The Graveyard Shift wishes everyone a Happy Halloween! Have fun, but please stay safe. If trick or treating is in your plans this year, please utilize all health and safety precautions, including proper PPE and safe social distancing … and a healthy dose of common sense.

Halloween Safety Tips For Kids

– Avoid costumes that greatly reduce visibility or are too dark for motorists to see. Apply face paint instead. It’s safer than bulky masks.

– Plan the route you and your children will take well in advance. Tell someone else about those plans and what time you’ll return home.

– Stick to well-lit areas.

– Attach reflective tape to costumes.

– Use fire-resistant materials in costumes.

– Carry a flashlight or glow stick, but not a lighted candle. Candles are burn hazards.

– Trick-or-treat in groups, accompanied by at least one adult.

– Attach kid’s names, address, and phone number to their clothes in case they become separated from adults.

– Teach children to exit and enter vehicles from curbside, away from traffic.

– Stay on sidewalks as much as possible, and cross at corners. Do not walk between parked cars. Always look both ways before crossing.

– Children should not eat candy while out, until an adult examines it. Candy should not show signs of improper sealing, punctures, or holes.

– Do not allow children into apartment buildings unless accompanied by an adult, and only visit homes with outside lighting.

– Residents should remove obstacles and trip hazards, such as tools, ladders, and toys from their sidewalks, porches and front yards.

– Keep lighted jack-o-lanterns away from porches or other areas where they could ignite a low-hanging costume.

– Do NOT allow your kids to carry any toy gun as part of their costume, especially those toys that look like the real thing, even if the tips of the barrels are painted orange. The orange color doesn’t show well at night, if at all.

Halloween Safety Tips For Officers

Working as a police officer on Halloween poses special challenges. Think about it. In a world where someone wearing a mask is normally thought to be up to no good, you’re suddenly faced with scores of masked citizens. Kids are out and about darting in and out of traffic. They’re excited and and may not listen as well as they normally would, or should. And practical jokes often go horribly wrong. Needless to say, it can be a wild and trying night for cops.

Here’s a short list of tips for officers working the streets on one of their busiest nights of the year.

1. Stay alert. If it looks wrong, then it probably is.

2. Carry copies of outstanding warrants with you—the people you’ve been unable to locate. This is the one night when the dummies will probably answer the door thinking you’re a trick-or-treater.

3. Carry candy in your patrol car. It’s the perfect time to show kids that you’re really one of the good guys.

4. Watch out for lone costumed adults, or those walking in groups. They’re probably up to no good.

5. Watch out for people tossing things from overpasses. For some reason, Halloween seems to be THE night to bomb police cars with bricks, rocks, and pumpkins.

6. Be alert for kids and adults who wear actual guns as part of their costumes.

7. Park your patrol car and walk for a while. Mingle with the trick-or-treaters. Keep them safe. It also keeps the bad guys guessing your next move. Besides, it’s a good idea to mix things up. Patrol your areas in a different order. Never get into a set routine (this goes for the rest of the year, too).

8. Drive slower than normal. Watch for kids!

9. Keep an eye on the registered sex offenders in your area. They aren’t allowed to pass out candy. They shouldn’t be opening the door for any kids. And they shouldn’t have Halloween decorations displayed in their yard or on the house. Pay them a pre-Halloween visit to remind them of their court-ordered restrictions.

10. I preferred to patrol with my car window down, even in the winter time. Halloween is the only night of the year when I didn’t. Too many flying objects!

11. If possible, have extra officers working the streets on foot, in plain clothes.

12. Bring plenty of extra handcuffs. You’ll probably need them before the night is over.

13. Please, please, please wear your vest!

 

 

And to everyone else …

Labor Day: while you're enjoying the day off

While we gather with friends and family to enjoy backyard barbecues … well, this …

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WPA my mother would call it a ministry

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Transporting prisoners

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Today, July 4th, is a celebration of national independence, and our freedom to barbecue.

