The Cry of the Vixen Fox and a Homemade Halloween

Last week, Hubby and I took Aspie daughter to the local joke shop to visit the Halloween display there.  It is gruesome, bloody and foul and my daughter loves it.  She bought a few wonderful items such as a skeletal, headless creature to hang from her ceiling and some kind of mist-making equipment.

Don’t ask…

She loves Halloween and really misses being in America at this time of year.  Growing up there she, like her brothers, had a very different Halloween experience compared to mine.

We just didn’t ‘do’ Halloween.  Did anybody then, back in Britain’s 60s and 70s?  I don’t believe so. Our house in Suffolk was in the middle of nowhere and it was spooky enough at the best of times.  I can remember lying in bed at night, alone in my huge room with the moon beaming its ghostly light through the leaded light windows and being terrified of a hellish wailing echoing out from the surrounding woodland.  In my childish imaginings I became convinced that it was a ghost calling out from the wilds of the dark woods in the dead of night and I was petrified.

I later learned that it was the call of a vixen fox (and I love red foxes) but that’s not the point.  Listen here and you will feel my pain:

There are only three things that I remember which were remotely ‘Halloweenish’ from my younger days:

  1. One Halloween night, we carved out swedes, put tealights in them and dared ourselves to walk around our old farmhouse, surrounded as it was by nothing but open fields and a dark wood beyond; one scream of that ghost fox and I was back inside quicker than you could say ‘pumpkin’;
  2. As a Girl Guide (believe it or not but not for long) we once did apple bobbing. Our Brown Owl dressed up as a witch, which I thought at the time was strange as I did have my suspicions about her even before that. (I left Girl Guides shortly afterwards); and
  3. I was obsessed with an audio (cassette tape) book I owned called ‘Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat’ which told the story put to music. I used to recite it word perfectly and dance around to it for hours.  I know, I was a very strange child…
Gobbolino The Witch's Cat with Audio

Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat with Audio

My first real experience of Halloween was as a 19-year-old when I first visited Los Angeles in 1979 and watched the classic Michael Myers ‘Halloween’ film for the first time.   Now I loved all the Hammer House of Horror films with Vincent Price, having grown up with these classics but I had never seen anything like this, although never mind the slasher bits.

Halloween

Halloween

What really  fascinated me was watching Jamie Lee Curtis carving the pumpkin with the young children she was babysitting and then, as the night drew in, watching all the kids coming of their homes, dressed up in their Halloween costumes and running from door to door ‘Trick or Treating‘.  My American friends just couldn’t get over the fact that I had never heard of ‘Trick or Treating’ and that I had no idea what it was.

“What, you’ve never heard of Trick or Treating?  Don’t they do it in England?”

“Er, no, why else would I be asking?”

When my little boy was just four years old, he experienced his first Halloween, American style.  Waiting in line to pay for our groceries, the kindly checkout lady looked down at my son standing next to me and asked the dreaded question:

“And what are you going to be for Halloween?”

We hadn’t long been in America and I thought my son too young to even give it a thought.  However, he must have had other ideas because, without missing a beat he replied,

“An imp!  I am going to be an imp!”

To this day I have no idea where that came from, neither does my son!  The checkout girl didn’t understand him either, and kept asking ‘what exactly was an imp?’  So I ended up trying to explain that it was like a goblin, but smaller, and very mischievous. I think.  He must have got the idea from a story I had read to him. (I was reminded never to get that book from the library again).

Thankfully he forgot about the imp idea.

That Halloween we stayed in, locked the door, turned off the outside light and hunkered down against the cold, dark night.  It was just the two of us, his father worked the graveyard shift (pardon the pun) and I didn’t fancy opening the door to complete strangers in a strange land where we had lived for only three months.  I had heard rumours of the ‘trick’ part of ‘trick or treating’ and I hoped we wouldn’t wake up to an egg-pelted house.

Nothing happened as it turned out but things changed after that first Halloween.

