My aunt Carla and uncle John, along with my cousin Adam lived in Anoka for as long as I've been alive. Visits to her house are what truly made me love Anoka. Cori and I grew up in Oak Grove, a town about twenty-five minutes north of Anoka but it felt like another world. We lived on two acres of land on a dirt road. Our neighbors were about a half a mile down the road from our house, school was a long drive in the morning and it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to see people riding their horses on the road or run into a random cow while out four-wheeling (we lived in the country, of course we had four-wheelers!) In contrast, Carla's house was on a smaller plot of land, with a nice backyard and a fence separating her's and her neighbor's yard. Carla's street had sidewalks! Actual sidewalks! I thought that was so cool! Adam had a quick walk to school in the morning throughout his entire elementary and middle school career. And the strangest thing, Adam had friends that lived so close to him they could walk over to his house, and vis-versa. We never had friends in walking distance!
As long as I can remember, Carla claimed her house to be haunted. It was originally built in the 1930's on a area of land that used to all be farm land. The land was sold and split up and it now a nice little neighborhoods. Carla's neighbor's house was being built once upon a time, and a dead child was unearthed. The vault that held the child's remains had to sit out for a few days while it was arranged for the remains to be buried in a cemetery. Carla's house used to be owned by a woman named Alma who died in the house. Apparently she had a heart attack in the bathroom, and now she haunted the house. I believed this story so fastidiously that I would be terrified to spend the night there. My sister Cori stayed there quite a bit, she is three years older than me and her and Adam are only three weeks apart in age, so they were thick as thieves when we were kids, she was much braver than I. Cori did admit to refusing to lay on Carla's couch in the living room that looked down the hallways past the haunted bathroom however. Carla used to have two cats, Cleo and Susie, who were cantankerous creatures that never seemed to like anyone. Cleo, the younger and friendlier of the two cats would occasionally stop in the hallway and look into the bathroom. All her fur would stand up on her back and she would hiss. That was evidence enough for me.
Aside from Carla's haunted house (I loved Carla's house, for the record, it was like a second home for us.) Adam also had a collection of books called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Being the youngest, and trying to keep up with Cori and Adam, I looked at these books right along with them. Here is an example of the illustrations in these books for children:
One of these books also included this lovely gem of a poem that I still recite whenever I do see a hearse go by:
Do you ever think as a hearse goes by,
that you may be the next to die?
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box,
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes,
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You spread it on a slice of bread,
And that's what you eat when you are dead.
These books and these stories scared the hell out of me! Whenever I would go look for a book to read on Adam's bookshelf I would either sometimes choose one of these books to prove to myself I was brave, or avoid looking at them all together and go right for the novelization of Willow, or Bo Knows Bo: The Autobiography of Bo Jackson.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has actually gotten a make-over this year! The illustrations are being replaced by less horrifying images:
In 1991 there was a major blizzard in the state of Minnesota on Halloween. It shut down the state for a few days, and me, Mom and Cori were stranded at Carla's house. We went there after school on Halloween , which landed on Thursday that year, to go trick-or-treating with Adam. I had rocked an amazing witch costume at school that day, complete with green face and pointy hat. Mom swore our whole trip there, since she was driving her skateboard of a car, her two-door black Camaro. We finally arrived, and I was pumped to go trick-or-treating, but my heart began to sink watching Mom and Carla exchange looks of concern about the falling snow. We did end up going out, after I was forced to change into a warmer jester costume of Adam's. I remember not being able to walk up all the way to people's front doors since the snow in their yards was already so tall. We were all soaked by the time we got back to Carla's house. After changing into warm, dry clothes Mom and Carla got us all cozy in front of a movie in the living room and they left to do what all Minnesotans do best during a snowstorm, head to the bar. They went to the American Legion in Anoka to meet up with my Mom's co-workers. Carla came home after an hour or two and put us to bed. The next morning I heard that my Mom came home after being dropped off by a co-worker and promptly fell on her ass in the driveway as her co-worker drove away, never looking back. She was fine, btw.
We were stuck at Carla's house until the afternoon of November 2nd, with nothing but Hamburger Helper to eat since Carla was planning on going to the grocery store after Halloween was over. Us kids had a blast together, but Carla couldn't have been happier to be rid of us, and my Dad had a nice two-day staycation with the dogs at our house.
The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 is one of those events that everyone remembers what they were doing that night, and the days following, since you weren't going ANYWHERE for quite a while.
Wow. Check out this relic of a photo from the snowstorm:
I have so many wonderful memories from Carla's house, spooky and otherwise, and the time I spent at her house really shaped my childhood in the most positive way possible.
Maybe it was the creepy books on Adam's bookshelf, or the resident ghost at Carla's house, or maybe it was the fact that Mom let us watch Silence of the Lambs when I was like, 9 years old. There are so many factors that contribute to my scaredy-cat-nes (Katniss!) But I know those Halloweens we spent in Anoka participating and celebrating Halloween helped shape my love for the holiday without a doubt.