baking dish with the lasagna. I ignored it and asked my son to close the patio door after me. He closed the door and we started off. Not 4 feet from the door, it slowly splayed open.

Irritated, I said, “Marcus, close the door!”

Marcus said, “I did, Mom. …”

“Well, pull it shut and lock it,” I said. “It’s been sticking lately.”

The evening seemed eerie; the moon lit our path through the trees onto my neighbor’s estate. I had walked the path a couple dozen times, even at night, and I never gave it a second thought. Tonight was different.

We arrived at our neighbor’s house, greeted at the door by his wife. A tall, shadowy figure entered the house with us, passing to the left of the hugging and hellos.

My neighbor’s wife asked, “Who’s the gentleman?”

I responded in earnest, “We’ll need to ask the ghost who he is. …”

The Great Turkey Escape

By Andrew Pejack

The secret meeting in the shed lasted much longer than expected.

Baked and Stuffed! We’ve Had


Baked and Stuffed! We’ve Had Enough!

The chanting lasted nearly an hour, and had driven the turkeys to an emotional frenzy. A rather large and somewhat misshapen turkey finally spoke:

“Let your feathers settle, my friends. Let me speak!”

The mass of turkeys, Toms and Hens, quieted to a low but excited cackle.

“I welcome you, my brothers and sisters! Be you free-range, be you scratch-fed, be you caged or cage-free, we are all slated for the same fate. The farmer’s ax is sharpened as we wait!”

Baked and Stuffed! We’ve Had Enough!

Baked and Stuffed! We’ve Had Enough!

The chanting flared up yet again, with feathers flying such that the inside of the shed was like a blizzard of gray-white snow.

“Death to the farmer! Let him peck at morsel and seed, and fall under the ax, such as we!”

This murderous cry bellowed from within the feather cloud. From whom, it was not known. The large turkey spoke again:

“Settle thy beards upon the hay, and hear me, for the ax shall remain upon the wall this year! When the farmer’s children dress in ghostly costumes, and prance about seeking candies, we know that our deaths are merely one moon away.”

One Moon Away! Thanksgiving Day!

The Ax’s Blade! One Moon Away!

Another chant began, and might have gone on all night had not the large turkey raised his wings.

“This year the ax shall NOT fall! We shall dress as Ghouls and Goblins! Wizards and Werewolves! Bats and Beasts! Dressed as such, we shall roam the streets with the children, and thus make our escape! We shall march away from the moon, that symbol of our doom. Surely that way lays our freedom!”

Yet another chant began, that lasted late into the night.

Ghouls and Goblins! Bats and Beasts!

Upon our meat, they shall not Feast!

Halloween came and went, as did the Turkeys, never to be seen again. The shed sat quiet, save for the scratch of a mouse or two. A moon passed, and the ax stayed upon the wall.

As to what the farmer ate for Thanksgiving dinner, I know not.

The Gifts

By Laura Allan

I can’t remember the last time I made a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween.

I know I did so with my family as a child, but not with my wife once I’d married. She was an expert at it, so creative with the designs, cutting out the most detailed faces and animals you’d ever seen.

She was beauty and talent rolled into one, with a smile that would put any jack-o’-lantern to shame. Halloween was her favorite holiday, and she lit up each October at the prospect of carving pumpkins for the neighborhood to enjoy, so I left all that to her.

Of course ... that was before the accident. But I won’t speak of that here.

Since she’s been gone, I haven’t carved a pumpkin once. I just don’t have the heart. Still, I must tell you, though you may not believe me ... every year there is a lit jack-o’-lantern on my porch when I wake up the morning after Halloween.

It may sound crazy, and I have no explanation, but like clockwork, it happens over and over again.

They’ve always been so exquisite in design, so beautiful, all carved in roses and flowers like my wife used to grow in our garden.

They remind me of her handiwork, and of her.

At first I was angry, I’ll admit, but the years have turned my anger and sadness to curiosity and intrigue, and now I don’t want to know why.

Just who.

There have been many times that I’ve sat up late by my front window on Oct. 31, waiting like a kid for Santa, to see who leaves them there for me. But I am old now, and each time I’ve lost my will and nodded off before dawn. And each dawn there has been a beautifully carved pumpkin waiting expectantly for me, like a gift.

This year, I am especially nervous for my vigil. You see, last Halloween the pumpkin was different than any time before, enough to give me chills even now.

There was no flower or design, no lovely petals or roses. No, there were only carved-in words, burning bright as brimstone.

They said: “I'll see you soon.”