You know the old saying, if you can’t beat them, join them?  Well, that would be us.  By the following year my son had started Kindergarten and soon enough, Halloween rolled around once again.  One afternoon my son came running to me excitedly after school with a letter from the teacher announcing an upcoming parade around the school in their Halloween costumes.

It soon became clear to me that Halloween was the one time of year that American children got to dress up (‘fancy dress’ as we Brits call it) and it didn’t have to be scary things like witches and vampires.

My son already knew who he wanted to be.  He wanted to be Batman. Except that ready-made costumes, from what I could tell, were very expensive and out of our league at the time.

So I did the next best thing and made him a Batman costume.  Out of felt.  It took me hours, but he loved it.

My son in his Batman  - notice the hat, belt and gloves all made out of felt!  The cape is polyester and his prized Batman tshirt courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa and his own blue sweatpants completed his get-up! (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

My son in his Batman costume, 1988 – notice the mask, belt , gloves and ‘boots’ are all made out of felt! The cape is polyester and his prized Batman t-shirt, courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa, together with his blue sweatpants completed his get-up!
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Close up of the mask - note my son's expression! This was a serious business, after all!! (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Close up of the mask – note my son’s expression! This was a serious business, after all!!
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

That was all it took.  After that, it was the same thing every Halloween.  ‘What can we make with what we already have?’  It always seemed to be last-minute, but this, to me, was all part of the fun.

A couple of years later, my son entered a Halloween costume competition at his school wearing a shredded pair of old black sweatpants and an old white shirt of mine which we had fun slashing with a pair of scissors and donning with fake blood here and there. All I bought was a plastic cutlass sword from our local J J Newbury‘s for 99 cents and dotted a fake beard on his chin with a black eyeliner pencil.  Several ‘ooh arrr me hearties’ later and he was a pirate!  We had great fun doing it and never expected that he would win the competition, which he did!

Mummy & Terminator 1992 (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Mummy & Terminator 1992
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Another year, I made a mummy outfit for my eldest son (thanks to an old sheet) and his then four-year old brother wanted to be the Terminator (his hero).

His older brother’s denim jacket, a pair of sunglasses and a water pistol later, he made an excellent job of running all over the place, aiming his water pistol at us and shouting repeatedly, ‘Hasta La Vista Baby’!

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t my best idea and I probably left things just a little too close to the wire, but hey, it worked and the boys were happy!

As for my daughter, I thought she would just love to be a princess or a fairy or an angel and while she did humour me when she had no choice was little, she soon put her foot down.

Three kids together Halloween 1994 - An Alien, G I Joe and a Sweet Little Pink Fairy!!  All I had to buy were the fairy wing, a plastic wand and face make-up! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Three kids together Halloween 1994 – An Alien, G I Joe and a Sweet Little Pink Fairy!! All I had to buy were the fairy wings and tiara, a plastic wand and face make-up! The rest we already had, strangely…
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Not one for dresses after the age of eight, and being a tomboy at that (this also happens to be a common trait of Aspie females but of course we didn’t know it then, and anyway, I was a tomboy and what’s not to love about being one?) she decided she wanted to be a character from a ‘Zelda’ video game called ‘Link’.  Her brother’s old school t-shirt turned inside out, worn over thick tights with a hat and sword previously brought over from one of our visits to an English Heritage castle and she was sorted. The only problem was most people thought she was Robin Hood which made her a bit cross!

Daughter as Link, not Robin Hood! 1998 (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Daughter as Link, not Robin Hood! 1998
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

I adopted Halloween as an American tradition to pass on to my children and we have so many wonderful, happy memories of our times together and with friends trick or treating and handing out candy.  Of jumping out of our skins when walking up somebody’s path only to hear groaning from a moving gravestone, or the sounds of that classic song, ‘Monster Mash’ belting out from the house down the road.