There’s a current PC craze that’s attacking practically everything on the planet, from condemning anti-animal language to the lyrics of Christmas songs,. Even certain colorings of cartoon vegetables is taboo. So let’s poke around to see if we can find a few more horrible examples of politically incorrectness, such as those terribly insensitive and offensive Christmas tunes.

Starting with …

“I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas”

This lively tune opens with a discriminatory tone that’s sure to send other animals scurrying to their safe spaces. Here, see for yourself.

“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do.”

That’s blatant and out and out discrimination toward all other animals. And it only gets worse.

“Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles, no rhinosaurus
I only likes hippopotamuses [sic]
And hippopotamuses [sic] like me, too.”

I see this one ending up in civil court where a softy judge will immediately order that crocs and rhinos also “will do.”


“Silver Bells” 

This song discriminates against the folks who live in rural areas. It’s also bullying to those who don’t have access to “holiday style” attire.

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style”

Next, OMG, what about the feelings of grumpy people who don’t like smiling. Their right to frown as they wish have most certainly been trampled upon in this blatantly derogatory song.

“In the air
There’s a feeling
of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear.”


“The Christmas Song”
Lyrics by Mel Torme

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.”

Not fair. Not fair. Not fair. Jill Frost loves to nip at noses just as much as Jack. Why no mention of her playful nose-nibbling.

And, Mr. Mel Torme, what about the good folks over the age of 92 who’re now actively enjoying the one or two holiday songs left that we’re able to hear on our radios? Obvious age discrimination. Shame, shame and double shame.

“And so, I’m offering this
Simple phrase to kids from
One to ninety-two
Altho’ it’s been said many times
Many ways; “Merry Christmas to you”

Speaking of Mel Torme, dod you know he played drums? Well …


“We Wish You A Merry Christmas”

This one is appalling. What about bread and rice puddings? Why is figgy pudding given the nod in this popular tune? The dessert menu should be inclusive. Whomever is hiding behind the name “We” must be publicly shamed on social media. Dox them one and all!

“We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.”


“Up on the Housetop”
B.R. Hanby

Two words.

Concealed. Carry.

“Up on the housetop reindeer pause
Out jumps good old Santa Claus
Down thru the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones
Christmas joys” 

Climb down Onion Jenkins’ chimney if you want, but you can count on ole Onion to pop a cap in your red-suited rear end. Besides, it’s age discrimination to brings gifts to kids but not to the grown folks. And hey, why’re you bringing gifts to Onion’s kids, anyway? You don’t know them, you perv.


“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
Irish Rovers

Here’s the one that sends me over the edge. This song is flat out evil, from promoting violence and death to outing poor grandma’s drinking problem. They even went so far as to call her out for her addiction to prescription medication. Yes, instead of helping the poor and pitiful old woman seek help for her medical issues, they sent her out into the snowy night where she was run down and killed by a careless reindeer.

“Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

She’d been drinkin’ too much egg nog,
And we’d begged her not to go.
But she’d left her medication,
So she stumbled out the door into the snow.”

To add insult to injury, knowing her state of mind and level of intoxication, they didn’t bother to check on grandma until the next morning when they found her trampled and frozen corpse mashed into a snowbank.

“When they found her Christmas mornin’,
At the scene of the attack.
There were hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminatin’ Claus marks on her back.”

Next we see Grandpa enter the picture. Doesn’t care a wit that his wife’s dead body is in a crumpled heap out on the front lawn, covered in snow with deer prints stamped into her skull. Instead, he’s partying with his cousin, Belle, the family “ho, ho, ho.” Now, I’m not one to spread gossip, but I’m thinking the perfect stocking stuffer for both Grandpa and Belle would be a couple of cans of Acme Incest Repellent. I’m just sayin’.

“Now were all so proud of Grandpa,
He’s been takin’ this so well.
See him in there watchin’ football,
Drinkin’ beer and playin’ cards with cousin Belle.”


*This article is entirely non-PC and is intended as a tongue-in-cheek bit of weird humor. No hippos or grandmas were harmed during today’s writing. Cousin Belle and Grandpa, however, were immediately transported to the nearest Acme Rehab Center for Incestaholics.


