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Halloween in Ketchikan... Now that's scary!
By Dave Kiffer


October 30, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - Halloween has always been somewhat of a dicey proposition for Ketchikan.

After all, you can spend hours coming up with the perfect costume (Goretex Fairy Princess or Helly Hansen Superhero) and the weather (October is the cruelest month in these parts) will force you to cover it up. Things have gotten a little better in recent years with the city-wide indoor Halloween party at the mall every year but in the old days (or "back in the day" as the new cliche would have it) it was a matter of bundling up and trudging up and down the local streets to gather enough candy to get good and sick on later ( I know what of I speak on that one!). Today, some neighborhoods still carry on that tradition, Jackson Street most notably.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Even when it was not rainy it was always pretty danged cold. I've seen children trick or treating on the streets of California in October in outfits that would make lingerie models blush. But that doesn't happen here unless your idea of scary is goose bumps the size of Cleveland.

Luckily, with the inside party, folks are free to let their creative imaginations run wild. Which is why you usually see a bunch of teenage girls at the mall party dressed like hook... uh, Brittany Spears every year. At the same time, you see a lot of teenaged boys dressed like....well, like roadkill or perhaps Freddie Kreuger starring in "Roadkill.". Back in the day (see above), older teenagers didn't make such a big thing out of Halloween, but then again dressing like Brittany Spears doesn't have the desired effect when your pierced belly button is under six layers of clothing. As for the roadkill "fans," well, wearing dark clothes and dashing back and forth across dark, rainslicked streets can lead to the real thing.

This year - judging from the interests of my soon to be 4-year-old son - Spiderman costumes will be popular or Shrek or Power Rangers. In Liam's defense, even though I detest the fact that each Power Rangers is just one long fight scene (a Bruce Lee movie without the funny bits), I have to note that we all have our blind spots. I was thumbing through one of my motorcycle magazines the other day (mid life crisis coming up 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds!). I noticed Liam looking over my shoulder. He pointed at a photograph of a man wearing a helmet and some "way cool" red and white "leathers." "Power Ranger ride Daddy's motorcycle," he said. I had to plead guilty.

In chatting with the little girls in Liam's pre-school, it sounds like generic Princesses or even Ariel from The Little Mermaid Part 6 or Jasmine (watch that bare belly button, brrrrrrrrrrr) from Aladdin Part 7 are the popular choices this year.

Here is the point I would naturally decry the fact that modern popular culture has taken away the creativity our children by mass marketing certain images and cartoon characters. Then again, one year I went trick or treating as Batman (Adam West, not Michael Keaton). Some things never change.

Which isn't to say that there weren't some creative costumes. One year it was a howling Halloween (storm wise) and I arrived to see a friend at a church party looking like something even the cat wouldn't drag in. He was wrapped in muddy streamers and bits of broken wood. I asked him what he "was." "Well, I was going to be a sea monster," he said. "The wooden sticks were to swing the arms around. Now, I'm just a really scary root wad."

His dad was a logger, it made sense.

One year, I went to a church party as Groucho Marx. I already had the nose for it and my sister in law supplied some dark glasses and a lot of dark make up for eyebrows and such. No one recognized me. Even after I took off the glasses and the hat. I'm sure that early brush with the joys of makeup led to may later career as a thespian, but it doesn't quite account for the nylons I wore in several Fish Pirates Daughter "Gender-Benders," does it? Must have been those Joe Namath ads on TV.

But overall, despite the weather, Ketchikan kids don't have it that bad on Halloween.

A while back, I read a story about the kids in Churchill, Manitoba - a town on the edge of Hudson's Bay that has just about the largest concentration of polar bears anywhere. In the story, the local authorities were - as usual - cautioning residents to be careful on Halloween because the holiday coincides with the time that the bears are migrating through the community as winter approaches and the bay freezes over.

A local Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable was quoted as reminding children not to dress as either seals or polar bears for Halloween. The seals of course are a prime polar bear snack and although it is unlikely that a bear has ever seen a two legged seal before no one really wants to take that chance.

The children were also warned not to dress as polar bears. It seems that every Halloween, the RCMP has a helicopter patrolling over the streets of Churchill on the lookout for polar bears with orders to shoot any that may be near groups of trick or treating children. Now that's scary.

Dave Kiffer ©2004


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