Nothing like it for good, scary, family fun, and I will treasure these memories for ever…

Yet, I still get a shiver down my spine when I remember those nights long ago of being huddled in my bed, tormented by those ghostly shrieks carried along by the cold wind past my window, deep into the black, October night…

About Sherri

Sherri began chasing her writing dream in 2011 after losing her job due to office closure while caring for her daughter with Asperger's Syndrome. Having at last discovered her true calling, she is writing her first book (a memoir) while publishing 'slice-of-life' stories, articles, poetry, and flash fiction on her blog, as well as freelancing as a guest author for a variety of websites. She has published work in national UK magazines and a poetry anthology. By sharing her journey through her writing and photography on her blog, Sherri hopes to inspire others that even when life has other plans, it's never too late to change your life for the better and find reason to smile once again.
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46 Responses to The Cry of the Vixen Fox and a Homemade Halloween

  1. Great post – makes me want to watch Nosferatu again!!

  2. xbox2121 says:

    Great story Sherri a nice history of your families involvement in Halloween over the years

  3. Batman costume alone was worth the price of admission. Fantastic.

  4. Wonderful post, Sherri! I love all of the photos of the kids in their costumes. The mummy is too cute! Oh, I remember my sister and I watching the old Vincent Price movies when we were young…so scary!

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, those Vincent Price movies were the best!! So atmospheric! Thanks Jill, glad you enjoyed reading it and also that you liked the photos, they certainly do bring back many happy memories of when my kids were young! Now I get to hand out the candy here. We are the only ones who put a lighted Jack O Lantern in our window and all the local kids love it :-)

  5. Heyjude says:

    Oh my, those fox calls are chilling – I’m not surprised you were scared as a child! The screams are almost human! And to be controversial here, I loathe Halloween and how Americanised it has become over here too. As you say, we never had anything like it in the 60s and 70s. We have our own Guy Fawkes night to celebrate, why do we need to copy the Americans? (Sorry….! )
    Jude xx

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, that is just the sound I would hear from my bedroom window and my imagination went wild with fear!!! I just couldn’t believe that it came from foxes!

      Jude, I know that Halloween isn’t to everyone’s taste. Even in America I knew quite a few families who pulled their kids out of school when Halloween parties were taking place for religious reasons. Since I didn’t grow up with it I had to ‘catch’ the bug and I did, through my own children as you read here. I see that British children now ‘trick or treat’ so yes, it is definitely an American tradition that has crossed the Atlantic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it though, I fully respect your views :-)

      The one tradition I couldn’t share with my children was Guy Fawkes night and I mssed that so much as that did play a very big part in my childhood, as in yours! In fact, I already have a post planned for that! :-)

      • Heyjude says:

        It was the same for me living in South Africa when my older children were young, not being able to share Bonfire Night! I did take them to a couple of communal ones on our return to the UK but they never had the fun that I had, chumping for wood, making a Guy, eating parkin and toffee apples and jacket potatoes that had been baked in the embers! Wonderful memories :)

      • Sherri says:

        Wonderful memories indeed and I know just what you mean :-)

  6. thirdhandart says:

    The Vixen’s Scream sounds eerie… certainly wouldn’t want to hear it on one of our hikes in the woods.
    Very creative costumes… love the Terminator, Batman and Pink Fairy. This Halloween, my grandson is going to dress up as Batman. And, my granddaughter is going to dress up as a ladybug (ladybird).
    Have a very ‘Happy Halloween’ Sherri!

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Theresa, glad you liked the photos, and yes, you can just imagine how scared I used to be hearing that spooky wailing eminating from the woods around our house in the middle of nowhere!

      Ahh, how cute for your grandchildren! Hopefully you won’t be having to make the Batman outfit out of felt!!! My daughter always loved ladybirds (ladybugs!!) and although she never went as one for Halloween, I did make her a ladybug cake once!

