A Halloween Story

Verum Fabula (A True Story)

Anyone who knows me at all knows that my favorite time of year is Halloween. I loved trick or treating as a kid but by the time I had reached my teens, I had stopped knocking on doors.  Although I love seeing people in their costumes, especially the little ones, I haven’t dressed up or gone to a Halloween party in years. For me, a party on The Night would be a waste of All Hallow’s Eve. I would rather walk the streets searching for trick or treaters and the answers to questions;searching for “thin spaces” or visiting “thin places”.if I ever get lucky enough. Still hoping. My dream for Halloween has always been to spend it in a bona fide haunted house. These days I usually have to settle for reading a scary book or watching a scary movie. I would even love to just sit around over coffee or “a cuppa” and discuss it all with “like souls.” .But alas, I know none..

I have always been fascinated with “things that go bump in the night”. Originally it was just for fun but now, while it’s still fun, it now informs some of my world view or “other-world view”.  I’m a little weird. I know.

When I was a teen-ager I hung out with The Jones Gang or Jones Crowd, a large group of uncommonly nice guys and girls from the Port Richmond section of Philly; There were a lot of sports; and a lot of hormones.

From time to time, some of the gang would refer to me as “The Spook”, which was neither a racial slur nor a reference to my time spent in the CIA. It was, of course, because of my proclivity to tell scary stories.

Anyway, here’s my Halloween story………….It was a dark and stormy night.

Actually, it wasn’t… but it WAS Halloween. At this point in time, many of the Jones Gang had drifted apart; torn apart by life; College, Marriage, Careers etc. I was in my early twenties and I was taking my Halloween walk. My favorite time is around 10 PM when all the revelers are gone or going and the kids are home negotiating with mom and dad for just one more piece of candy before bed. The streets are abandoned and deathly quiet except for that hummm of energy that still hangs around from all that went before. It’s like walking into an empty theatre a half hour after a packed concert. Candy wrappers blow across the pavements along with the occasional mask ungratefully discarded after it’s no longer needed.

But nothing is over. I believe that this time of Halloween night the spaces are the thinnest. The “veil” is down and spirits are among us.

I decided to walk down Tulip Street (An innocuous name for a scary trip. I know) to the Tulip-Lehigh railroad tunnel and walk past St.Anne’s Cemetery on Lehigh Ave. Kids used to swear that there was a tombstone in the cemetery with a crack in it and you could look down and see the coffin. Almost nobody  bought it; not even the most gullible kids in the neighborhood but it was fun to spread the rumor.

At the end of the short tunnel there was a hill that was bordered by a black iron spike-topped fence that led up to the railroad tracks. It was covered by dense, tall, weeds.

FLASHBACK: One summer as a group of us was on a trip back from the cemetery, I decided it was the perfect time for a “visit” from “The Spook”. There were  9 or 10 of us. About 4 girls. I stopped the group. “Wait a minute, guys. Did you hear something?. Look up there” They all gathered ‘round. It went something like this……. “ Imagine that as you’re passing by here, you think you hear a rustling in the bushes. You stop. Then the bushes move. Just a little. Then just a little more. Someone or something’s in there. You freeze. Then you hear a low, rumbling sound. It’s a growl. It must be a dog. Right? The growling gets a little louder and louder and suddenly a man stands up from the bushes. But it’s covered in hair. It lets out a roar. IT’S A WEREWOLF !!!!!!!!! “  Right on cue, one of the girls SCREAMED !!!! It was probably EILEEN. She was more than likely the least spooked of the group but also the one who loved playing along the most. She was the only one I can remember FOR SURE was there. She was a treasure.

EVERYBODY RAN up the street into the tunnel. Yelling. .Screaming.

Now this was a smart group..Every one of them would have “gotten in the running car”. Nobody was REALLY scared, of course, but I know I spooked them a little. And it was fun.

On my way to the cemetery, so many years later, I stopped at that spot and thought about the werewolf. I spooked myself a little. After all it WAS Halloween.

On my way back from the cemetery, I decided to take Aramingo Avenue which is a block away and also runs under the railroad tracks. The only difference is that the Aramingo tunnel is 3 times as long as the Tulip Tunnel. Both sides of the tunnel are lined from beginning to end with  stone pillars and amber lights both set about 6 feet apart stretching the entire  length from the “anxiety” of the entrance to the “safety” of the exit. There is no parking in the tunnel.

As I started down the left side of the tunnel at about 11:30 on Halloween Night, everything was dead quiet. No pedestrians, except for me (or so I thought). No cars. NOT ONE car ever passed through the entire time I was down there.

As I walked, about half-way in,  I heard a tapping sound. “Ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a  , Ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a  , Ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a  , Ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a  ,

I STOPPED.

IT STOPPED

I STARTED.

Ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a ,ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a  , Ticket-a ticket-a ticket-a  ticket-a

I STOPPED

IT STOPPED

I remember thinking that this was ALMOST as funny as it was disquieting because it seemed like a classic, (albeit cliche) scene from a horror movie.

This went on for about another minute until I looked across the street and saw A WOLF standing there staring at me. It was motionless.

OK. It probably WASN’T a wolf. Highly unlikely in Philadelphia. But it was Halloween. I was alone. It sure as hell looked like a wolf to me. Looking back, it could have been a coyote. Also a little unlikely in Port Richmond but coyotes are now in every state of the union except Hawaii. I looked it up.

I walked a little bit and his head followed me but he never moved. As a couple of the pillars passed by I peered around one and he was still watching me. He was frozen in the same position.

Another 20 feet and about 3 more pillars put us about 40 feet farther apart than when we first met. I peeked slowly and carefully around another pillar. HE WAS STARING RIGHT AT ME. I am not sure whether it was creepier this way or if he had continually walked with me out of the tunnel.

I was almost out. He was still watching me but I could barely see him now because of the angle of the pillars. I saw him one last time and then I stepped to the last pillar and I COULDN’T SEE HIM.

I immediately ran across to his side of the street and looked down the pavement. NOTHING.

I ran into the street and looked down the street. NOTHING.

Pavement again. Street again. NOTHING. He was gone.

He was either hiding behind one of those pillars or he vanished. The really creepy part about this whole affair was the fact that HE NEVER MOVED AND NEVER STOPPED STARING AT ME the entire time. It almost seemed as if he was making sure that I was getting out of his terrirory

Maybe this all wouldn’t have seemed so unnerving to me if it hadn’t been Halloween but maybe it  happened BECAUSE it was Halloween.

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