Note: Additional stories that did not make the print edition are published in this online version. All stories will be considered for the Town Criers Spooky Story contest.
Los Altos children and adults alike will hit the streets Monday night dressed in all manner of spooky attire, including some outfits that prove too cute, too sexy, flat-out funny or unbelievably tacky.
Such is what Halloween brings out in people as they go door to door in the hunt for treats. Wouldn’t it be great if a few neighbors pulled out tricks instead?
Several annual events have arisen around children’s third favorite time of the year (behind birthdays and Christmas) that add to the fun.
The Los Altos Village Association’s annual Halloween Spooktacular event is scheduled noon to 4 p.m. Monday on downtown Los Altos streets (www.downtownlosaltos.org). Heather Lussier Photography, 127 Main St., will take photos for $5, with proceeds supporting the Community Services Agency.
Santa Rita School’s 51st annual Witches’ Delight, complete with carnival rides, is slated 3-8 p.m. Friday (www.santaritaschool.org). How about grabbing some pumpkins at Los Altos High School (201 Almond Ave.) to benefit school sports? Rancho Shopping Center will feature Halloween family fun 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (www.ranchoshoppingcenter.com), and Hidden Villa will host “Halloween Haunts” 6:25-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (www.hiddenvilla.org). Billed as an alternative to Halloween, a “Family Fun Night” will fill the parking lot at Bridges Community Church 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday (www.connectbcc.org).
Travel just a bit farther into Mountain View to attend the “Monster Bash” 5-8 p.m. Saturday at the Rengstorff Park Community Center (www.mountainview.gov). The El Camino YMCA invites families to join in the fun noon to 2 p.m. Saturday (www.ymcasv.org/elcamino).
Here’s another idea for Monday: Take part in a Books for Treats (booksfortreats.org) campaign that encourages doling out gently used books instead of candy. The idea is the brainchild of San Jose author Rebecca Morgan, who states: “Unlike candy that can cause health, dental and behavioral problems, books nourish children’s imaginations. Our motto is, ‘Feed kids’ minds, not their cavities. Give them brain candy.’” There’s always one killjoy in every crowd! (We’re kidding, Rebecca!)
And now, here’s the tradition you’ve all been waiting for: this year’s collection of Spooky Stories. Prepare to be thrilled, chilled and possibly amused by the following tales. As with every year’s collection, we ask you, dear readers, to vote for your favorites.
Email [email protected] with your choice, and the author with the most votes will receive a cash prize. We will announce the winner in an upcoming issue. Now, on to the tales!
By Liam Magee
Alec Clark paced along the deck of the U.S.S. Ambassador at 11'oclock. His great-great grandfather, Peleg Clark, had once done so on the same day, different year, different boat. Ever since he went missing at sea, the whole family had thought it taboo for another Clark man to serve at sea.
Alec did not. He was proud of his in heritage, and not ashamed of doubting his family. He had even taken a portrait of Peleg to his cabin, for he was proud to serve at sea, the first Clark to do so since Peleg. He was proud to serve in the U.S. navy. As he felt the night air, his peace was disturbed by screams higher up.
"Help! Someone! Please!" After that it was just a high-pitched scream, mixed with a loud ripping sound. Alec ran as fast as any 30-year old man ever had, towards the source. But when he arrived, he knew he was too late.
He saw a black figure hunched over a mess of flesh that might have once been a human. He heard a ripping sound, and thought "It's eating him."
Alec touched his pants, and they were wet. He thought about running, but that would just draw its attention. Calling for help? The help would be too late. He tried to raise his fists, but they were shaking too badly. And at that moment, the head turned, and for the first time, Alec saw its disgusting face, shriveled flesh that might once have been human.
"I know that face," Alec thought. "Help!" he screamed. It was too late. It was upon him, and he felt it ripping his skin and even his backbone. He heard feet, then gunshots."Aha," he thought, "I know it from a portrait in my cabin." Blackness.
The Halloween Costume
By Gina Bertolino
Carefully, she shifted the pointed princess hat on her head just so – not wanting to flatten any of the glossy curls forming a sweet halo around her face. So fitting to the character of her costume this year. The delicate pink and lavender ribbons that cascaded down from the tiptop peak of her hat were a little ticklish to her cute-as-a-button nose (as Mom so often liked to describe it). But Missy could live with a little tickle, a little inconvenience, for the sake of the costume and sublime color combination.