      You and your lovely grandchildren have a very happy Halloween too :-)

      • thirdhandart says:

        The Batman outfit that you made looks awesome. Because my seamstress abilities are somewhat limited, we purchased a ready-made Batman outfit. Now, if we can just get my grandson to wear it… My grandson, Peanut, has tried the costume on twice and both times he immediately wanted out of it. Maybe when Peanut sees other little kids in costumes at our front door saying, “Trick-or-Treat”, he’ll stay in his Batman costume for more than a few minutes. Wish us luck! :-)

      • Sherri says:

        How cute!! I hope that Peanut enjoyed his trick-or-treating experience and enjoyed his Batman outfit in the end, even if just for little while :-)

  7. That was, as we Americans say, “Awesome!!” So enjoyed and I keep finding out more and more about your time here in the States. The costumes were amazing my gifted friend. I agree with Navigator1965. Shhhh…don’t tell your daughter but I did think she was Robin Hood. And as for the Vixen cry I would have never slept a wink. In fact it would terrify me even now at my advanced age! Look forward to your next blog! Happy Halloween my friend!

    • Sherri says:

      Ha Ha! Thanks Diane :-) Those Batman photos were taken at a certain school where you and I visited just this April…shadows, Diane…

      Yes, everyone thought she was Robin Hood…the character ‘Link’ isnt exactly well known, unless you happen to be a gamer and obsessed with the game ‘Zelda’ and I think she expected everyone to know all about it just like she did!!

      I know, can you imagine hearing that Vixen cry at night, alone in your room, with nothing but fields and woods surrounding your house? Very spooky indeed…

      Will do another short Halloween post tomorrow…and a very Happy Halloween to you too my friend :-)

  8. Steven says:

    Awesome, this post made me wish I’d cared more about Halloween when I wurra nipper. I guess it’s because like you I was never really introduced to it. As such it kind of just passes me by now and my kids aren’t that fazed by it. I look forward to Bonfire Night though :)

    Awesome costumes Batman outfit! I used to LOVE Batman and always secretly wanted a costume. I must admit I thought your daughter was Robin Hood too…

    We don’t seem to get trick or treaters round here anymore. The past 2 or 3 years we haven’t had a single one! I can remember stumbling home from college back in the day and kids would already be scuttling around everywhere, before 5pm. I guess parents don’t let their kids out so much now.

    • Sherri says:

      You know Steven, it would have passed me by too if it weren’t for the fact that we moved to America in 1986. It was such a fun thing when my children were young and I grew to love the excitement of it all. I did miss not being able to have Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night as I shared with Jude above, and I do plan a post on that!

      Ha ha! Yes, again, as I shared above with Diane, everyone thought my daugther was Robin Hood and I can’t blame them for that ;-) Glad you like the Batman outfit, thanks for that!

      I wonder when trick or treating started over here? In the 90s I suppose…I always tell everyone don’t tell me anything about the 90s in Britain, I was lost to it! We get quite a few here and they all love to see our Jack O Lantern lit up in the window…nothing like getting into the ‘spirit’ of things…sorry, just had to say that :-)

      • Steven says:

        Awesome (I’m overusing that lately; it must be all this talk of trick or treating turning me American!). I can’t wait for the fireworks! “Oooooh…. ahhhhh….” obligatory soundtrack for any firework display ;)

        I think it was around the 80′s trick or treat really kicked in, I can remember being fairly young and my parents making us close all the curtains and not sit in the front room so nobody knew we were home. So we mainly sat playing Scrabble or reading a ghost story while hopeful children hammered desperately on the door until they took the hint!

        Haha! The 90′s are a bit of a blur for me too, in places, but probably for a different reason :P

      • Sherri says:

        Ha Ha! Steven, I think you and your lovely family are awesome and here’s to a fantastic Bonfire Night :-)

      • Steven says:

        Aw thanks Sherri and likewise of course! :)

  9. jennypellett says:

    Very interested to hear your take on Halloween – I have my own version coming up at the end of the week!
    Lovely pictures of your brood :)

  10. Halloween was so different here in the Philippines before. I’ve never had costumes and I’ve never heard of trick or treat in my childhood days. Halloween here is Nov. 1 and 2 which are All Souls Day and All Saints Day respectively, National holiday and supposed to be solemn to remember our family and relatives who already passed away. Hours of praying in church and cemetery. It’s only lately that our country has caught up with the American Halloween and I have to be honest, I’ve had fun taking my child to activities and making costumes. We still don’t decorate the house though :)

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Jhanis for sharing your Halloween experience, I read this with great interest as I always love to know how ‘holidays’ are celebrated in other countries.

