Halloween 2017 #9: Welcome to Halloween Camp!
Length: Super long
TRIGGER WARNING: CHILD ABUSE
Halloween is a big deal in my house.
My parents are super into it. Our house is the Halloween House on the block – you know the one I’m talking about, the one with all the elaborate decorations that take days to put up and take down. My mom used to hand-sew all of our costumes. Whatever we wanted to be, we got. I remember one year she sewed me my own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume – it must have taken her weeks.
“That’s the rule of Halloween,” she’d tell my brother, Sammy, and me. “For just one day, you get to be whoever you want to be. That’s a gift. Make sure you don’t waste it.”
So it’s unthinkable, now, that my parents would let us spend Halloween anywhere away from home. I’m still not really sure what prompted their decision. My parents deny it to this day, but I think they were having some problems in their marriage and they wanted Sammy and I sent away while they talked it out. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.
The point is that, on Friday, October 29th, 1999, my parents packed some duffle bags for my brother and me, complete with our handmade costumes, and sent us off to Halloween Camp.
Yeah, you read that right.
See, when you think of sleepaway camps, you probably think of summer, right? Because what kid in their right mind is going camping at the end of October? Even if you don’t live in a frigidly cold climate, there’s school to think of.
The camp was a new thing that had opened up about three hours away from my hometown. It promised a fun-filled Halloween extravaganza for the kids… and a quiet weekend for the parents. My brother and I were actually really excited to go. I know, I know – even then, we were both a bunch of nerds. But it sounded super cool to the both of us – a whole weekend dedicated to Halloween without being under the watchful eye of our overprotective (though admittedly morbid) parents? Count us both in!
So that Friday, my parents took us out of school early – just before lunch – and we started the long drive to the southern half of the state. Sammy and I chatted excitedly the entire time about our weekend away. Mom and dad got us McDonalds, which they NEVER did. We had a really great time.
Sammy didn’t start getting nervous until mom and dad pulled up to the campsite.
“What if we need to call you for something?” he asked. I could hear the worry in his voice. What he REALLY wanted to ask was what if he wanted to call because he was homesick? Would they come get us if he decided he didn’t want to stay? Sammy was kind of a baby about stuff like that, even though he was already eight years old. He hated staying away from home.
“You’ll be just fine, champ. You two will have a wonderful time and if you need anything, anything at all, your brother Ron will be there to talk you through it,” said my dad. I gave Sammy’s hand a squeeze to reassure him. Not because I’m the kindhearted older brother, mind you, but because I didn’t want him crying and whining and ruining this for me. As soon as we had seen the gates of the camp, my excitement had skyrocketed.
The gate to the camp was made of old wood, now painted black with skeletons tied to it. The sign read “Welcome to Camp Halloween” in red, dripping letters. A few bats and spiders hung from the bottom of the sign and waved in the breeze, as though to welcome us. I smiled at the sight. My brother shivered a little.
My parents unloaded our duffle bags and brought us into the camp. A small table was set up, neatly labeled ‘Registration.’ Sitting there were two camp counselors in black shirts with CAMP HALLOWEEN printed in red on the front pocket.
“Hi there, welcome to Camp Halloween, where the spirit of Halloween is never laid to rest! What name are your kids under?”