By Bob Groeneveld
The locks are back on the vault.
The grey is again black and white.
The souls of the dead are once more out of our reach… and we out of theirs.
Today is All Saints Day. Halloween has come and gone.
Indoor plumbing has undoubtedly caused some consternation for the recently released souls seeking to wreak havoc on the living through the brief grey window that threatens to open for brief time between their world and ours every year at this time.
For some reason, the lost souls who had trouble finding their way to their appointed place in the nether world often took issue with outhouses, in the days when they were a standard convenience.
The community took it in stride. Post-Halloween news in Langley’s community newspapers often included a few reports – often delivered in tones suggesting giggles – of tipped, egged, or unartfully painted outdoor toilets.
Now when those wayward souls take out their frustrations on portable toilets or soap windows or egg homes of teachers “who probably deserved it” it is no longer dismissed as “boys-will-be-boys” behaviour.
Things have gotten out of hand in the past, particularly when Halloween, the weekend, and clear skies with a bright moon coincided for a perfect storm for wayward spirits.
It got so bad in the mid-1950s that the Aldergrove Chamber of Commerce helped to set up vigilante patrols in an attempt to stem the flow of bad spirits through that grey window that threatened to open between All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day.
Apparently, it worked. While the patrols presided over “relatively quiet” Aldergrove streets during Halloween of 1958, nefarious activity bubbled up elsewhere, as some lost souls hurled boulders through the windows of Langley Pentecostal Church. Churches and schools and homes of folks who fell out of favour with the neighbourhood kids have been fire-bombed.
Before Langley City helped get the banned-wagon rolling – as early as 1966 – fireworks were a Halloween scourge, as can be attested by a few adults who finished their pre-ban teen years minus a few fingers or less an eye. The Township followed with a “limiting” bylaw a few years later.
Neither ban has been entirely effective, as evidenced by a young man who blew himself up making a pipe bomb to juice up his Halloween experience.
You can still hear a firecracker’s bang now and then in the days leading up to the souls’ assault, but far fewer lost-pet signs will appear on hydro poles today than used to be.
Of course, lost souls don’t just roam the streets. They’ve been known to attack trick-or-treating kids, like two who were believed poisoned in Langley in 1975… probably part of the reason fewer kids haul bags of candy from door to door these days, their parents opting for supervised parties instead.
Halloween is supposed to be fun, despite its grim origins rooted in grief over dead children.
Here’s hoping that recollections of last night’s celebrations don’t become reminders of how a fun night can go wrong.