      As I shared above with Jude, in America not everyone was into Halloween, some families choosing not to participate for religious reasons. I struggled with it at first as you read here but I did really love the fun part of it with my children and dressing up and tried to keep too much of the ‘spooky’ stuff out of it. I didn’t give Halloween any ‘power’ if you know what I mean, instead focusing on the fun part.

      Of course, being a Brit, for us the big day was/is Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night which is on November 5th so the focus was more on that when I was growing up but I couldn’t share this with my children in America :-( Can now though :-)

      I hope you and your family have fun whatever it is you do this year :-)

  11. You are such a talented Mom. Love the costumes. That’s what’s missing today. Everybody want to buy. It’s more fun turning out with make-do. Nice to hear other’s stories. Wonderful post.

    We were in Canada eight months when my father was on graveyard shift and Halloween appeared at our door. My mom had no clue, nothing, nada, no how. She slammed the door so hard and pushed a dresser in front of it, you’d think she’d seen a ghost. Actually, it was a Mr. Bones. :-)

    • Sherri says:

      Ha Ha! Love this Tess, thanks for sharing your delightful family story! Your poor Mom, I can just imagine! She must have left Mr Bones shaking!!!

      I’m not so sure about being talented, but thanks for the lovely compliment and glad you enjoyed reading! I just didn’t want to spend so much money on something for one day’s use and we had much more fun looking for things we already had around the house which could be used for costumes. We may not have looked the most sophisticated but at least we had a blast doing it :-)

  12. Pat says:

    Love this post, Sherri, and can see where experiencing Halloween for the first time can be a bit startling. I grew up with the tradition and same with our children and grandchildren here in the US. I love the fun and festivities.

    You did a great job on the costumes and, like you, I used to make them too. One year, when my daughter was a baby, I made her a kitten just by drawing whiskers on her cheeks and coloring the tip of her nose. That’s all she went as, dressed in her snow suit, as we walked around collecting candy with our older daughter in her Halloween costume.

    It’s interesting it wasn’t celebrated in the UK, when you were little. I’m not sure where it originated but I would have thought the UK would have been a top choice with the history of guillotines and knights or maybe Ireland with it’s faeries and leprechauns.

    I recognize the sounds of the fox. It does sound eerie. Living in the mountains, we hear them a lot mostly the alarm barking. I’ve not heard the fighting or playful sounds, though, or the howling.

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Pat, so glad you enjoyed reading this :-) How cute with the whiskers for your baby daughter! I actually did the same with my daughter when she was little too, got a photo somewhere!

      I’m sure that Ireland is where so much of the Halloween legend began with all its traditions…wearing costumes to keep away evil, lighting the Jack O Lanterns, etc. …but it just wasn’t adopted here in the UK. However, British children do now trick or treat and we will be handing out candy to quite a few tonight! Also, we will have our Jack O Lantern proudly lit up in our window, the kids love it as nobody else in our street does this! We have a very American Halloween in our house!

      Yes, I can well imagine that you hear plenty of those fox cries where you live. Coyotes too I’m sure? I thought this particular clip was interesting with all the different sounds. It is that vixen scream though that gets me everytime!

      Happy Halloween Pat :-)

      • Pat says:

        You’re welcome, Sherri, and hope you have a Happy Halloween tonight too! :-)

        Actually, with regard to the origin of Halloween, I caught a little bit of a show last night that went into the history of Halloween. It said it’s origins are Celtic and pumpkins, “trick-or-treats”, spooky costumes evolved over time through Christianity and the Catholic church adopting holidays to offset pagan beliefs, i.e., “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day”.