I try not to dwell on it too much, or think too hard on their meaning. Especially tonight, for it is Halloween again, and I still have coffee to brew for the long, lonely wait ahead of me.

A Personalized Tour of Terror

By Eeli Ram

A new crop of Halloween accessory stores was soon to be harvested by haunters everywhere. These scare shops flourished within the skeletal remains of big-box graveyards. Fake blood dripping from vampire teeth, Styrofoam tombstones dotting lawns, prerecorded howling, and the list went on. What a joke! This inventory would never scare me. If only I could find a personalized tour of terror within the comfort of my own computer universe.

After a quick Internet search, I found a lawyer’s stamp of approval.

A personalized tour of terror. “Restricted entry to this haunted website. Due to the extreme nature of this haunted tour, visitors must be in excellent mental health and 18 years or older. A signed waiver form must be completed prior to entry. No exceptions. Consider yourself warned.”

“Yup … sounds like a winner,” I thought.

Mental health. Check.

18 years … OK, subtract 5 from 2001, so that makes 1996. Just to be safe, I’ll input Oct. 1, 1995. Check.

Electronic signature. Check.

Looks like I’m good to …

Bam! Bam! Bam! The quick raps to my bedroom door followed a no-nonsense, “Dinner. Now.”

As I ran down to have dinner, I couldn’t stop thinking about this website. Hmm … what did a personalized tour of terror mean, exactly? Germs, homework, forced happiness. My list was long.

“Great dinner.” I said appreciatively, and then casually followed with, “Can I go finish my homework now?”

“May I?” Mom replied, falling into my trap.

“No, Mom, I want to do it for a change.”

This got a laugh every time … and a free pass to hide away in my room.

Once in my room, I comfortably sat at command central, where my computer screen flashed a pop-up window. It cheerfully queried if I had any final words. tap tap. n-o. Another pop-up menu again queried any final words. tap tap. N-O!

Slowly the pop-up menu bled to the sides of the screen. Impatiently, I pushed my face forward trying to decipher a single pixelated blotch centered on the screen when suddenly a Hulk-sized fist punched through the monitor, throttled my neck and yanked me through the glass shards. The blotch was a roadmap with a sign posting, “Now entering your personalized tour of terror.”

Happy Halloween!

The Best Halloween

By John Allan

He wasn’t sure how it all started.

In the early years, there were just a few kids who came to his door and yelled, “Trick-or-treat!” Now it seemed that every year there were hundreds, though he was sure there must not be that many.

Why did they all come to his door, anyway? Being an old man, he could remember a great many Halloweens. He was generous with the candy, and he always smiled at the kids and complimented them on their costumes. Maybe that was it.

This year he was ready, with ghosts in the trees, a carved pumpkin and more candy than last year.

He had noticed last year that some of the youngest trick-or-treaters seemed a little scared when they saw him. He looked in his mirror and could see the scraggly white hair and deep lines in his face, and thought that might be it. He took out his false teeth and smiled at the mirror. THAT would really scare them, he thought. No, that will never do. He put his teeth back in and smiled again; much better.

Thinking back to when he was a young boy, he remembered how much fun it was to go door-to-door with all the other kids in their costumes. Well, he still got to see all the kids in their costumes. Halloween was still fun.

It was then that the spirit appeared. She was like a young angel, but without the wings.

She spoke to him: “If it is your wish, you can be a kid again and go trick-or-treating like before.”

The old man asked, “How would I look? Would I have a costume?”

“See for yourself,” she said, and with a nod of her head, she changed him into a young boy in a pirate costume.

He looked in the mirror, and was amazed at the boy he saw looking back at him. He thought of how much fun it would be to trick-or-treat again.

“Thank you,” he said, “but I am happy seeing all the boys and girls come to my door.”

“OK,” said the spirit. “You will have your wish. I know it will make everyone happy.”

With that, she changed him back, and then vanished.

There was a knock on the door. When he opened it, there was his grown daughter with her two children.

“Dad, how about on Halloween I come over here to hand out candy, and you take your grandchildren trick-or-treating around the neighborhood?”

The old man beamed. “That would be wonderful! I even know the house to take them to where they give out really big candy bars.”

Yes, it was going to be a really great Halloween!

A Spider’s Halloween Wish

By Elizabeth Kemp

Susie put on her four pairs of slippers and scurried to breakfast. She could barely contain her excitement. Halloween was just one day away!

“Can I please be a golden retriever this year?” Susie pleaded.

“Honey, it’s hard to find dog fur to weave a costume,” Mom explained. “Squirrels snatch up everything soft for their nests. Besides, you’re a beautiful spider.”

