In Old Ireland…it all began, a long, long time ago, about a century perhaps. It was almost deserted, the countryside. There was a graveyard very near a small thatched cottage. It was nighttime the end of October, and autumn seemed more like winter. The rain and wind began their song and dance as the pitch black of the night descended. The only light in the surrounding countryside came from the little fire and two candles burning in the tiny cottage.
Father settled in his chair in front of the warm crackling fire, with his corncob pipe. Mother was there too, mending old clothes. The children were playing and whispering together. The six year old boy, had fair hair and deep penetrating blue eyes that never said what was lurking in the mind behind them. He was very intelligent, but didn’t talk much except with his sister. She was five, with brownish hair and dark brown eyes that seemed to look into your very soul. She too was very smart, but more outgoing than her brother was.
Their Father was the keeper of the graveyard, and also the one who dug the graves. The relatives of those buried there lived rather far away and were not able to visit the cemetery very often, or at all. So, it was up to this quiet gentle man to look after the place. The children would go there frequently to play. Sometimes they seemed to be talking to other people, but no one else could be seen. Mother was a quiet, soft-spoken woman. She took care of the family and home. What else was there to do in this lovely, but deserted part of the country.
Just as on other nights, they gathered around the fire after dinner. They would take turns telling stories or just talking about their day. This particular night Father was telling one of his favorite stories…from the old days!
Suddenly, there came a sound, then another, and another. It sounded like voices, but very distant, very hushed…and very, very eerie. They all heard it, but would not let each other know they heard it. Father stopped his storytelling only a moment…almost like a brief pause; until…each time it became a little louder and closer.
They looked at each other, especially mother and father. They began to shiver with the cold increasing beyond normal. With a shrug, Father said “it’s just the rain and wind talking to each other.” But, then it came even closer, louder…more distinct, like voices, talking, then screeching, kind of a crying howling sound. The silence in the little cottage was sudden and tense. The sound, noises, voices…whatever they were, were so frightening and kept getting even louder and closer.
Father thought to himself “maybe I should board up the windows and block the door.” Mother is thinking, “I should blow out the candles and maybe the darkness will make them go away.” Then they heard voices, saying “Don’t lock us out, and blowing out the candles won’t do any good. What about the fire? We could still find you anyway.” They all heard it and began to shake with fear as a knock, and another knock, and another was heard at the front door. They sat there frozen, looking at each other, when a voice said, “please, let us in!” No answer came so the voice said it again “let us in.”
Well, the Father, thinking this whole thing very silly, finally rose slowly and went to the door. From where the mother and children sat in front of the fireplace they could see just what father saw when he slowly and cautiously, opened the door. The visions were that of human shapes, but very very strange and spooky indeed. The visions all spoke very slowly and distant like “give us something to eat.” “Who are you and where do you come from?” asked Father. In unison again, they said, “we have come a long journey, but not far away.” This didn’t seem to make much sense, but everyone was in such shock. Mother asked, “What do you want?”
“We want something to eat. If we don’t get something nice to eat, we will do things you won’t like. If you give us good things to eat, we will go away and not bother you.” Mother decided to put out all the lovely things she spent the day baking and hoped it would satisfy them so they would go away. After what seemed a very long time, but in fact it was only a few minutes, they had finished every last morsel. The strange beings began to leave. But, as they were going out the door they said “That was very nice, so we will be here again same time next year and every year forever after.”
They left so suddenly, and the silence was so deafening it was like they’d never been there. Mother would have thought she’d been dreaming except all the goodies she had baked all day were gone…not a crumb left. Father also thought he imagined it all.
The children however, knew all along what was happening as it had been planned all day. The Visitors were their friends, the ones they talked to in the cemetery. The brother and sister had told their friends of mother baking all the goodies that day, and decided to play a trick on her and Father. That night was October 31, midnight. And, every year after that, they came. Mother and Father never knew the truth…although, I’m sure they do now.
The children had continued the tradition even after Mother and Father died, and taught their children to do the same. Their children passed it on down through the generations. After the first year the Visitors told others and the group of visitors grew each year, so more and more homes were needed to treat them. Now when you hear strange sounds on Halloween night, and you think it’s the usual neighborhood ghosts and goblins, you may be right…so don’t forget those goodies, or else…