Happy All Hollow’s Eve! It used to be my favorite holiday, but that was before I worked three Halloweens in a Costume shop. Now I hate Halloween. I hate dressing up (as something other than myself – I often look weird, but never intentionally). The sight of grease paint brings back memories of standing at a counter and telling people we were out of cheap fake blood (because they waited ’till 6:30 pm on Halloween to buy it) and explaining I wasn’t trying to rip them off by pointing out the remaining expensive option. If you’ve studied fashion history and you’re anal-retentive about era costumes needing to look right (or anal-retentive in general) never work in a costume shop. Maid Marian would never have worn a 1970’s sack dress (the ones with a high waist line, usually made in shades of brown, trimmed with ribbons, with string lacing up the front and then tying at the back into a bow over a zipper), but try telling that to someone who thinks it makes a great Maid Marion costume.
The worst days were filled with people who didn’t know what they wanted to be for Halloween. After spending twenty or more minutes asking questions and offering a plethora of unique costume experiences (I’m an ideas person. Mention a problem and I’ll give you solutions whether you want them or not). Of course the customer would then decide to go as a native American Indian or a nun (if there were any nun costumes left). If I end up in Hell I’ll doubtless find myself in a vast costume shop where I’m working behind the counter. The ladders to reach the mask displays will be a mile high. I’ll be stuck wearing a badly fitting vomit-pink mini dress and all the male customers will want to try on the masks at the top…one after the other…to the sound of snorting laughter… (I try to be good!)
The picture is me in my favorite costume from my costume shop period. The ‘Waitress from Hell’ was a ghost not a zombie. That’s a pen behind my ear and I chewed bubble gum all day. I loved the dress (made of double knit polyester) so much I bought it and could be seen wearing it (without fake blood) around town. If I still had it (and could still fit into it) I’d still occasionally wear it. My wardrobe hasn’t yet recovered my move to England, but I’m working on that.
I’ve always loved ghost stories, especially real ones that make my hair stand on end. Real ghosts are another story. They’re nice to read about, but not always nice to experience. I’ve never seen a ghost though I know people who have (people who don’t drink, take drugs or have mental problems). I do occasionally experience the weird and unexplainable which I believe are ghosts (I don’t drink or take drugs, but feel to question my mental health). The house we live in sometimes has an occasional unseen visitor. Out of the blue I’ll be enveloped in the smell of cigarette smoke (a brand unlike any I grew up around and I personally have never smoked). It’s sometimes so strong it’s like someone constantly blowing lungfuls of smoke directly into my face. When it first happened I assumed a past smoker had lived in the house and the smell was coming out of the walls until I mentioned it to my husband (who being hard of hearing has an acute sense of smell). He couldn’t smell it! He never has! The cigarette smoke was back a few days ago; I ignored it ’till it left. Apparently it’s not uncommon for ghosts to have a smell. If I’d died while working at the ice cream store would I have stank forever of that sickly sweet smell I acquired after every shift? Ugh!
Not all my strange experiences have been pleasant. In England not far from Swaffam in Norfolk there’s a recreated Celtic village called Cockley Cley Iceni Village (I couldn’t find a website for it, but there are lots of pictures on the web of the place). If you love the weird and bizarre I highly recommend a visit. Part of the “attractions” is a tiny 7th century Anglo Saxon church that survived the centuries in the guise of a humble cottage. It was a warm summer day when we visited. I was in a really good mood and feeling really happy as we stepped inside the church, leaving the door open. After a few steps I froze overwhelmed by the sense of evil…someone evil I couldn’t kick in the groin…very near! Still standing there, a few seconds later my eyes swiveled to the right to see a couple step into the church. As I watched one of them pull the door closed I wanted to scream out, “Noooooo! Don’t shut the doooooor!” I think I actually gasped for air at the sensation of being shut in with whatever was in there. I forced myself to walk over to where my husband was looking at the windows and silently huddled near him until he headed for the door and I followed him out. Once outside in the sunshine I turned to the Goblin and said, “There was something nasty in there!” And he said, “I know.” He’d felt it too. Later I learned a number of my ancestors emigrated from near there to the USA. My family coming from Creepy-ville? Imagine that! If you’re one of my siblings you’ll be nodding you head in understanding. Apparently Pluckley is the most haunted village in England, but I’m not aware of any family connections…yet.
As it’s that time of the year, ghosts have been a topic of interest in newspapers desperate for filler articles. I’ve been reading all of them which is why I noticed the ghost story contest. If you enjoy ghost stories and think you can write one (2000 words or less) you might enjoy having a go. I’ve already started mine. Yes, I know I should be working on my unfinished novels (I have been), but when your inner artist feels an inexplicable urge to write a short ghost story its more profitable to let her write it…she’ll then be more inclined to finish a novel! There’s only a signed book to win, but I’ve never won (or entered) a writing contest. A new experience is nothing to shiver at! The last day of entry is November 20th.