“And don’t ask again to go in that house,” Dad added. “Nothing good ever comes to a spider on the inside.”

“But the Spencers’ dog seems nice,” Susie argued. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I went inside to gather some of his golden fur.”

Mom didn’t agree.

Susie spent the afternoon sulking on the Spencers’ porch. She’d never had a costume; things had to change. When Mrs. Spencer arrived home, Susie didn’t give it a second thought. She bolted inside, quickly grabbed eight furry handfuls, and ran for the door.

SLAM! The door shut in front of her. Susie gasped and ran for cover.

A few hours later, Susie ventured out.

“What’s that noise?” she wondered as she heard a rumbling.

She turned to see the housecleaner with a vacuum hose above her. Susie closed her eyes and felt her body lift. She was instantly sucked into darkness.

“Don’t worry,” Susie heard. “I’m Molly. We’ve all been in here for months. It gets windy, but the housecleaner’s always sucking up tasty treats for us spiders.”

“Did you say ‘months’?” Susie asked tearfully.

“We have an escape plan,” Molly continued, “but we’re too big to fit through a filter hole and chew through the rubber casing to freedom. Say, you look tiny! You up for a challenge?”

It sounded dangerous, but Susie had no choice. She easily squeezed through the filter, but biting through rubber was another story.

A day passed and Susie’s mouth ached from biting. She wanted to cry but could hear the Spencers preparing for Halloween. With the focus of a golden retriever tracking her bone, Susie persevered.

“Finally!” she exclaimed after biting through.

Susie helped everyone escape. Molly hugged her while the others cheered. But Susie had to get home.

“Follow me if you want to come,” she announced.

“You’re safe,” Mom cried when seeing her. “I barely recognize you covered in that fur.”

Susie looked around and beamed. Golden fur from the vacuum was stuck on all of them!

“Best-Halloween-Ever!” she cheered.

The Pumpkin

By Priya Dixit

The pumpkin stared at him from the rugged wall. It had been there as long as the boy could remember.

Eyes were carved from the warped and hardened orange shell, formed by rough triangles that served as a window to the once-moist inside. An odd square nose and jagged grin had been carved in the same fashion, invariably twisted into a lopsided smile. These features had endured years and remained preserved despite the bitter, swirling winds that plagued the boy’s village each October.

It was the eve of the beginning of the winds. Though he could not afford to tarry and risk the wrath of the chilling gusts, he waited before the pumpkin.

His grandmother had whispered to him the night before that when icy air rushed through the desolate village, the pumpkin became magical, although his father didn’t believe it. She wouldn’t say more, leaving him to believe that her words were merely a fanciful story of a fictional, wonder-filled past.

His father had sternly instructed him to hasten back to their house before the beginning of the breezes, but still the boy lingered by the wall and the pumpkin. Would the story be true? Could it be true? He dared for an instant to hope and dream that it was. His heart pounded as he anxiously watched the pumpkin.

It winked. The boy blinked once, then again in surprise. Was this the magic of the pumpkin? Suddenly, a howling wind rushed past him and swirled around the area of wall upon which the perpetually grinning pumpkin sat.

A wail filled the air, causing the boy to frantically spin around to find the source of the sound. He realized with a jolt that the sound originated from the pumpkin itself. But pumpkins couldn’t make sounds … or could they?

The boy was met with another surprise as he peered at the pumpkin in shock. The normal inky darkness of its insides was illuminated with a sudden sputtering glow. Warm, golden light spilled from the roughly chiseled eyes, nose and mouth, as though from a candle.

But as spontaneously as the spectacle started, the howl of the pumpkin ceased and the orb of light extinguished itself.

As he turned to run home, amazed by the magic he had seen, the boy heard a whisper drifting on the wind. “Happy Halloween.” … The boy gaped at the pumpkin, and it stared back.

The Invisible Ghost

By Mitesh Jain

Age 6, First Grade, Almond School

One day I was playing outside and it was getting dark and a car came and NOBODY WAS DRIVING IT! Then I heard the car door open and soon after, something whacked me in the face. I did not see anything or anyone, but then I heard something say “boo” to me. That is when I realized that it was a ghost. I got so scared that I ran as fast as I could to my house. I was feeling hot and thirsty from running, so I got a drink of water. Then I felt something pull on my sleeve. I spilled some of my water and I heard another “boo.” Then I said “boo” back and I was not afraid anymore, and the ghost and I became friends.

The following stories did not make the print edition, but deserve attention for the writers' efforts and imaginations. These include all 21 students of Laura Lucero's first grade class at Bullis Charter School. Read on!