Merry Christmas to all from Denene and Me. We hope to you at a Writers’ Police Academy event very soon. In the meantime …

Please stay safe. Enjoy time with your family. And hug your kids.

Candies and cakes.

Eggnog too.

Turkey, ham, and stuffing.

Pumpkin pie.

Gingerbread and chocolate fudge.

 

Family and friends.

A warm fire.

Dancing flames.

Sizzling cedar logs.

Stockings hanging from above.

 

Family dog.

Sleeping at their feet.

Cookies and milk.

Kids laugh and squeal.

Silent wishes and hopeful dreams.

 

Home.

Surrounded by those I love.

How I long to be there.

 

Pepper spray and handcuffs.

Puking smelly drunks.

Radios and TASERS.

Spouses, battered and bruised.

Black eyes and broken bones.

 

Tiny tots and tears.

And drug dealers and thieves.

Sad, pitiful kids.

No toys.

No place to sleep.

 

Home.

Surrounded by those I love.

How I long to be there.

 

Crack pipes burning.

No food, no heat.

Gunshots and stabbings.

Car crashes and suicides.

Ambulances, hospitals, and morgues.

 

Crying.

Hurting.

Bleeding.

Dying.

Gone.

 

Home.

Thankful that I have one.

Aren’t you?

 

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …

A general rule of thumb is to not begin a tale with the weather. I know this and humbly apologize for violating protocol. It’s just that the elements are such a crucial part of this story and, well, please bear with me for a moment as I take you back to an honest-to-goodness dark and stormy Christmas Eve.

I was working for a sheriff’s office at the time, patrolling a county that sits smack-dab in the middle of the north-south I-95 drug corridor. Needless to say, crime, especially violent crime, was quite commonplace.

In those days, I drove a hand-me-down Crown Vic with a light bar that had a mind of its own. Sometimes the rotating beacons turned and sometimes they didn’t, with the latter occurring more frequently during cold weather. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to respond to an emergency with the gas pedal mashed to the floorboard, the siren screaming like a cat with its tail caught in the ringer of grandma’s antique washer, and me with my arm out the window banging my fist on the side of the light bar hoping to set it in motion. It often took a good two miles and ten whacks with the heel of my fist before the initial barely-turning speed of the lights caught up with the seriousness of the situation at hand.

Believe me, there’s nothing more frustrating than driving at warp speed while your emergency lights rotate at the speed of drying paint. But, if the call was far enough away the lights eventually caught up with the direness of what could be and often was.

Christmas Eve calls, for the most part, were an eclectic mix of complaints and incidents, ranging from window peepers to drunk uncles high on too much eggnog, to crooks who preferred to do their last minute shopping after the stores were closed and tightly locked until the day after Christmas. And, of course, there were murders and robberies, calls that necessitated the use of those darn lights.

Blowing Wind and Freezing Temps

It was this one particular Christmas Eve that comes to mind, though. The one when the wind blew so hard that traffic lights hung horizontally instead of their typical right angles to the streets. Gusty breezes toppled garbage cans and sent them clanging and banging and rolling and tumbling across asphalt and concrete. Dried leaves clicked and ticked and swirled in masses as they made their way down avenues and boulevards and through intersections without regard for red lights or stop signs, continuing on through alleys and across lawns and driveways. The lighted sign at the bank on the corner of Broad and 14th blinked between the current time and a steady temperature of five degrees. Believe me, it was cold enough to make a snowman shiver.

For warmth, homeless people camping under the overpasses and down by the river burned scraps of broken pallets and whatever twigs, branches, and tree limbs they could find. Many of them had no real winter clothing—no coats, parkas, gloves, or wool caps. Instead, they added extra layers of filthy, soiled clothing over their already grimy attire. They used socks to cover their hands and they draped old army blankets or blue furniture movers’ pads over their heads and shivering bodies.

