Trick and Treat was never a new concept in Scotland, where I grew up, although we knew it by a different word – Guising – and it took a different, less aggressive form. The concept was the same – groups of kids going and knocking on doors while wearing costumes, and still asking Trick or Treat, but the Trick was usually a little act, a dance, or a song – and they would do it regardless, because then most people would give a treat. It may be tinged with the innocence of youth and a bygone time, but it seemed so different then – even with some of the more unusual sights…
Guising always happened in the two or three days before the 31st, and this particular year – well, what started it actually happened the night before I and my friends were going to go out. There were a few groups of friends going round, and when I answered the knock on my front door I recognised Joey, my friend from school. He had four sisters, and as I looked at him in his Dracula outfit I said “nice look, Joey” – and then I saw his sisters.
They ranged in age from thirteen to nine, but they were all alike – long black wigs, flour on their faces to give a pale look, and long white gowns – but it was the fact they all had their arms behind their backs, and there was a length of rope tied round their waists and linking them together that caught my eye.
“What… What are they?”
“My brides,” Joey said with a smile, “and if you want, they will sing for you.”
I looked at them as they smiled and nodded, unaware of the fact my sister Barbara had appeared behind me. “Go on then, sing.”
Why the Brides? Looking back, that was when the BBC showed the Hammer horror films late at night – Joey must have watched Brides of Dracula, which had been on a couple of days before. But to hear his sisters, as the brides, singing Hold Me Close…
When they ended, I heard the clapping behind me, and I turned to see Barbara there. “Very original,” she said as she picked up a bucket of sweets and held it out, Joey filling a bag as the girls blushed before they walked off. Closing the door, I looked at my older sister – she was fourteen, I was twelve – as she said “what?”
“Are you still taking me out tomorrow?”
Barbara rolled her eyes as he said “yeah, I have to – why?”
I just smiled…
“All right kiddo – we need to get going now…”
I looked at Barbara, who was wearing a black bomber jacket over a fawn roll neck sweater, her jeans ticked into her long black boots, and said “what do you think of my outfit?” I had on a black and white striped jumper, dark trousers and shoes, and a black domino mask over my eyes. On my bed was a brown sack with “SWAG” written on it with a black crayon.
“You’re going guising as a burglar?”
“Yeah – but I want to do it a little differently, if you’ll let me big sis.”
“And that is?” She watched as I picked up a length of brown twine, and said “let me tie your wrists behind your back, and then you can be my hostage while I collect the ransom.”
“So I can be your… What on earth gave you this idea?”
I had seen it on a TV program, but I just said “please…” She looked at me, and said “I must be losing my mind,” before she turned round and put her hands behind her back. “Go on – do it…”
“Before I change my mind,” she said as I took the twine and tied her wrists together, using all my Boy Scout lack of training, but making sure I kept it over the cuffs of her jumper to protect her wrists. She looked over her shoulder, and then said “all right – you’ll need to open the doors and do the knocking.”
I agreed, picked up my bag, and we left the house. It was already dark, as we turned the corner and I knocked on the first door…
Now, there were unwritten rules of that time – the doors you never knocked on, the ones you know were generous – and we were not the only ones out, as we passed the usual groups of ghosts, witches and monsters. One or two school friends stopped for a quick comparison of our gains, but I could see Barbara squirm a little as she talked to the other adults. None of them, however, said anything about her having her hands tied together behind her back, much to my surprise – and I think to hers…
After a couple of hours, we returned home, but as we walked in I saw Barbara was thinking about something. I wasn’t sure what, as I put my bag down and said “okay – thanks big sis, I’ll untie your wrists now.”
I turned and looked at Barbara as she wriggled round, before she said “I can’t understand why I am saying this, but – can you tie my ankles together as well? I want to know how that feels.”
“Are you kidding?”
“No – will you do that for me?”
“Where do you want to be?”
“Let’s go to my room – come on,” she said as she started to walk up the stairs. I followed, opening the door to her room before I went to my room and found the ball of twine I had used, as well as a pair of scissors, and went to her room. A place I was never really allowed into, a place of posters of Bowie and other rock stars.
She sat on her bed, looking down to where her jeans were coming from the top of her boots, and said “go on – tie my ankles together.” I knelt down and cut a length of twine from the roll, and very nervously used it to secure her ankles together, side by side.
She tried to move them apart, the scuffed leather squeaking as she did so, and then smiled at me. “I always wondered what it would be like – I guess I know now,” she said with a smile. “Can you do the same to my legs?”
“Above my knees,” she said quietly, and as I did that she also said “I’m going to ask you to do something, and then to leave me alone for half an hour.”
I nodded as she said “look in the top drawer – you’ll find a blue bandana.” Walking over and opening the drawer, I took it out, and looked at Barbara.
“Fold it into a band, and tie it over my mouth, then close the door for half an hour – and make sure Mum and Dad don’t come in, all right?”
I nodded as she turned and I tied the cloth over her mouth, wondering why she wanted me to do this. I then watched as she lay on the bed, and I walked out, closing the door behind me. Mum and Dad had been in the front room the whole time, watching a film on BBC2, so I went to my room, took off my mask, and went into the front room with my bag.
“There you are,” Mum said as I came in, “where’s Barbara?”
“Finishing her homework on her room – look at all the things I got Mum,” I said as I sat next to her, and showed her all the goodies I had got…
I did sneak upstairs half an hour later, using the excuse I had to go to the toilet, and went into Barbara’s room. She looked at me, a damp patch where her lips were under the scarf, as I took some scissors and cut away the twine at her wrists, ankles and legs. Sitting up, she rubbed her wrists and took off her jacket, before she pulled the bandana down and said “thanks kiddo – what did you tell Mum and Dad?”
“You were doing your homework?”
“Okay – scoot, I’ll be down in a minute…”
She never asked me to do that again, but the next year, I was invited round to another friend’s house for a Halloween party. It was a great time – we played a game with treacle scones hanging from the roof, bobbed for apples, all the usual games, but his big brother has also set up a ‘haunted house’ in the back shed which we went to in pairs. I went with Rebecca, a girl I had got to know, me dressed as Spider-Man and her as one of Charlie’s Angels. As we went in, there were all sorts of fake cobwebs, spiders, all the stuff that was meant to scare someone – and there was a mummy in the corner. Rebecca was determined to prove she wasn’t scared, but when the mummy suddenly opened their eyes and groaned as they wriggled in the bandages, she screamed and held me tight!
It was an amazing feeling – but I never told her I had recognized those eyes, and I was glad my helping my sister last year was paying off for me now, as she wriggled in the tight bandages holding her, and covering her mouth…