The frills of the tulle skirt did seem a little too stiff, but as long as they didn’t drag on the floor and impede her royal stride. Well, again, this is what princesses must have to contend with to please their public. It was a bit of a pinch to the midsection for the satin skirt – at least she had a middle to speak of – unlike her chubby little sister Lola, who pretended no one could see her when she snuck yet another cookie off the counter when Mom wasn’t looking. Really. Lola should learn to think svelte like Missy – curb the indiscriminate snacking and stop the indulging (unless for an extra session with the hairbrush to bring a luxurious gleam to her hair, of course).
Unlike Missy, Lola didn’t care how she appeared in public. She’d open the patio door and just go running out naked if Mom didn’t rein her in. At least their house had a high fence to spare embarrassment from the neighbors, thank goodness!
But Missy didn’t want to spoil her precious preparation time dwelling on Lola and her scruffiness. Refocus! Mental energy, Missy reminded herself, is as important as the proper attire in carrying oneself as a true princess.
At last, the day of glory was here, and Missy knew she had an excellent chance of winning this year’s grand prize. Adding a last bit of spit and a swipe to make sure the last silky curl fell perfectly on her cheek, Missy gazed in the window of the shop on the corner and gave her reflection a wink of approval. A perfect princess, in a perfect pink-and-purple costume, all frills and flowers and flounce. With the chinstrap holding her ribboned hat tightly in place, she put one paw in front of the other and regally joined the parade.
The Black Pumpkin
By Jason Biggs
He was greeted at the front porch by the ugly, wart-covered pumpkin. It wasn’t there this morning. Its vertical lines, bumps and warts resembled a grimacing face. Black with white splotches throughout, the pumpkin watched him enter the house.
“Where did we get that pumpkin?” he demanded.
“Oh, the black pumpkin?” his wife answered. “Mrs. Gato gave it to the kids for Halloween.”
Mrs. Gato – the strange old neighbor with the cats, sweet lady, but everyone avoided her.
Upon the pumpkin’s arrival, the string of unwelcome events imperceptibly began. Heavy rain caused a gushing roof leak. A black-widow spider bit his mother, making her gravely ill. Next came the annoying traffic ticket and car repair. His wife’s plants, previously flourishing on the front porch, suddenly turned brown and died. Nearby, the black pumpkin grinned wickedly.
These strange happenings had been chalked up to the rigors of life, and they wanted to believe that rational explanation. Since its appearance, the black pumpkin had dominated his thoughts. He wouldn’t allow his mind to believe in an evil gourd until his son broke his arm tripping over the black pumpkin. He was certain the ugly pumpkin had moved a few inches from the night before. Superstition took control.
Carrying the malevolent pumpkin to the kitchen on Halloween, he slid the carving knife into its flesh. Immediately a foul stench filled the house. He carved on, cutting himself. As blood dripped from his finger, he lifted the top of the pumpkin and peered inside, finding his reflection in a thick pool of black liquid. He knew he was looking at pure, concentrated evil.
“Why do we carve pumpkins, Dad?” his son suddenly asked.
“People believed that lighting jack-o’-lanterns on All Hallows’ Eve would scare away evil spirits,” he explained.
“Will that black pumpkin scare away evil spirits?” his son asked as the family gathered.
“No, I think it will bring evil spirits to us,” the father answered.
Without anyone needing further explanation, the father poured the pumpkin’s heinous contents down the drain and threw it into the trash. As he did so, the black pumpkin’s evil grip on his family was released. The family went trick-or-treating, leaving the hot water running in the sink for good measure.
Next spring, while planting seeds in her garden, Mrs. Gato explained to the father: “I’m planting pumpkins for next Halloween. Right here on top of my pet cemetery!” She smiled at him.
A Dreadful Halloween
By Alex Kemble, 10
It was a Halloween night with no one in sight by the stroke of midnight. John and his sister Elisa went by the old graveyard.
“Hey, let’s go into the old graveyard church,” John said excitedly.
“No way – you know the myth of the graveyard,” Elisa replied.
John managed to drag his sister to the church, and the inside was creepy.
“A black widow,” Elisa screamed.
John soothed her and they continued.
“Hey, look at that painting. Its eyes look like they’re staring at us,” John said.
They found a flight of stairs and walked down them into the underground basement. They heard a door open and shut.
“Hey, what was that?” Elisa said, frightened.