Ridley Perkins

And then there was Ridley Perkins, a homeless man who’d been around the city for so long that his name and/or face was quite well-known by many of the locals. He was also a regular visitor to the city jail. Corrections officers, men who’d “seen it all,” shied away from Ridley when it came time for him to be strip searched. No one wanted the job of watching him peel off layer after layer of grunge-caked clothing. After all, Perkins’ body odor alone was enough to gag anyone, and it was not unusual to find live maggots squirming around in his soiled underwear or on his skin.

Ridley never committed any real crimes—he didn’t steal, rob, or burgle. He was a beggar by trade and a darn good one too. And he knew how to successfully transform a dollar into alcohol. Not the kind consumed by most drinkers, though. Ridley preferred to strain his alcohol from canned heat (Sterno), or to drink mouthwash or shaving lotion. And, when the last drop was gone he’d do something to annoy a business owner or scare a woman or child by lunging at them from behind a bush—his way of going to jail where he’d get a hot meal and warm bed.

The Christmas Present

Okay, I know, I strayed from the story. Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yeah … Christmas Eve. I’d made a pass around my section of the county and had returned to the office to warm my bones with a cup of jailhouse coffee (so thick you could almost stand a spoon upright in the center of the mug) and to back my hind-end against a hot radiator. Even my long-johns, Kevlar, and jacket were no match against the cold that night.

After I’d thawed out, I’d settled into a seat and was skimming through newspaper headlines when someone pressed the buzzer out at the main gate. One of the on-duty jailers pushed the “talk” button on the intercom and said, “Whadda you want, Perkins?” I glanced over at the monitor and saw Ridley holding a round object up toward the camera. It appeared to be a ball of some sort. He pushed the outside talk button and said, “I brung you something. A Christmas present.”

The jailer, a soft-hearted older man, slipped on his jacket and said he was going out to try and talk Ridley into going to a shelter for the night, something Ridley rarely did. He despised their “no tolerance for alcohol rule.” Before going out, the jailer poured some hot coffee into a Styrofoam cup and took it with him to give to his visitor.

A few minutes later the jailer returned with an orange, saying Ridley told him that he’d used some of his begging proceeds to buy it for him as a Christmas present. He claimed to have done so because the jailer had always been kind to him and treated him like a man and not as a criminal, or a drunk. We both knew that chances were good that he’d either stolen the orange from a local grocer or that someone had given it to him. But that he’d brought it to the jailer was still a kind gesture.

Ridley accepted the coffee from the jailer, and the advice about the shelter, and then headed off into the cold. He ambled past the reach of the camera, and that was the last time anyone saw him alive.

I found Ridley’s body the next night, inside an old abandoned car. He’d apparently gone there to get away from the wind and the blowing snowfall that had started up in the early morning hours. Hypothermia had claimed his life. He’d frozen to death.

On the floorboard near Ridley’s hand were an empty Styrofoam cup and a small pile of orange peelings.

*This is a true story, however, the name Ridley Perkins is fictitious.

 

The call—a child in need of services.

What I found was a child in need of love.

His house, held together by random lengths of mismatched clapboard-siding, sat at the end of a hard-packed red clay path. Shreds of tar-paper and rusted tin covered some, but not all, of a rain-blackened plywood roof. Four white, spray-painted cinder-blocks served as a front stoop.

The front door had no knob or lock, just a curved metal handle, worn slick from years of pulling and pushing. A brick propped against its bottom held the door closed. Someone, I’m not sure who, “locked it” when they left.

I knocked.

“Come in,” a little voice said.

It was just days before Christmas and there was no tree.

No presents.

No food.

No running water.

No cabinets. No stove.

No refrigerator. No beds.

No drywall. No insulation.

Just bare studs and rafters.

And cold.

Lots of cold.

A small dented and soot-caked kerosene heater fought a losing battle against a brutal December evening. Two milk jugs used for holding fuel sat near the splintered front door. Both empty. The heater’s gauge rested at one notch above E. The weak orange flame would soon fade away. The temperature outside was 20, and dropping. The wind persistently forced its way through cracks and holes in the walls, floor, and open spaces around the door and windows.

The place was not much more than a shed. One cobbled together from scrap wood and discarded “whatevers.”

A tattered blanket and two patchwork quilts. Threadbare and slick from wear.