The Mad Scientist

By Jack Liang

Once upon a time, a mad scientist made a potion. He didn’t know a stroke of lightning zapped inside of it. He went over to the water breathing potion. The potion zapped together, sending a big zap to the electrocuting potion. It reflected to the scientist and he turned back into a pumpkin!

The Witch’s Cat

By Amanda Chen

There once was a witch. She had a cat, but she wanted a scary cat. So she went to the scariest place. There, she found one. But it was so scary. She ran back home and she gave her kids a Happy Halloween party. The witch’s cat ran back to the scary place. Finally, it turned scary too!

The Silly Spider

By Grace Rao

The silly spider wanted a friend. But he couldn’t find anyone. So he wanted to go on an adventure. Then the silly spider found someone. It was a ghost! The silly spider had made a friend. And then they were happy!

The Spooky Night

By Iris Lee

A pirate had a parrot. He wanted a girl pirate to play with. But, he wondered, where could he find one? In the forest, he guessed. So, he went inside the forest. Then he saw a girl pirate. She was lonely. He said, “Would you like to marry me?” She said, “yes, please!” And they got married. He found his first best friend that spooky night.

The Skeleton

By William Fligor

One Halloween night, there was a Ghost of Spook. And a skeleton appeared. “Boo,” he said. The skeleton tried to get the ghost of Spook, but he was a ghost. So the skeleton ran away screaming, “Ahhhh.” Then the ghost went back to play. Finally, the skeleton did not bother again.

The Ghost Clown

By Sophie Yung

Once upon a time, there was a ghost clown. He wanted to scare everyone. So he went to a town. But he was so so silly! He could not scare anyone. So he decided to be a friend. And guess what? He’s a human. Ha ha!

The Wicked Witch

By Elisa Schweifler

Once upon a time, there was somebody named Lucy, the wicked witch. She wanted to make a potion that had dead flies in it. She was going to make all the boys and girls eat it. But she had to go on this big walk to find dead flies. So, she went walking for two days to find dead flies. Then, she saw a spooky ghost. Then, she ran and forgot all about the potion. FInally, she made a big decision to be friends with all the boys and girls.

The Spooky Night

By Maya Dutta

One day, there was a little girl with orange hair. One day, she wanted to go for a walk on Halloween night. But, when she opened the door to leave, she saw a ghost and the ghost said, “BOOOOO!” The girl with orange hair got so scared. Although, then she noticed that it was actually the girl with orange hair’s friend. Then she gave her friend some candy!

Zombie Boo!

By Cameron Kani

One day, somebody scary that eats your brains wanted to find a zombie island. But his leg fell off because it was too windy outside. So he put back on his leg with super duper glue. Then he found the island. Just then, both of his legs fell off. Finally, he decided to go home.

The Silly Witch

By Sophia Fahimi

There once was a silly witch. She wanted to go trick-or-treating. But she did not have a costume. So she went to a costume store. Then she did not find anything to wear! Finally, she went home. She was sad. So she just went as a witch!

The Sneaky Ghost and the Caveman

By Isaac Gilbert-Fagen

Once upon a time, a ghost was trapped in a box in a cave. The ghost wanted to get out of the box. But he couldn’t get out of the box, or could he? He found the lock and the cavemen in the cave did not see the sign that said "CAUTION." Then the ghost saw the cavemen. The cavemen saw the ghost and ran for their lives! And then, they actually became friends!

The Tiny Cat Who Wanted a Potion

By Keira Zhang

Once upon a time, there was a tiny cat who wanted to make a potion, but she was afraid of everything! Since she was a fairy, she used her Rainbow Diamond power to make herself invisible. Then a greedy wolf used his razor-eye power to spy on her. Then the wolf ate her up! And then, a ghost ate him up!

The Witch’s Very, Very, Very, Very Dizzy Potion

By Madison Herby

There once was a witch with a dark, dark funny cat and dog. She wanted a very, very, very, very dizzy potion. But there was a ginormous frog in the way, and it was 20 feet long and 20 feet tall. So they tried flying over the frog, but they could not fly over the frog. They also tried walking past the frog, but they still could not walk past it. Then they tried to talk to the frog and finally the frog moved out of the way. Finally, the witch and the cat and the dog found the surprise!

The Spooky Day

By Lia Zawacki

The witch loved spooky days! She wanted a spooky day with candy! She went to the candy store. But, it was closed. So, she went to her friend’s house! She finally found candy there. So, she invited all of her friends to her spooky party!