“Just the wind, don’t worry,” John said.
“Go back while you still have the chance to live,” the wind-squeaky voice said. “Go back!”
Yet John and Elisa continued.
As they walked on, they heard creepy creaks from the floor and ominous wails from somewhere nearby. Elisa hit a switch on the floor and a trapdoor opened. She fell in and screamed as she hung on.
“Help! I fell in a trapdoor!” Elisa screamed.
“I got you,” John said.
“Behind you!” Elisa shouted and said she saw a Zombie gushing out blood.
“The spirits warned you not to come any farther. Now you must die!” the Zombie wailed, then kicked John down the trapdoor and Elisa followed.
?They crashed on the floor and Elisa started crying and pleading to God to save them. A spirit appeared and said, “So you want to go home?”
“Yes, forever. We will never come back here if you let us go back home,” Elisa and John said.
“Then, bye, I hope you learned a lesson. You got lucky that I am one of the nice spirits.”
Those were the last words they heard that horrible night. And they never went back to the church ever again as they saw it disappear in the gloomy night.
The Haunted House
By Rachel Hughes, 10
Gardner Bullis School
It was a misty, dark and cold night. The full moon shone through the bare, crooked trees. The eerie haunted house creaked as I stepped through the wooden doorway.
Inside was pitch black, and I couldn’t see a thing. I clicked on my flashlight. The flashlight caused a mysterious glow as it lit up the hallway. For a second, I thought I heard a wicked, evil laugh.
The door slammed shut behind me. I turned around, but there was nothing there. I shivered as a freezing wind swept past me. I heard a wolf cry out to the moon.
The haunted house smelled moldy and old. I walked deeper into the ghostly house. Suddenly, I heard footsteps approaching. I felt a chill down my spine. I turned to run back, but I heard the lock slide shut. I was stuck. I closed my eyes, waiting for doom.
When I opened my eyes, I saw it. A pale white face, with a ragged dress covered with blood.
She had hair that was white, which shined in the light of my flashlight. Her eyes were thin, yellow slits. She was reaching toward me, with her bony, wrinkled fingers with gnarled, long nails when I screamed, and squeezed my eyes tightly shut.
Then I heard a familiar voice shout, “RACHEL! WAKE UP THIS INSTANT!”
I bolted up in … bed. Cold sweat was running down my face. The smell of pancakes wafted through the air. “Rachel! You’re going to be late for school!” It was my mom. I was confused.
“Well, get up and get ready!” I slowly got up and changed. “Well,” I said to myself, “at least it was a dream.”
By Alex Chun, 15
It was Halloween night, and as little Susie was getting ready for bed, she said, “Daddy check my closet for monsters.”
Her father, a perennial prankster to his daughter and wife, decided to let his daughter live in fear that night and said, “Honey, don’t worry. There aren’t any monsters.” He then kissed her and proceeded to his own room so he could get a good night’s sleep.
About two hours later, he was awakened by a scream! He ran over to Susie’s room to see what had happened and to his surprise, there was no one in bed. “Susie where are you?” he screamed while examining all of the room. He then searched the whole house and couldn’t find her anywhere.
Awakened by the commotion, his wife went up to him and asked what was going on. He replied, saying that Susie was missing. They searched the neighborhood, called friends and by the next day, there were still no signs of Susie.
Distraught, the father went back to Susie’s room and looked around for clues but couldn’t find anything. Abruptly, he realized something and approached her closet. As he approached the closet, he noticed blood on the carpet and rushed over and threw open the doors.
To his surprise, he saw little Susie lying on the ground, covered in blood. He screamed, “SUSIE! SUSIE!” but nothing happened. As he put her down, tears drew from his eyes.
“Boo!” Susie screamed.
Her father jumped up in utter fear. “Susie?” he asked, as Susie was rolling on the ground laughing.
Her mom, who was now at the doorway said, “Gotcha! That’s revenge for all those pranks you pulled on us.”
The Scardey-Cat Goblin
By Linnea Leaver, 8
Ben was a goblin. He liked to play scaredy-ball. He was a regular goblin, except for one thing. He was scared. Scared of rats and spiders. Scared of witches and lightning. He was equally scared on the first day of spook-school. Now it was nearly Oct. 31, and almost time to go spooking!