No winter coats. No hats, nor gloves.

Dirty window panes.

One missing, replaced by a square of cardboard.

Dish towel curtains.

A hardware store calendar, two years old.

A cooler with no lid.

Mom, passed out on the floor.

A bottle of bourbon, its contents long gone.

A pipe for crack smoking.

“Mama says daddy will come home … someday.”

A dog. All ribs and backbone.

The floor, bare.

No rugs, no toys. ­

A table.

Two chairs.

A book.

Some paper.

The boy, writing.

Cigarettes.

A saucer for ashes, overflowing with discarded butts.

A deck of ragged playing cards.

Roaches. Scurrying up, down, there and here.

Mouse. Unafraid.

A squalling baby.

The bugs, they’re there, too.

The stench.

A tin lard bucket in the corner.

A checkered cloth on top.

A half-empty roll of Scotts.

The only bathroom indoors.

“You writing a letter?”

A nod.

“To your Dad?”

“No, to Santa.”

“Mind if I have look?”

He held it up for me to see.

“Your handwriting is very nice.”

A smile.

“Dear Santa,

Don’t worry about the bicycle I asked for.

Or the Tonka trucks and new coat.

And I don’t even like video games anymore.

Or DVD’s and toy trains.

I’m too big for those things now.

‘Sides, some men came and took the TV. Said Mama couldn’t pay for it no more. The ‘lectric neither.

What I’d really like is a warm blanket for my brother. He needs some milk too. And some medicine to make his fever go away. And could you help my Mom some? She needs to stop drinking and smoking. I wish you could make those men leave her alone too. They get all lickered up and hit her and do things to her that make her cry. Maybe you could bring my mom a coat for Christmas this year. She don’t have one and she gets cold when she walks down the street to get her cigarettes and that other stuff she smokes.

And if you don’t mind too much could you bring my daddy something to eat. He don’t never have no money. And if you see God while you’re up there flying around please tell him to say hi to my baby sister. And ask him to tell her I’m sorry I couldn’t make Mama wake up and take her to the hospital. If you can do all that, don’t worry about bringing me nothing. That stuff will do just fine.”

Your friend,

Jimmy Lee Bailey

*Jimmy Lee Bailey was definitely in need of some love. So, when Christmas morning rolled around he got his Tonka trucks, a bicycle, and a new coat. He also enjoyed a nice meal before moving to his new home. All courtesy of the guys who patrolled the graveyard shift.

 

The Twelve Nights Of Graveyard

On the first night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the second night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, two ghetto whores and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the third night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the fourth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

12 days of graveyard

On the fifth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the sixth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, six drunks a-peeing,  five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tridge and a cuff key.

On the seventh night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, seven robbers running, six drunks a-peeing, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the eighth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, eight maids embezzling, seven robbers running, six drunks a-peeing, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the ninth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, nine ladies fighting, eight maids embezzling, seven robbers running, six drunks a peeing, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the tenth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, ten perverts peeping, nine ladies fighting, eight maids embezzling, seven robbers running, six drunks a-peeing, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

Peeping Tom

On the eleventh night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, eleven crackheads smoking, ten perverts peeping, nine ladies fighting, eight maids embezzling, seven robbers running, six drunks a-peeing, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge and a cuff key.

On the twelfth night of graveyard my sergeant gave to me, twelve hours of overtime, eleven crackheads smoking, ten perverts peeping, nine ladies fighting, eight maids embezzling, seven robbers running, six drunks a-peeing, five … cans … of … pepper-spray, four calls from wackos, three stinky winos, two ghetto whores, and a car-tri-idge … and … a … cuff … keeey.

 

“Sometimes she finds him weeping
As he lay there in his bed
The distant sounds of battle
Still echo in his head”

The Oak Ridge Boys ~ G.I. Joe and Lillie


Thank you, Veterans. I am forever grateful. Thank you, too, Oaks, for your unyielding support and love for our country and for the brave men and women in uniform.

 


The 38th parallel, where perhaps 1 million soldiers faced each other across an area boobytrapped with over a million land mines, was the line drawn in the sand during the Korean War. Cross it and a soldier could quickly die in a hail of bullets.