      • Sherri says:

        Yes, that is very interesting Pat. All Saints Day and All Souls Day are celebrated here in the Church of England. Certainly more was heard about this when I was growing up than about Halloween, back in the day!

  13. I love that you used to recite and dance for hours. I think all children are delightfully strange; the very essence of themselves. We adults would do well to behave more like ourselves.

    • Sherri says:

      Yes Tracy, I think you are so right, what a lovely way of putting it, ‘the very essence of themselves’. It was in my ‘strange’ moments like this, dancing, walking alone in the woods, playing my flute for hours alone in my bedroom, ‘composing’ songs, ha!, that I felt the most free and could escape into my own, free world. I wonder how many young people get to do this now with so many distractions bombarding them…

      • I don’t think very many children have the freedom we had to just be children. I sometimes wonder whether that isn’t why they seem to take longer and longer to grow up.

  14. Everything about this post is so “normal Halloween” (by our standards), yet your voice shines through uniquely and delightfully. The pictures are great, especially the Batman costume. And I love the things your daughter chose at the shop.
    Tomorrow night our dog Maggie will sit in front of the storm door, staring through the glass and wagging her tail as trick’or treaters approach. She especially likes the little ones, all dressed up and giggly, glad to see her.

    • Sherri says:

      Ha ha! Thank you Marylin! Yes, it is all a very ‘normal Halloween’ for you and all my lovely American friends and I’m glad that I was able to share my own unique perspective of it! One thing I didn’t mention is how fascinated I was to see pumpkins growing in fields, how very ‘Americana’ and I absolutely loved it!

      Ahh, so cute about your dog Maggie! Sounds like she really gets into the ‘spirit’ of things – pardon the pun! Have a Happy Halloween!

  15. Rachel says:

    Sherri those costumes are amazing! You should go into business making and selling costumes. They look so professional. I especially love the batman suit! I should have asked for your advice for my son’s recent need for a costume at school.

    The fox noises do sound very eerie especially the Vixen’s scream. Terrifying if you don’t know what it is.

    • Sherri says:

      Well thank you Rachel, that is very kind of you to say, but I’m not so sure about going into business! Although, funny you should say that because when my daughter was younger she was really into Japanese Anime Manga and there is a huge demand for character costumes so that fans can go to cos-plays held in London (like ‘Trekkie’ conventions!!). She has been saying to me for years about going into business and making them but I have never followed through. I just wonder how I would go about it…I used to do a lot of sewing when the children were younger, I made most of my daughter’s dresses (while she still wore them!) and I loved it. I do still sew from time to time. It is time constraints that is against me now.

      As for the vixen fox cry, yes, you can imagine why I was so petrified!!

  16. Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat! My favourite childhood book, I still have a copy! I grew up in the 70s and 80s and we would make lanterns out of turnips (much harder to carve than pumpkins!) – not sure when it started but I know we did it when I was a child. We also bobbed for apples at Brownies. The children used to go around asking for ‘a penny for Halloween’ before trick or treating started to become popular – we had around 10 trick or treaters this year, mostly quite young with their parents and very cute. In relation to bonfire night, there used to be a huge bonfire on a big field on the coast – properly organised with fireworks too – I think it’s a shame this doesn’t seem to happen anymore – health and safety…..

    • Sherri says:

      Ha Ha, thanks Andrea, I think you are the only other person that knows about this book! I have no idea where I got it but sadly I don’t think I have it anymore. Great that you still have yours though :-) I loved it!

      Great to read your memories of Halloween and also Bonfire Night. Things certainly have changed over the years.

      We ended up with 40 trick or treaters, I only know because I had 40 little bags with treats in them! As with you, they were mostly very young, and yes, very impressed with the costumes!

      Hope you have a great weekend :-)

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