Ben jumped out of bed, switched off the alarm clock, got dressed and made himself some breakfast. While he chewed his Scary-os, he wondered what he would do today. He took out his schedule. It said:
8:30: Singing spooky songs
9:00: The history of Halloween
10:00: The best hiding places
“Yay!,” thought Ben. He loved the history of Halloween. Then he remembered that yesterday, he had learned about spiders. “Ugh,” he yelled silently.
He put his dishes in the sink and hopped into the car. Ben arrived at school. Mr. Scary brought out instruments. “Yay!”, yelled the class. They all took one and began to play it. In History of Halloween, they learned about witches’ broomsticks. In the best hiding places, they learned about hiding behind pumpkins. That was all for school.
When Ben arrived at home, he said to his parents, “I’m scared to go to Spook Day. Do you have any advice?” His mother said, “Yes. I was scared when it was my first Spook Day. I just remembered that we were making people scared, not the other way around.”
“OK, mom,” said Ben, “and I think it is bedtime now.” He ran off to bed.
Ben’s alarm clock woke him up. It was Spook Day. He got ready for the day and called his friend Arnold to see if he could go spooking with him. Ben said goodbye to his mom and hello to Spook Day.
By Sabina Anne Leaver, 5
The trees rustle and the wind blows. Halloween time is here. Witches are riding their brooms, ghosts are out and children are trick-or-treating, having lots of fun. Happy Halloween, kids – bye-bye!
The Unwelcome Visitor
By Karen Druker
One warm October day I inadvertently left a sliding patio door open after exiting to my Los Altos Hills mailbox. Distracted by a conversation with a neighbor, I reentered my home through the front door , forgetting to close that lower level patio door. The next morning I went to check my e-mail , noticed the left-open door, closed it and locked it.
The first evidence of the unwanted visitor was in the mail cubbies over my kitchen desk, where I observed that letters and bills were chewed around the edges and spotted with drops of red orange . I thought : RAT! I am terrified of everything about rats. I was amazed and a bit frightened that the vandal had managed to climb straight up the wall over the desk to reach the cubbies.
Later that day I discovered orangish spots on my white living room sofa, and upon closer inspection uncovered a hole gnawed in the back of the sofa with bits of sofa stuffing and bits of paper protruding from the hole , making a cozy lair for the one who was now confirmed in my mind as Rattus. In the morning I noticed bites taken from fruit in a bowl on my kitchen table. That night my adult daughter, Ellie, came to visit and spent the night. She slept soundly, knowing that her door was tightly closed. The next morning ,on the way back from the shower, she was shocked to find a large pile of carpet fiber outside her still closed door. Apparently Rattus had made a night visit to her secured room!
For 7 days Rattus made himself at home. Halloween eve I was making a stir fry over rice for dinner, topped with black sesame seeds. It occurred to me that the black sesame seeds looked unappetizingly like the droppings I had spotted all week. I heard my husband drive into the garage. Then I opened the pantry door, looking for the black sesame seeds. From a basket of paper napkins, a tiny triangular face with wide open ,black beady eyes peered back at me. His tiny paws gripped the edge of the basket. I screamed, slammed the door shut, and fired my wooden spoon between the two vertical hardware pulls to make sure Rattus stayed put.
When my husband came up the stairs from the garage, I said to him, " Rattus is locked in the pantry - do we eat first or deal with him first? " Ever practical, my husband said "I'm hungry - let's eat first." While supping, we plotted: We'd close the 2 exit doors to the kitchen, stuff pillows around the armoire and refrigerator so he'd have no place to go except toward the 8 large wooden rat traps we'd place in a line in front of the only exit we'd offer-the doors to the upper deck off the kitchen. Our plan: My husband would remove objects from the pantry, place them on the large black granite island until we found our enemy, and I, armed with a broom and some luck and courage, would sweep Rattus into the line-up of rat traps. The stack on the island got higher and higher until finally, he made a run for it! I deftly drew back my broom, and scored! He was caught by the neck in one of the traps.
However, that's not the end of the story. I swept him and the trap out on the deck, expecting him to die, but by bedtime, he was still noisily jumping around on the deck, dragging the trap with him. I confessed to my husband that there was no way I could sleep until he was dead. My ever resourceful husband got a shovel and a bucket of water, and unceremoniously shoveled rat and trap into the water.
He held the rat under the water for a few minutes and pronounced him dead.
I did not sleep well that night, dreaming of a revengeful rat and his many friends wreaking havoc on us and our home.