Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a child second only to Christmas. Although celebrated in many countries around the world as All Saints Day, Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), or All Hallow’s Eve, the American secular version couldn’t be too much further departed, so to speak, from its more religious or even pagan roots.
From as early as I have memory from my childhood children would dress in costume and canvass the neighborhood for candy on October 31st. I must have entered this world near the time commercial costumes were introduced. With his permission I share the following memory penned by my brother Bob in a Facebook post last Halloween:
A HALLOWEEN MEMORY
I know this happened, exactly what year it was is a little cloudy, but my best guess is 1959 or maybe 1960.That would put me at seven or eight years old. Halloween was a BIG deal, and you looked forward for weeks for the chance to prowl extended parts of your neighborhood that you didn’t frequent, but you knew that the volume of candy and “junk” as my Mom called it could be increased greatly ,with the more stops you made. The Adventures of Superman was a must watch for kids, especially young boys, and my costume choice that year could only be the Man of Steel! The costume which probably cost about 3 bucks back then most likely came from JJ Newberry’s or maybe Rockaway Sales in N.J.
It consisted of a blue one piece jumpsuit with an open back and a string that secured it behind the neck, and it was emblazoned with a red “S” on the front and it came with a separate red cape with another neck string (surprised I didn’t choke somehow) Unfortunately, the cool red boots that Superman wore were not included, so the baggy pant legs probably stopped at the top of some scuffed up Buster Brown shoes.(More on the shoes later) The suit was made of cheap thin synthetic material, so naturally you had to wear clothes under it, thus giving Superman that lumpy wrinkly physique that he was so known for. The icing on the cake was the cheap plastic mask with the elastic string . Not only did you begin to sweat the minute you put it on, but every time you inhaled, you sucked it tighter into your face. From what I recall, it looked nothing like George Reeves, who played Superman, but bore more of a resemblance to the William Shatner mask from the film “HALLOWEEN” (Almost every year one end of the elastic would break so you had to hold the mask in place or try to repair it by re tying the end to a hole that was now more of a 2 inch tear) Nonetheless, I was now ready to hit the bricks with my Halloween sack (One of the handles would always break, so Superman would look more like a bag lady trying to keep all her worldly possessions from spilling to the ground) The weather was usually chilly, and a foreboding sky with some wind would be a welcome addition to the thrill of the night. I waited all day in anticipation for a heaping pile of Milky Ways, Chunky’s, Necco wafers, Hershey bars, Nestle’s Crunch. Bonomo taffy that could weld your top and bottom teeth together the first bite, and even cash! A few people without kids would let you grab a handful of pennies from a bowl in their foyer! Of course there was always the jerk who would fling a half rotten apple in your bag and slam the door before it hit the bottom. When the time came to head out, I was Superman! and I was cool!……until!!!!!!!!….guess what? Rain!!!!! There was no sense fighting it, it was either do what I was told or stay home, so Superman was now wearing “rubbers” over his Buster Browns and they made squeaky sloshy sounds with every step!(Cool huh???) The final insult was being Superman, sloshing through the neighborhood in a once cool costume that was now covered by a glow in the dark yellow Gorton’s fisherman raincoat complete with hat! ‘Look! up in the sky!…it’s a bird!…It’s a plane!!!!…..It’s an IDIOT!!!!! Happy Trick or Treating!!
Upon returning home from a night of scaring up goblins children quickly forgot about their costume, or the effort it took to choose it. The ensuing weeks would be spent working hard to undo whatever dental work you’d had done that year leading up to October. And dental work brings to mind Dracula. I’m sure I was Count Dracula at least one year. As an adult Halloween “provider” I know I’ve had hundreds of Dracula’s visit my home. I’ll get back to him.
Of all the places I’ve ever dreamed of visiting Romania never crossed my mind. Several years ago Mercy and I booked a River Cruise from the Black Sea to Vienna and the point of embarkation was Bucharest, Romania. As a rule when we’re joining up with a guided tour, cruise etc., we like to arrive a couple days early and try to see some of the area attractions and sights. When we arrived in Bucharest we made our way to our city center hotel and arranged an all-day private guided tour to Transylvania. For $300 USD our driver and guide allowed us to completely customize our tour on the spot and off we went. As we left the city and headed north toward the Southern Carpathian Mountains I was struck by the scenery and resemblance to the Sequoia National Forest. Our first stop was Peles Castle in Sinaia. This is a modern castle built between 1873 and 1914 by King Carol I. It looks rather German Alpine if I can make up a type of architecture, but in reality is a blend of Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival. The masonry and woodwork are amazing, but the real show is in the art, armor, weapons collections, and stained glass you’ll find inside. It’s an impressive place that’s definitely worth a visit.
From Peles Castle we made a brief stop and walked around and into the ruins of the 11th Century Rasnov Citadel. The fortress that was used to protect against invading armies sits in partial ruin and has a small feudal art museum. With its beautiful scenic vistas and interesting history it is worth a visit.
When you approach Bran you can see the castle, Dracula’s Castle from a good distance. Aside from the mythical appeal of the legend of Count Dracula, the 13th century medieval castle is considered one of the most beautiful in Romania. It is indeed beautiful and although Bram Stoker wasn’t even aware of this place, I’m not sure I’d sleep here at night. This is a must visit for anyone who loves architecture, history and legend.
I’m happy to report that although the castle in Bran lends itself to the setting where Vlad the Impaler may have spent his Halloween, we suffered no ill effects. Visit the castle’s website at: http://www.bran-castle.com