On a particularly scary Halloween night, I darkened our living room and turned on a radio to prepare to be scared out of my wits. Of course, my two older sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were part of the mix, as was the then-1-year-old, Ben, even if he couldn’t yet follow the plot.
Let me explain:
A Highlands University journalism student, Joseph Von Rodeck, came up with a frightful radio script to a play that I thought would go over quite well with the Las Vegas audience. He invited me to be the narrator and selected other classmates and acquaintances to fill in the various roles.
The original plan was to present the hour-long program live, but some question about logistics at KFUN-KLVF changed that: something about the size of the studio. So we put it on tape.
At the appointed hour, on Halloween night, we tuned in. Now the radio we used was a huge outfit, about the size of a small train or large horse. The remarkable feature was that it had powerful bass speakers which would rival those of some cars we hear downtown.
I’d hoped that would make the floor vibrate to deepen the effect.
The boys knew only that they were supposed to get scared in the dark room; they didn’t know their own dad was the narrator, trying to sound like E.G. Marshall, who narrated a Mystery Theater-type program every week, around that time, the early ‘80s.
Would you believe that as much as people like to get scared, it didn’t work on my sons? “Are we scared yet?” asked my older son, Adam.
Diego, who always liked to play along, kept insisting that he really was scared throughout, but Adam later informed me that his younger sibling was merely trying to humor me. Adam explained that no matter how hard he closed his eyes and shivered, he couldn’t force himself into a fright.
And all this bravado after we’d been careful to produce the scare-arama of the decade. At the studio we had inserted appropriate grunts and groans, screams and shrieks, to no avail.
And why was that? Well, “Dad’s voice just doesn’t sound spooky.” The other rationale was, “If Dad weren’t in the room with us, we’d probably be scareder.”
Does anybody get frightened anymore? And a more relevant question might be, “Why do people enjoy being scared?” As youngsters, when we would go to Halloween movies, we Trujillos came home with enough fright to satisfy our entire neighborhood.
Part of my interest in taking part in Joseph’s radio play came from speeches my late-afternoon class often delivered in late October, Halloween. Remember when there were the requisite kidnappings? “I have it on good authority that tonight three people will be kidnapped: a child, a nun and a priest.”
Beginning any statement with “I have it on good authority” virtually guaranteed a rise in the credibility quotient. Who’s ever going to question that? It’s almost as credible as, “I understand this really happened.” Usually the source for that was a friend of a friend who swore he’d even witnessed the triple kidnappings.
So who can argue with that logic?
Of course, there are other things to scare people. My family used to love it when the trick-or-treat element of Halloween was a standard event. We all looked forward to knocking on the door of a Camp Luna neighbor, Jean Doyle, who must have planned the trick-or-treating months in advance.
She’d adorn her front yard with spooks and goblins, and instead of our scaring Jean with our outlandish costumes (yes, I know, as I’ve heard it many times before: Art doesn’t need a mask to scare people), Jean set out to scare us. A prominent sign on her sidewalk warned us: “Come in or else.”
Through our sons’ growing-up years, trick-or-treating was an event we all looked forward to. In addition to escorting our own kids around the area, we’d buy a large supply of treats, or else make popcorn balls, and we’d supply up to 100 kids.
Once, we stocked up on 50-cent coupons for a fast-food restaurant and became instantly popular, in the years when 50 cents actually bought something. My children loved the yearly activity, but soon they outgrew it. Nowadays, we continue to buy treats for the tricksters, but people don’t seem to come around anymore.
The last kid visitors we had, possibly as long as three years ago, were some we knew well, and whose parents returned the favor for our kids.
The one time my siblings and I went through the ritual, along the mired streets of benighted Railroad Avenue, we scored big. One place, near Immaculate Conception School, featured soft-serve ice cream, which none of us had ever tasted.
So ravenous were a couple of us that we actually switched masks and got served seconds an hour or two after the first visit. We generally stayed on our own turf, going only to houses where we were sure people knew us.
But nowadays, unless I’m w-a-y off base, I suspect there isn’t much of that going on. Not much, unless you happen to live around Legion Drive, Mountain View and Vegas Drive, where straight and well-lighted streets and sidewalks and welcoming residents make it easier for tricksters.
We hear those houses really get the invasions, and whether the visitors are neighborhood kids or those from other areas, we can only speculate.
I wonder if someone ought to organize a nonprofit group to subsidize some of the residents in those areas.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.