Haunting tales for the Halloween season

Published 8:00 am Saturday, October 22, 2022

By Steve Stricker

Early in my life, exposed to clowns in strange costumes and face paint acting bizarre, scared me, didn’t like them then and don’t like them now!  And it took a massive leap of faith and many TV episodes for me to accept folk in masks – Bat Man and Robin, Cat Woman, Zorro, the Lone Ranger, still don’t like Darth Vader, Superman behind glasses, and why the mystery – couldn’t they just be themselves and stop the bad guys? 

And, even as a devout Catholic, Convent across the street from our home in southern Missouri, I used to think (in those simpler times) that there were three genders – women, men, and nuns…because they were covered head to toe in their habits…forgive me Sister Wilma and Mother Angelica….

Did I ever wear a mask – you mean other than for this crap pandemic?, reluctantly yes, I participated in Halloween trick-r-treat stuff as a youth, wee costume, because my three older sisters and I didn’t get candy at home and worked the system!  And being quite artistic, liked being creative in pumpkin carving…and making a swell pie from scratch with Gert….

Will never forget that moment frozen in time, heading home after trick-r-treating alone, no one around, sack loaded with goodies, block away from our house, pitch-black, guy walking towards me, very suspicious, spooky, as he approached, quickly switched sack from left to right hand just as he reached out to grab it – missed you flamin’ looser – and ran home laughing!!

At Halloween, I go off the grid – all lights, inside and out turned off, pray for rain, because of previously mentioned mask phobia, and as a huge introvert (fellow introverts understand) – ain’t no way I want to see anyone at my door, much less an endless bunch of folk bussed into our subdivision in weird costumes asking for treats! 

Being a strong Catholic, I’ve never been superstitious, as this would be giving power over to something other than our Lord and God.  As such, laughed at a black cat crossing in front of me, highly associated with Halloween, while friends of mine would stop and turn around…and kind of laugh at sport superstations that I almost wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on, especially baseball.

All this was in that cat’s favor as in the spring of 2015, a wee black cat climbed on the screens of my office windows screen doors, begging to be adopted!  No way!  Never had a cat in my life, didn’t want any animal, and scared it off! A year later in May it came back – apparently abandoned by its Ole Miss graduating owner…oh my, couldn’t leave it, and very reluctantly took in, gradually, and to my life-time surprise – has been a Godsend that changed my life!

Not knowing anything about cats, a dog guy, thought it female, taking it to vet for initial evaluation, wow, male – named it Jag, (Jaguar) because he was solid black, he took control and trained me, then and now!  THE most intelligent animal ever to own me – wow!

Although I still don’t do Halloween, I do Jag in that Chaney’s puts out a good deal of Halloween stuff, including black cat things, and I buy candles, etc. and this year a swell black cat throw-me rug that I had to buy, not to put outside, but by inside fireplace, and Jag loved it!!  Placed in front of my fireplace, Jag immediately went to it, gravitates to dark spots as camouflage, now is his go-to nap spot that just warms my wee heart and thrills me!

Legend tells that on the 31st of October, All Hallows Eve, spirits of the dead return to walk the earth one last time.  The first day of November was called All Hallows Day, a time to remember those who died the previous year and would finally find peace.  We Catholics celebrate the day as All Saints Day.  The second day of November, All Soul’s Day, commemorates the faithful departed believed to be in purgatory.

Please tune in to my column next week about a most extortionary evening when on Halloween eve as I worked late alone in the old spooky, creaky Lyceum, ghosts of Union and Confederate officers confronted me – it will scare the pants off you, as it did me!!

Steve is an Oxford resident, worked on Campus, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, is an LPC, NCC, and can be reached at, sstricke@olemiss.edu.