Sunday, October 6, 2013

Little Shop of Halloween

Halloween is, to my mind, the holiday that works the strongest nostalgia magic. Christmas has people looking for the newest hot gift. Thanksgiving swirls around the turkey dinner and the mad rush to get home from college or wherever. But Halloween... Halloween seems to always come to us from the past. Even the modern decorations usually have a vintage element to them. What is it about the Halloween experience that makes it so timeless? 

Pictured: every Halloween display since 1958.

When I was a kid, my parents would wait until the first or second week of October and take the whole family to a small gardening shop about 30 minutes away. It was called Ronny's Garden World, and for 11 months out of the year, it was the most ridiculously boring place for a young boy to be. I cared nothing about flowers or gardening. But in October, Ronny's morphed into the coolest freaking haunted house walk-through/Halloween shop I'd ever known. They'd take a month to set it up, and for all 31 days, this simple pot n' plant store would run this haunted house attraction as part of the main shop, with the catch being that you had to walk through it before you could get to the merchandise. And as a seven year-old, I was terrified. There were Draculas and Grim Reapers and I think I saw a severed head. There were sounds of bats and moaning ghosts and sticky blood dripping down the walls. It was disgusting and scary and so awesome.

Thinking hard about it now, the "walls" were really black bed-sheets, the monsters were styrofoam puppets, and the moaning ghosts were part of a hoary old Halloween record from God knows when. But the fun of it, the ingenuity, the imagination and humor, have stuck with me to this day. I loved that little haunted house that took probably about two minutes tops to see. I loved Ronny's for doing it every year, knowing that it disturbed the chirpy old ladies who were their regular customers and just wanted to purchase the miniature pumpkins. And I love my parents, always and forever, for not discouraging my morbid interests. I'll always be a monster kid, and I owe a big part of that to a tiny gardening store in Delaware. I have no clue if they still operate the walk-through, but I sincerely hope so. Thank you Ronny's for all the memories. 

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