It’s a little bit hard not to get down this time of year. There is still a splash of color here and there with a stubborn maple or persistent poplar tree that hasn’t given up its fall plumage, but overall it’s looking a bit dreary. As I write this week’s Unorganized Territory, a light snow is falling and as much as I love winter sports, I’m not happy to see it.
I love the snow that comes right before Christmas—we have to have our holiday greeting card scene for the holiday. And I really enjoy the snow that falls in January through March. That snow stays on the ground and has substance—you can snowshoe on it, snowmobile over it, make snow angels in it. It somehow doesn’t seem as cold when there is a layer of glistening snow over the cold, hard, ground.
But the snow that falls in October is just a temporary winter fix. It is pretty yes, coating the browning grass and crumbling leaves. But I know it’s not going to last. And generally there are a few warm days when the snow melts and makes my yard a muddy mess. Having two dogs and eight feet to wipe off at the door makes me truly detest muddy weather.
There are bright spots in this in-between season however. This coming week brings Halloween and it is always fun to see the funny and entertaining costumes that people come up with for the holiday. It’s fun to do banking business with a witch or visit the school to see Pippi Longstocking or some other character.
And of course for us grandparents, Halloween is an absolute delight. It is a wonderful surprise to see a darling grandchild transformed into a pirate, a princess, a pumpkin or dancing teddy bear. Even spiders and bats are cute when they are actually adorable toddlers.
And Cook County has a new holiday tradition that gives me a warm feeling despite the chilly weather. For the third year now, Jane Ranum of Grand Marais and a group of Halloween-loving friends have constructed a haunted house in (and around) Jane’s garage on Third Street.
It gives me a warm feeling because I am one of those people who screams her head off in a Haunted House, emerging with trembling hands and racing heart. But I’m also laughing at how silly I am to get so excited over make-believe monsters. Jane and her horror-inducing friends do a great job and they promise new frights this year.
What really warms my heart though, is that the Haunted House is done for the best of motives. There is no charge to go through the eerie, dimly lit corridors filled with screams of doom and despair. No, all you need do is bring a non-perishable food item for the Cook County Food Shelf.
Jane Ranum, who I can proudly say has been my friend since kindergarten, sums it up well. “My philosophy is we never know when we may have to turn to the food shelf. I’ve been fortunate to never have needed it, so I would like to give something back,” she says.
In years past, the volunteer phantoms have collected hundreds of pounds of food items for the food shelf. It is wonderful to see community members coming together, doing so much work, for something so important to county residents— and having so much fun doing it.
The Haunted House is a success because of all the hard work by “set designers” and those who donate all sorts of creepy construction materials. But perhaps most important are the ghosts and ghouls who temporarily take up residence in Ranum’s garage.
Last year, when I thought I was safely clear of gruesome scenes and disconcerting sound effects, there was one more surprise, thanks to a local high schooler. As I exited the garage into the twilight, I laughed at myself, relieved that I had survived the Haunted House.
But as I headed toward my car, out of the corner of my eye, standing in the shadow was a sinister figure. The dark-robed character was completely still and I thought it was a statue— until the statue moved! It was the Grim Reaper jumping toward me with a spine-chilling shout. Yipes! I shudder to think of the heart-stopping effect of that final fright.
If you’d like to help out those who may be hungry and be a haunting presence at the Haunted House on Third Street, Jane and crew would be happy to have you. The more banshees in the building the better. Give her a call at (218) 387-1877.
And stop by the Third Annual Food Shelf Haunted House on Third Street between 5 – 8 p.m. on October 29, 30 and 31. Just bring a food item and prepare to be scared!
Hold on, man. We don’t go anywhere with “scary,” “spooky,” “haunted,” or “forbidden” in the title.