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on Mar 29th 2002, 14:14:10, The Phantom of the Opera wrote the following about


The Phantom of the Opera

To begin with, I like Halloween 1. Of all the holidays in the year, it is the one where you can get away with committing acts that would get you arrested on any other day, like jaywalking 2. So it is a holiday that needs to be cherished, and exploited for all it's worth. Because the next day is November 1st, with only 46 3 shopping days until Christmas, and time to get serious.

So a considerate parent starts to plan for this early, say in March. If your kids confuse the Easterbunny with an early sign of Halloween, you're doing it about right.

You quiz your kids on the costume they plan to wear. Typically, you find that your sons intend to be some sort of monster, while your daughters are thinking in terms of gowns and crowns. Fantasy appears to parallel real life in this respect. For most people, this is the extent of it, until about the day before Halloween when they crowd into the local malls, looking for a costume, with the shouts of their children still ringing in their ears, »It must be the White Ranger! Emily is going as the Red Ranger, and I won't be able to go if you get the wrong costume!«

Until that day you probably didn't even know that there was such a thing as a Ranger, not to mention that they came in a selection of four colors. You know better than to ask your kids about the details, remembering from prior years the debacle of the Transformer.

Eventually, kids get too old for the costumes. They never seem to get too old for the candy, and you'll find gangs of teens crowding on your doorstep at 10:30 at night, shouting, »Trick or Treat!«4 You peer out at them, trying to gather your bathrobe so they can't see your jammies with the red teddy bears, and ask what happened to their disguises.

»We're disguised as teenagers!« you're informed. Following which you ask them to kindly wait while you get dressed, and run down to the all-night grocery since you ran out of your fifty pounds of candy at about 9:00.

But of course, all of this casts Halloween as a spectator sport. This was easy enough while my kids were young, and I had to shepherd them from one neighbor's house to the next. This was to keep them5 safe. My teenage kids mostly plan Halloween parties, which tend to involve me only to the extent of buying tons of tooth decay promoting food stuffs, followed by an express request to stay out of sight. What I really wanted was a way to get involved.

We had moved into our present home towards the end of October, so the first year we had confined ourselves to handing out candy. This was modestly entertaining, as I had the opportunity of counting the costumes that appeared on our doorstep. After my fifty pounds of candy had run out, I told my wife that there were seventeen vampires and twenty-one fairy princesses and a very large walking dice living in our neighborhood. But I wanted to do more than hand out candy to pint-sized vampires and fairy princesses, and this has involved me in something of an annual event.

Our home came with a two-car garage6. A quick trip to the local fabric store was all it took to buy about a thousand yards of the sort of fabric you use to cover the walls of a two-car garage (dark-blue cotton-polyester weave), which my wife sewed together on our cursed sewing machine7. With this curtain suspended from the ceiling of our garage, it took only a few more props to create a proper two-car spook alley.

Since then, our stock of props has grown each year. That first time my wife, who was wearing a cute little number with which she was guarding pharao's tomb, discovered that without central heating our garage gets quite cold8. So the next year we bought a display mannikin. This had no hands (complete mannikins were a lot more expensive), but that seemed a small inconvenience. Other props have been added, as well. We build most of them from sheets of insulation styrofoam glued together, carved with a soldering iron, and painted with imaginative mixtures of housepaint.

So visitors to our two-car spook alley have seen Pharaoh's tomb, with Indiana Jones crushed under a huge fallen block of stone; Marie Antoinette standing besides a guillotine, her detached head again perched precariously on her pretty neck; a jungle filled with snakes, spiders, and canniballistic head hunters hiding amongst the vines; and a Japanese princess doing battle with a horrible ogre.

Our latest effort was »The Phantom of the Opera.« For this we built a one-way mirror, and a pipe organ (a local organ repair man, Ron Poll, lent us the keyboards for it). One mannikin did duty as Christine, while the other was wearing the Phantom's masquerade outfit, floating behind a semitransparent mirror. My wife chose another masquerade outfit (which is warmer than a pretty gown), while I donned the mask and cape of the Phantom himself. You may see some pictures of the result, if you like. Sort of a slideshow with commentary. It's short, I promise.

Anyway, we don't know yet what it'll be this year. Plans tend to start out rather grandiose, with my wife considering several gowns to curse on the sewing machine, and me daydreaming of marvellous technological wonders confounding the credulous children. By October we'll no doubt settle on something more reasonable.

This year we're planning on doing @#$%^&*.

Oops. Sorry. But until Halloween, that's a secret!

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