The Eating Monster

By Noe Vanacht

Once there was a monster. He walked through the walls of people’s houses. He tried to eat people, but they escaped. He tried again, but he missed. One day, he finally ate somebody. He felt so good! But he fell. And he died!

The Ghost

By Christopher Klinker

One Halloween, there was a ghost. The ghost said, “BOOOOOOO!” It scared everyone. They all dropped their candy and ran!

The Spooky Mission

By Ryan Barone

A ghost wanted to scare everybody out of a house in England. A boy and girl lived in the house. The boy said, “I think I see a ghost, but I have a plan.” The ghost wanted to have a party. The boy and the girl in the house wanted to have a Halloween party too. The ghost had never seen his family and friends in one-hundred years! So, they all dusted the house and at the end they both had parties.

Creepy Carrots

By Ben Fair

One Halloween night, there was a bunny who wanted a carrot. But, the carrot scared the bunny by saying, “BOO!” It scared the bunny. The bunny had a Jack-o-Lantern. The bunny crashed into the Jack-o-Lantern. Crash! The Jack-o-Lantern broke. But then, the carrots released the bunny. The bunny just wanted a carrot so they gave the bunny some carrots and they all lived happily ever after!

The Spooky Squirrel

By Inara Spatafore

Once upon a time, there lived a squirrel that took people’s hats. People were scared. He goes through them to sort them. People think it was the scarecrow instead, but it wasn’t.

The Friendly Ghost

By Aarush Shrikanth

Once upon a time, a friendly ghost ate all the witches. So children gave the ghost more witches. But the children had to travel far to Ghost Candy Island to get the witches. So they went and took the ghost with them. They went on a ship to find witches. Then they got the witches and sailed back. Finally, they all had a big feast. Happy Halloween!


By Kendall Nord

Once upon a time, the scary pumpkin was friends with the funny pumpkin. The scary pumpkin went away. Then, the scary pumpkin came out as a ghost for Halloween. They went trick-or-treating together and got so much candy.

Mysteriously Halloween

By Reilly Moore and Alyssa Manche

         Once upon a time, three friends met up at the haunted bagel shop to get some bagels. They forgot that if you eat three bagels, the vampire will drop a note at night.

         The next day when Anna woke up she called Conor and Villow. ”Come to my house quickly! You won't believe it!”

          “Come on in,” said Anna. “This is what I got last night!  I’ll read it:

Dear Three Ghostly Friends,

It is time to find the missing gold. If you find me, then you will have a better chance of finding it.


The Vampire

         “Oh my,” said Conor and Villow.

         “I think I have the steps to getting the gold,” said Anna. “First, we should go to the haunted bagel shop to find more clues because it is a little scary there.”

As they walked to the bagel shop, they noticed someone walking on the roof of the shop. They got suspicious because she was looking around nervously, and she looked a bit like the shop owner Sie. Once they got there, they hid under a table inside the shop until Sie closed up. At midnight they went up to her bedroom and looked through the window.  When they saw fangs hanging out of her mouth, they knew she was the vampire. Anna screamed, but Conor put his hand over her mouth so the vampire wouldn’t hear.           

          As Conor got home, he thought to himself, ”We forgot the gold! I have to call Anna.” “Maybe we can look for it on Friday next week.” suggested Anna.

         “Sure, but that is Halloween!”

         The friends met up at the bagel shop again on Halloween night.

         When they got there, they crept up to Sie’s room. The door was open! They crawled and were quiet while they looked.The last place they looked was under the bed. There they found a bat guarding a big box. To get to the gold, Villow and Conor distracted the bat on one side while Anna tried to break in from the other. After trying ten times, Anna finally got to the gold, but she found it right when the vampire walked in!

         “Jump out the side window and take the gold!” hissed Anna. Just as they jumped, the vampire saw them.

         “You cruel little beasts!” said Sie. However she was too late, the friends were gone, safe. But not for long!

LA council candidates address prospects for community center

The sponsors of the Los Altos Council Candidates Forum on Los Altos’ Vibrancy and Sustainability solicited questions for the five candidates running for two seats on Los Altos City Council in Tuesday’s election.

The candidates were asked to answer the following question in 50 words or less.


'Science Guy' touches on wide range of topics during Celebrity Forum visit

From celebrityforum.net
Bill Nye addressed controversial topics such as the Ebola outbreak and climate change in his recent Celebrity Forum appearance.

Bill Nye the Science Guy launched the 47th year of the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Speakers Series last week.

The science educator and comedian is best known for his Emmy Award-winning PBS children’s show.


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