Column: Seven days late, remembering a scary Halloween
WORTHINGTON -- "Hey!" I was being called to judgment. I walked uncertainly toward a booth. "Hey! I thought you were going to have a spook column Saturday. I thought you would tell about the ghost that prowls the streets of Worthington. Or some su...
WORTHINGTON -- "Hey!"
I was being called to judgment. I walked uncertainly toward a booth.
"Hey! I thought you were going to have a spook column Saturday. I thought you would tell about the ghost that prowls the streets of Worthington. Or some such thing."
This column last week appeared on the morning of Halloween. It seems some people were hoping for a thrill.
"Yeah," said another coffee drinker. "I thought you might tell about the haunted house. Worthington must have a haunted house. Woooo!"
Truth. I don't really have a Worthington ghost story. When I think of Worthington and spooks I think of Harry Nackerud, who once was sheriff of Nobles County. When Harry had someone under arrest, when Harry was telling about questioning someone, he called the malefactor a spook.
"Look here," Sheriff Nackerud would say. "Here's a spook driving with no license." Or, "We've got a spook locked up who tried a prize fight with his wife."
Bill Kline, who draws the Daily Globe's "Family Circus" cartoon, had a panel lately that recalled an old, old story of the supernatural. In Kline's cartoon, Dad was holding Billy by his ankles, head down, and Billy was saying, "Now I know how people in Australia feel."
The old story is that when British colonists in Australia were persecuting the Aboriginals, the spirits of tortured Aboriginals soared out of the southern half of planet Earth to the northern half. So it is at Worthington (or Sioux Falls, or Minneapolis) people sometimes find ghosts of Aboriginals taking refuge in their houses. Like Billy, they will be upside down. This explains why (one example) one morning you may spy a muddy footprint on your kitchen ceiling.
You looked lately? Check it out. See any footprints on the ceiling?
There was one Worthington Halloween which was memorably frightening. This was the Halloween of 71 years gone by, the Halloween of 1938.
In that era, there still were outhouses here and there across the town. Toppling outhouses was a legendary American prank. It was cruel as anything can be. If you depend upon an outhouse -- if that is what you have -- it is horrifying to step outside on the morning of Nov. 1 to find your facility on its side, dragged to the edge of your lawn.
The mischief of the Halloween of 1938 was incited by the Worthington Globe, which was on a crusade to convert all of Worthington to indoor plumbing, even houses that really had no space for indoor plumbing.
On the front page of its edition of Oct. 30, the Globe ran a photo of a substantial outdoor privy on Sixth Avenue. The caption admonished, "Leave 'em Alone," but the picture only served to direct mischief makers to the site.
When the sun was set and the dark was settled on Halloween evening, the big kids in the town, the high school kids, came together in a mob and lifted that privy from its moorings. It was decided to drag/carry the outhouse into the street. The 1200 block. The family concerned could only look on with dismay.
Next it was decided to set fire to the privy. Kids got fuel -- kerosene -- from some red lanterns of the kind once set out along the edges of ditches where street work was being done.
There soon was a roaring fire. Fire trucks needed to be called.
Worthington's police officers -- both of them, or three of them -- pushed four boys they believed were ringleaders into the (only) police car and took them to the city jail, which was at the rear of City Hall.
This was when the incident became most frightening. The whole mob of kids -- maybe 200 of them -- set out for downtown. They surrounded City Hall, flattened the tires of the police car, set up chants and great howls and threatened the police. Truly threatened them.
It was mob rule and no one, including the kids, knew what might happen next. The police discussed their options with other city officials and decided to release the boys in the cell, which is what the mob demanded.
The mob was in charge. Police could only stand by.
That was a scary Halloween at Worthington.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.