Halloween at Mill Mill
By Bill Shepard
It is that time again. Halloween is here. Plans have already been made as to what to do, where to go and the costume to wear. It is trick or treat time again.
When I was a boy, the words “trick or treat” had not made their way to the village. I knew it was a night to roam the streets and make mischief at houses, but I didn’t know to ask for a treat! I wish I had known.
One of the things the boys liked to do was to build a large campfire in an open field and sit around and tell ghost stories we had heard from our elders. Some of those stories have followed me until this day.
The stories I remember most had for a setting the creek bridge and the old flowing well that once was behind the mill. Even to this day, I would be afraid to pass by those places and at night. It did seem like a lot of things happened at those places that we never had answers for.
Like the time my brother and I were fishing at a spot in the little creek near the bridge and discovered a dead body. It had been there a long time.
Mr. Kistler came and took the body away in a basket. We never heard another thing about it, but some believed the ghost of that person haunted the area and at night could be seen and felt near the bridge.
There were stories of a train wreck near the bridge, when a train rolled from the track and into the little creek. The story I heard was that passengers were killed and their bodies were laid out along the roadside near the creek. One elderly man told me he had passed along the road at night and saw the ghosts of those bodies lying in his way. He would walk around them. Others said they saw ghosts of various forms when passing the old flowing well late at night.
A little store stood near the creek bridge and the jolly little man who owned it was well-known to all the village children. I frequented the store as often as I could get a penny to buy a piece of candy. The little old man would save boxes for me. One day we heard that the man had committed suicide.
The little store was closed forever and in time was gone. But for as long as it stood, folks said that in passing the spot, they would hear the sound of a pistol being fired. For a long time I was afraid for night to catch me on the opposite side of the creek and have to pass over the creek alone.
One story that was told when I was a boy was about a place where folks could go at night and see all kinds of ghostly things. The old man who told that story would declare it to be true. I will not retell the story here and now, but this newspaper printed the story several years ago. One reader wrote to me and asked for the location of this place. I sent the directions but never heard again as to what had happened.
After sitting by the campfire telling stories, we would go on a rampage through the village, knocking on doors and hiding when someone would come to the door. As soon as the door would close, we would knock again, then move to another house. I wish I had known to wait at the door and say “Trick or treat!” I had never heard of those words!
Only a few in the village could afford a radio in those times. It was easy to find the houses where a radio was. A wire was run to a high pole outside and a wire was run to an iron rod driven into the ground. These were necessary to get good reception. One of our tricks was to go to the ground wire and move a piece of metal and move a piece of metal along the radio to cause static. The person inside usually knew what was happening, and would chase the tricksters away.
As soon as he went inside, we would repeat the trick. On one occasion the resident came outside and fired a shotgun overhead. We never bothered that house again!
Another trick that was dangerous was to slip quietly onto the back porch where we knew all the electric boxes were and pull the lever to OFF. The house was plunged into darkness. We could hear the screaming and all the confusion that went on until someone could find their way to the porch and place the switch to ON again.
Now that I am much older and look back at the way I spent celebrating Halloween night, I am quick to agree “Trick or treat” would have been more fun and a lot safer.