And things that go bump in the night


By Hardy Jackson

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!

-Traditional Scottish Prayer

I love Halloween. Loved it since I was a kid.

Those of you who grew up in the small-town South probably had similar experiences. In my village Halloween was given over to the children. The night was ours. We roamed the streets in small bands, moving from house to house in a relentless search for sweet things to eat. After we ransacked the neighborhoods we headed downtown where we took Ivory Soap and marked up the windows of local businesses.

It was good harmless fun.

 Our costumes were homemade. Ghosts (a sheet), tramps (old clothes) and some sort of ghoul (lipstick for blood) were the most popular. The big kids would scare the little kids, the boys would scare the girls (who really weren’t scared at all).

Then the next day storeowners washed their windows – the soap was already there – and everything went back to normal.

But no more.

Adults have taken over Halloween and commercialized it. In August catalogs begin to arrive, loaded with all sorts of costumes, and though many of the outfits are for the kids, adults are the main target.

 It’s not just the way adults have commercialized Halloween that gets to me. Some adults seem bound and determined to take the fun out of what’s left over for the kids.

And what is fun about Halloween?

Getting the bejezus scared out of you.

And by what?

Things that go bump in the night.

Now I do not want to get into an argument over the religious connotations of Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or whatever you want to call it. There are people who, for good and proper reasons, do not want their children dressing up like and pretending to be ghoulies and ghosties. Fine with me. And there are churches that put on “alternative Halloweens” where kids are costumed like characters from the Bible. I am OK with that as well.

But I can’t help remembering how much fun I had dressed as some sort of a demon, surrounded by friends dressed like other sorts of demons. Looking at those friends today, I find no evidence that the experience deranged us any more than we were deranged already.

However, if the Bible character idea catches on, you can bet that adults will take it from the kids. Soon a new catalog will arrive. In it will be a Biblical bonanza of costumes that will appeal to grownups’ natural desire to stay on the right side of the Lord, but also appeal to their equally natural desire to treat Halloween as an opportunity to play out all sort of adult idiosyncrasies incognito.

There would be a David costume, complete with slingshot and a dead Goliath doll to drag around. Or maybe Samson, with the bloody jawbone of an ass. And for the daring, there would be Solome. Imagine. Velcro veils.

So check your mail. Catalog season is here.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at


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