Halloween Celebration Spans the Generations


Despite whatever contentious spirits might occasionally lurk about, this weekend once again proves the Vineyard is the kind of place where things that go bump in the night are usually giggling, and children who dart around in the dark and cluster at their neighbors' doors are there to receive smiles and sweets.

Halloween on the Island - where ghosts come with historic lineage, and resident witches conjure good spirits and offer tarot readings. One only has to know where to look in order to find painted ponies, talking rocks, bake sales and a fortune teller named Mezmerelda.

Night spots like Lola's, the Ritz and Atlantic Connection will hold the adult Halloween parties with live entertainment that have become their tradition, and a full gamut of old-fashioned, family-style activities span the Island this weekend.

House by house, neighborhoods are decked with spider webs and strings of lights in the shapes of eyeballs, pumpkins and ghosts. Jack-o-lanterns with lopsided grins shine from porches. Scarecrows with personalities, many a result of the charter school's Scarecrow Celebration last weekend, loiter against railings and front porches.

But nowhere will there be more festive displays than on William street in Vineyard Haven, or on Vineyard avenue in Oak Bluffs, two of the target residential destinations that draw trick-or-treaters by the hundreds from all the towns.

For the residents, it's not simply a please-and-thank-you evening where candy gets plopped into a bag. It is instead an orchestrated event, one requiring decorations, planning and assistance from family and friends. It is in those neighborhoods where Halloween becomes that nostalgic memory of a time when a sense of innocence and wonder predominated.

Viet and John Bacheller, who have lived on William street since 1968, decorate, wear costumes and line their walk with pumpkins. They have become notable for their tradition of handing out fortune cookies.

"John and I just love Halloween. We look forward to it," Mrs. Bacheller said, explaining that she buys the cookies in bulk from Boston's Chinatown. An informal crew of coworkers and friends gather to help make up the almost 350 plastic bags that they tie with orange and black yarn.

"Some kids have been coming since they were carried in their moms' backpacks," Mrs. Bacheller said, laughing. She said children come from Aquinnah and Chilmark, and remembers one child who came from New York and was trick-or-treating with his nanny.

Other enthusiastic William street neighbors, Judy and Victor Pisano, moved to the street in 1986. Mrs. Pisano remembers the first Halloween. Not knowing what to expect, she ran out of candy soon into the evening. In a panic, she put change into little plastic bags and placed them in a basket next to the porch door, with a sign reading, "Please take one." And they did, she recalled.

Karen Coffee, owner of Pyewacket's on Beach Road, who claims to be the only licensed psychic on the Vineyard, lives in a 175-year-old haunted house on Center street with her family. "All old houses have energy fields because people were born there and people died there," she explained. "It's not spooky, it's not evil." Referring to their home as "Halloween Central," she said she dons her witch's hat and stocks up with approximately 30 pounds of candy - "and sometimes 30 pounds is not enough."

Different schools take different approaches to Halloween. Oak Bluffs, Chilmark and the charter school make slight, if any, observances.

Oak Bluffs principal Laury Binney said, "We view the holiday as one that serves as a distraction. We're trying to be careful." The school held a PTO sponsored party, but Mr. Binney explained the need to be sensitive to students' different cultural traditions. Some Brazilian students in particular, he said, are uncomfortable with Halloween celebration.

But on Friday, outside the Oak Bluffs school doors, a happy gorilla (Gerry deBettencourt) and her costumed cohorts, Laura Johnston and Lois deBettencourt from the town clerk's office and Liz Fox from Martha's Vineyard Insurance Co., will be there to greet the children as school is dismissed.

At the Edgartown school Mrs. Jennifer Fournier's and Mrs. Maria MacKenty's kindergarten classes, guided by parent volunteers, have made Halloween houses using graham crackers, orange and dark chocolate frosting, marshmallows and candy.

Delighted with their results, the youngsters look forward to the evening ahead. Robert McLaughlin, 5, will be trick-or-treating with his mom and sisters, Paige and Christina, and looking for "some good house where there are lights and pumpkins."

And if you see Kacey Wallace, 5, making the rounds in her Red Sox baseball costume, know that she prefers gum to candy. "It's just a fun idea," she said about the evening. "I don't believe in witches or ghosts." The others agreed with her: it's not a scary night.

Hosted by Chilmark School fourth and fifth graders, the UNICEF Fair, without costumes, will once again be held at the Chilmark Community Center on Friday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. It features a bake sale and games like pumpkin putt-putt, gravestone bowling and face painting (25-cents a turn). The fair's organizer, Jackie Guzalak makes it a point to incorporate various aspects of UNICEF in her classroom curriculum.

For one of Fred Fisher's hayrides through the old West Tisbury cemetery where goblins lay in wait - West Tisbury parents and children are invited to the annual Parks and Recreation Department Halloween party, Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ag Hall. Everybody's favorite, Mezmeralda the Fortune Teller (Lisa Amols), will be there dazzling the children with what she knows about them. The committee - Peggy Stone, Bruce Keep, Mary Lou Perry, Bob Day, Rick Reinhardsen and Lisa Amols - has perfected the long-established event which seems to grow larger every year.

"It's become a tradition," Ms. Stone said, "an anticipated event. We like to have something for the kids, have the community get in touch with each other, and not go too far from home."

And then there are the ponies. Saturday, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Pond View Farm, it's your chance to see a horse decked out as a zebra, or brightly colored with water-based paints, or wearing a wig. The public is invited to the annual event that began as a fundraiser to pay medical bills for the injured pony, Flash, who will be cavorting around in festive attire. There will be refreshments, games, a haunted house in the hayloft and a costume parade for children and their ponies.

For the first year, Menemsha Inn has initiated what innkeeper Kathy Bega hopes will become an annual Halloween party on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. The inn's eight-person staff, even Ms. Bega's two King Charles spaniels, will be dressed in costume. Complete with a fog machine to set the mood, the health club has been converted to a haunted house and the reception area into the game room. The inn, whose guests include about 20 children, will hold trick-or-treating through the halls and among the cottages.

The Island makes it easy to get in the spirit of the occasion. Shirley's Hardware on State Road, and Rose Bud Balloons on Circuit avenue, for example, offer a full range of wigs, make- up, accessories and masks in addition to hundreds of costumes. (Shirley's sold out of Elvis wigs early.) Superheroes are still the popular choice.

Mary McManama at Shirley's told of the customer who bought a lamp shade and pull chains for earrings in order to costume herself as a table lamp. Another woman came in to buy things that would help her dress as various cliches: wearing her heart on her sleeve, etc. Then there was the boy who bought two plastic, medieval axes so he could dress up as President Bush's axis of evil.

Don't be surprised if, as you walk up to a house, you hear a rock shouting, "Beware," or meet the Treater Greater, a doll-like figure that asks if you like its costume. Rose Buds Balloons owner Susan Phillips explains that both are popular new talking motion sensors, programmed with Halloween greetings.

To insure that the evening's only howls and groans are those sounded in fun, town police departments are making their presence felt. In Oak Bluffs there will be marked cruisers in high volume areas watching that motorists drive carefully, and two officers will be riding their bikes in the Vineyard avenue and School House Village neighborhoods.

The department has also provided the school with candy bags listing safety tips. Parents are reminded that should they set aside any candy that appears in any way suspicious, call the police - they will pick it up - or bring it in to the station. Do not, they implore, discard it.

As extra precaution, Sgt. Timothy Williamson of the Oak Bluffs police department invites residents to pick up glow sticks at the station. Officers will be also be handing them out to insure that youngsters scurrying along the streets are very visible.