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When my mom and her siblings were much younger, they and the neighborhood children started a little Halloween competition. It all began when my grandmother built a dummy using old overalls and sat it on the porch. Some of my mom’s friends stole the dummy and hid it at their house.

“It was fun getting on the bus to see who had stole it and where it was now,” my mom said. “Then you would plan to go get it. Mark Coley and Marvin Strauch would hide it in their yards, or one time they had it in the big tree just as you started down in the bottoms.”

“One time my dad dressed up in overalls and put a sack over his head and had gloves on,” mom said. “He was ‘propped’ up in the swing on the front porch. My brother and I were ducked down in the front room with the lights off waiting. Finally, we heard the three-wheeler coming and sure enough it came flying up in the yard. Greg Jordan jumped off and tried to grab the big dummy off the swing. Except it jumped up and grabbed him! Talk about funny! I loved it. It scared Greg, and he took off on his three-wheeler. We all laughed about that for days!”

Eventually, those involved grew up, leaving for college or getting married.

But the tradition didn’t end there…

When I was probably around 12-years-old, my grandma decided to start the tradition back up. She invited all the grandchildren over and we built a dummy, filling its insides with leaves from the yard. We drew a face on him and named him. She set him outside on the porch. A few hours later, the dummy wars began!

All week, leading up to Halloween night, the Spelbrings (my aunt and uncle and cousin), my grandparents, the Reeds (my aunt and uncle) and my family steal the dummy from each other’s houses. We all live on the same road within a quarter of a mile of each other, making it easy walking distance for sneaking. The Reeds actually live close to Indianapolis, but they always drive down to join in the fun.

On Halloween night, at midnight, whichever family holds the dummy in its possession wins.

We’ve done this every year since that first time about 10 years ago. Even while I was away at college, I tried every year to come home for Halloween weekend to help my family steal the dummy.

Some of our adventures have included crawling through fields, jumping into ditches, hiding in each other’s cars, climbing trees, stealing car keys, being locked in a garage, being duct taped to a telephone pole, jumping hay bails, screaming, running and hiding the dummy in the craziest places.

The dummy has been nailed to the top of a telephone pole, sat in a canoe in the middle of a pond, stuffed inside a mailbox, thrown in a tree and sat on the roof of a barn. It gets to be a pretty crazy week.

The three things that make this tradition great are: 1. No one gets upset; we don’t really care who wins at the end of the night, 2. As soon as the competition is over, everyone begins sharing stories from the night and week, which means laughter — lots of laughter! 3. The memories can last a lifetime. I can’t tell you who’s won every year. I can’t even remember who won last year, but I can tell you stories upon countless stories of fun moments that only took place thanks to this silly family tradition.

What Halloween traditions do you have?


Happy October! In honor of the month for scaring, I’ve created a list of my top fears. I decided to leave out the emotional fears — things like failure or loved ones dying — instead, I’m just focusing on physical fears.

5. Heights

I’ve overcome this fear a little bit. As a camp counselor, I was trained on a high ropes course and that really helped me gain courage. However, I would still say this is a fear of mine. It’s not like I want to lean over the edge of a 20-story building or anything!

4. Mice

I never really thought of this as a fear, but the other day I saw a mouse and immediately jumped to a chair. Can a mouse really hurt me? No. But they are small and fast, so I’m scared of them. It’s very dumb. If they were slow like turtles, no one would be scared of them anymore.

3. Surgery/Shots

Anything medical makes me queasy, and I have a tendency to pass out sometimes. But more than the way it makes my stomach feel, it makes me nervous and scared. I had to have surgery three times on my mouth while I was in high school, and even though I was partially sedated I cried through it every time. Shots are even worse. I’m one person who will not be getting the flu shot — ever.

2. Drowning

As a kid, I never really learned how to swim. I can swim now, but I would never join a swim team or anything. I don’t like going underwater. To think of someone dunking me or throwing me in a pool, makes me back away or run into the house to be literal. I don’t think I’ve ever jumped off a diving board. The thought of being trapped underwater is awful. I hope I don’t die that way.

1. Spiders

Just looking at that word gives me shivers. I am so scared of spiders that if I’m alone with one that is particularly big and fast, I will have a panic attack. Seriously, it has happened. It’s silly, I know, but it’s just one of those things I can’t help. They are too fast and creepy. I don’t even like to see a picture of one or talk about them. So, I’ll stop there.

What are your fears?

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