My Uncle Pete (left) was there in the 1950s, stationed just across the 38th parallel. During his entire 26-year career in the U.S. Army, the time he served in Korea was possibly one of the worst times of his life.

Recently, Uncle Pete told Denene and me about standing guard at night, hearing the enemy soldiers on the other side of “the line,” yelling, firing their weapons, and banging on things, an effort to prevent sleep for our soldiers. And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, groups of them charged across the line, firing their rifles and pistols in short bursts aimed at the U.S. soldiers. Then they’d run back from where they came. This occurred night after night after night.

He told of having very little to eat except rice. Rice, rice, rice, and more rice. After he left Korea he swore he’d never touch rice again. Just the thought of it turns his stomach.

He recalled nights when soldiers were forced to burn drums of alcohol to keep warm during -60 degree temperatures. They’d remain huddled around those barrels, moving away only to start the tanks every thirty minutes to prevent the grease in the gun turrets from freezing solid. If that happened the tanks would only fire once since the frozen grease would prevent recoil of the tanks’ gun barrels.

He told war tales that would curl the toughest and straightest of toes. Then he switched to stories about other assignments around the world, from different bases where he was stationed throughout his career. His favorites were in Germany and a long term serving at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Back then, he said, D.C. was a fun city and his job at the Pentagon was quite rewarding.

On January 20, 1961, Uncle Pete was one of the sixteen thousand U.S. soldiers who marched along Pennsylvania Avenue in President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade. It was a proud moment for him when he passed the reviewing stand, seeing out of the corner of his eye, President Kennedy; First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; the President’s parents Rose Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; and Lady Bird Johnson and other dignitaries. He also received an invitation to the president’s inaugural ball. This was a high point in my uncle’s life.

But there were times when things in Washington weren’t so rosy.

In November of 1963, Uncle Pete again marched as a soldier along D.C. streets for President Kennedy. This time, though, the march was for President Kennedy’s funeral procession after he was assassinated.

My uncle has seen and done a lot in his day. He’s been “there” when times were tough, and he’s been practically on top of the world.  He’s a fighter. Always has been.

I’ve seen a few oddities over the years, especially during Halloween, the night when both kids and adults dress up as their favorite characters. It’s also a night that a few ghoulish folks believe is the perfect time to commit the usual plethora of crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. But there’s one Halloween crime from my old case files that stands out a bit from the rest and, as always, I have to tell the story. I do so, as irritating and long-winded as it may be, to help you with details for your own writing. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up and believe me, I read a lot and I write a lot, and most of what I see in fiction doesn’t compare to, well, this …

It was late one Halloween night, after costumed trick-or-treaters were long back at home gorging themselves on sugary treats—M&Ms, Whoppers, mini candy bars, Lemonheads, Candy Corn, and Skittles—when I knocked on Miss Evelyn’s front door, a wide plank of weathered wood with rusty strap hinges.

Through the square glass near the top of the door I saw a small slice of yellow light that started in a backroom to my left and stretched across the narrow hallway floor where it disappeared into another room on the righthand side of the passageway.

At the sound of my door-rapping, a figure moved across the light, first one way and then back.

While waiting for the owner of the shadow to respond to my presence, I had a look around the porch. Nothing unusual … a one-gallon vegetable can (absent its label) filled with sand and topped with a handful of cigarette butts, a rickety old rocking chair, five plastic flower pots with each containing the remnants of some sort of unidentifiable plant—all dead, dried up, and crispy—, a well-worn green cloth sofa, and a portable radio that was missing a knob.

A foil-wrapped coat hanger poked up from a hole in the top of the radio’s plastic casing. It replaced the former antenna that, at some point, had broken off and was either lost or discarded as trash. Either way, the radio, in it’s present condition, had been there for as long as I could remember.

And, as always, smack-dab in the center of the front door were three fairly fresh chicken feet that were tied together at their bloody stumps with a piece of bright red twine. The collection of gnarly toes and bony knuckles dangled from a bent 4d finishing nail.

