I don’t know who starts these things. Obviously someone with either a great deal of time on their holiday hands, or just a Halloween guru. I’m talking about “The Halloween Phantom.”

The Phantom has managed to strike our house year after year, in three different neighborhoods, across two different states. He’s relentless. If you’re unclear as to what I’m referring, allow me to educate you:

Every year around Halloween time, a generous, albeit anonymous, neighbor will ding dong ditch a plate of Halloween goodies at my doorstep with a note and a photocopy copy of some artist’s rendition of The Phantom. The note contains instructions from The Phantom himself, dictating my precise steps over the next 24 hours, or be ye therefore warned.

“Make two plates of homemade Halloween goodies of your own choosing, hang the picture of The Phantom in your window (so others will know you’ve already been hit), but before you do, make two copies of it along with the instructions to accompany the plates of homemade goodies. Deliver these goodies and the two pages to two different neighbors in the still of the night. Secrecy is paramount. Whatever you do, don’t break the chain, or the goblins will get you!”

It’s this last clause that makes me abhor all things “chain letter.” The threat. They just can’t leave it at a kind gesture.

The Phantom somehow manages to come on the busiest day of the week for me. I’ve got an October baby and I always seem to be in the throws of throwing a birthday party at home when he rears his ghost-like dittoed head.

“Really? Today of all days?! You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But my kids love it!

Three years ago was our first encounter with the notorious Phantom. I, of course, was in the middle of blowing up birthday balloons and was ready to make a covert operation to ditch the plate of goodies next door and pretend The Phantom never happened, but my kids got hold of the note before I could make the attempt.

“Ahhh! How exciting! A Phantom! What are we gonna make, Mom? What are we gonna make?”

They were so wide-eyed and full of holiday magic, I couldn’t refuse.

So that night, right after the birthday party, after the last streamers scuttled their way into the trash, we stole out into the night with nothing but our goodies, our Xeroxed copies, and our wits to protect us.

My daughter was four at the time, and wore the same ballerina costume every day. She completed the ensemble with tiny plastic high heels and accessorized with copious amounts of costume jewelry. It was like her uniform. So you can imagine the racket that the clickety-clack of the plastic high heels made against the pavement.

But we were determined to be stealthy. We crept up on the lawn of the first house, placed the goods on the doormat, had my oldest ring the bell, and then … ran like crazy!

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack! Across the driveway (clickety-clack,) down the street (clickety-clack,) around the corner (clickety-clack,) and behind the bushes. Whew! We’d never felt so alive!

The second house was much the same, but this time one of the neighbor’s kids chased after us! (Gasp!)

Once we skidded safely across our own porch, my ballerina giggled with glee, “This is the best night of my life!”

That’s when I knew The Phantom was here to stay.

The following night a friend of mine confided that she kept her very first copy of The Phantom, from years before, on file and taped it in her window every October 1st to avoid the phantom fuss. I was tempted to do the same.

But after running with wild abandon through the dark streets of our neighborhood with the kids, (clickety-clack) I decided to put his portrait in the trash November 1st and hoped he’d come again next year.

The only question now is, where will he strike next?


Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate and mother of four small children. You can read more on her blog at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com