Chicken feet, according to Miss Evelyn, bring good luck and, as a bonus, they also prevented evil spirts from crossing the threshold. Nope, nothing odd at all … for Miss Evelyn. The porch “decor” hadn’t changed in all the years I’d gone there. Not a thing.

I knocked again. She yelled from the back of the house. “Just a minute!”

I’d met Miss Evelyn after arresting a man for burglary and, while searching his pockets for weapons and other illegal items, I discovered a small flannel pouch tucked inside his wallet. I figured the contents could possibly be drugs, probably marijuana or hash, or something of that nature, so I asked the kid to level with me so I’d know what to expect.

I was surprised to hear him say that what I held in my hand was not was I’d suspected. Instead, he said, it was his “medicine bag,” a ground up mixture of chicken bones, tobacco, human hair, and herbs. Its purpose was to keep him safe. This was my first contact with a medicine bag. However, it was far from the last.

Root doctors make medicine bags containing plant and animal matter, such as human or animal bone, sage, garlic, and even dirt from a grave. The purpose of the bag is, for example, to provide safety, heal and prevent illness, and to help ignite or halt romances, etc. Another practically endless list.

This young burglar purchased his bag from Miss Evelyn, a local root doctor. Since this was a totally new experience for me, I decided to pay this so-called root doctor a visit. And, long story shortened a bit, Miss Evelyn “knew all and saw all” and she soon became one of my most reliable informants.

Her customer base was massive and many were criminals, so I basically kept her on speed dial. I also dropped off the occasional gift—a turkey or ham at Christmas, or a turkey in liquid form (Wild Turkey bourbon), her preference, as a sign of my appreciation.

This particular Halloween night a young man, Miss Evelyn’s nephew, answered the door and led me to the kitchen where his aunt stood at the head of six-chair red formica-topped table, hard at work assembling her latest batch of medicine bags and other concoctions. Behind her, a large black kettle was at full boil on the wood stove. A foul-smelling steam wafted my way. I didn’t ask.

If I had to guess I’d say Miss Evelyn weighed at a pound or two over a hundred pounds. She was so thin that the blood vessels on her arms and hands were visible and looked like someone had draped a squirming knot of skinny earthworms there, much like hanging tinsel on a Christmas tree.

As always when “working” tiny pearls of sweat peppered her forehead. Her fingernails were bitten to the quick. She wore a simple and faded housedress that was three sizes too big, a Winnie the Pooh apron, age-yellowed white socks, and pink Flip-Flops with the rubber thong jamming a wad of white sock material between the first and second toes of each foot.

When she smiled it became instantly obvious that dentists were not a part of her clientele, nor had she ever, not once, crossed the threshold of any tooth doctor’s office. Her breath smelled like a rotting animal carcass, an even worse scent than the pungent odor emanating from the pot on the stove.

Miss Evelyn was quirky, to say the least, and she was one of the nicest people I’d ever met.

I’d gone there that particular night to see if Evelyn could offer any insight about two bodies that had been dug up in a local cemetery. The vaults had been damaged and the caskets broken open. The grave-robbers took the same thing from each coffin—bones from the lower right arms and hands.

She said she’d heard about a couple who used human bones as part of their religious rituals. Before exhuming remains, though, they had sex atop the grave sites.

Coincidentally, the man and woman visited Miss Evelyn earlier in the night to ask if she knew where they could get heir hands on a fresh corpse because, in order to complete their ritual, they needed blood and they knew that to get it they’d need to reach a body prior to embalming. Well, Evelyn was having no parts of their nonsense and sent them on their way. And that was the purpose of my visit. Miss Evelyn called me the second the grave robbers left her house.

I finally caught up with the couple when I discovered their car parked near a funeral home. They’d planned to break in to steal someone’s dearly departed loved one. Fortunately, we stopped them before they committed the act.

So you see, folks, bizarre and morbid and spooky crime does not always come in the form of murder. Nor are the macabre criminals always the odd characters who reside at the spooky house at the end of the street.

This particular couple, the grave robbers, were as normal as your neighbors. Both were professionals with public jobs. They lived in a typical neighborhood and drove a normal car. However, the contents of their trunk was a bit different than most—shovels, picks, tools for prying open caskets, and a few human and animal bones scattered about. Other than that … as typical as you and I.

Well, perhaps we’re are not the best examples of normal, but you get the idea …

 


Bonus Section

Halloween Safety Tips For All – You, Your Kids, and Police Officers

 

Halloween Safety Tips For Kids and Grownups

  • – Avoid costumes that greatly reduce visibility or are too dark for motorists to see. Apply face paint instead. It’s safer than bulky masks.
  • Plan the route you and your children will take well in advance. Tell someone else about those plans and what time you’ll return home.
  • Stick to well-lit areas.
  • Attach reflective tape to costumes.
  • Use fire-resistant materials in costumes.
  • Carry a flashlight or glow stick, but not a lighted candle. Candles are burn hazards.
  • Trick-or-treat in groups, accompanied by at least one adult.
  • Attach kid’s names, address, and phone number to their clothes in case they become separated from adults.
  • Teach children to exit and enter vehicles from curbside, away from traffic.
  • Stay on sidewalks as much as possible, and cross at corners. Do not walk between parked cars. Always look both ways before crossing.
  • Children should not eat candy while out, until an adult examines it. Candy should not show signs of improper sealing, punctures, or holes.
  • Do not allow children into apartment buildings unless accompanied by an adult, and only visit homes with outside lighting.
  • Residents should remove obstacles and trip hazards, such as tools, ladders, and toys from their sidewalks, porches and front yards.
  • Keep lighted jack-o-lanterns away from porches or other areas where they could ignite a low-hanging costume.
  • Do NOT allow your kids to carry any toy gun as part of their costume, especially those toys that look like the real thing, even if the tips of the barrels are painted orange. The orange color doesn’t show well at night, if at all.

Halloween Safety Tips For Officers

Working as a police officer on Halloween poses special challenges. Think about it. In a world where someone wearing a mask is normally thought to be up to no good, you’re suddenly faced with scores of masked citizens. Kids are out and about darting in and out of traffic. They’re excited and and may not listen as well as they normally would, or should. And practical jokes often go horribly wrong. Needless to say, it can be a wild and trying night for cops.

Here’s a short list of tips for officers working the streets on one of their busiest nights of the year.

1. Stay alert. If it looks wrong, then it probably is.

2. Carry copies of outstanding warrants in your patrol vehicle—the people you’ve been unable to locate. This is the one night when the dummies will probably answer the door thinking you’re a trick-or-treater.

3. Carry candy in your patrol car. It’s the perfect time to show kids that you’re really one of the good guys.

4. Watch out for lone costumed adults, or those walking in groups. They’re probably up to no good.

5. Watch out for people tossing things from overpasses. For some reason, Halloween seems to be THE night to bomb police cars with bricks, rocks, eggs, and pumpkins.

6. Be alert for kids and adults who wear actual guns as part of their costumes.

7. Park your patrol car and walk for a while. Mingle with the trick-or-treaters. Keep them safe. It also keeps the bad guys guessing your next move. Besides, it’s a good idea to mix things up. Patrol your areas in a different order. Never allow yourself to fall into a set routine (this goes for the rest of the year, too).

8. Drive slower than normal and keep your eyes on the roadways. Watch for kids!

9. Keep an eye on the registered sex offenders in your area. They aren’t allowed to pass out candy nor should they open the door for children. And they shouldn’t have Halloween decorations displayed in their yard or on the house. Pay them a pre-Halloween visit to remind them of their court-ordered restrictions, if needed. No need to harass, but it’s often best to be proactive.

10. I preferred to patrol with my car window down, even in the winter time. Halloween is the only night of the year when I didn’t. Too many flying objects!

11. If possible, have extra officers working the streets on foot, in plain clothes.

12. Bring plenty of extra handcuffs. You’ll probably need them before the night is over.

13. Please, please, please wear your vest!

And, to you and yours …

Happy Halloween!