It’s October, when orange is not only accepted as a valid decorating color, it is encouraged. Nowadays, we mainly stick to general fall decor, pumpkins and other fally paraphernalia, but that wasn’t always the case.
Once upon a time, if you trick-or-treated at the Floyd house, you might have been scared away before you got to the door. Halloween was an event for Mike, and he did his best to make it an event for his kids and any others that came his way.
Mike’s stepson, Dallas (now a grown man in his early 40s), to this day believes his fear of scary movies and fear of the dark is because of Mike Floyd’s Halloweens.
Mike had a collection of rubber masks — nice ones — and he would put on a one-piece jump suit or jogging suit, with a mask, and jump from behind corners and windows or out of closets or from under beds to surprise the kids.
Dallas remembers standing with a group of kids under the street lights on a corner “booing” cars as they passed, when up ran the scariest monster he had ever seen, scattering all the kids. The “monster” chased after him. The bigger kids knew who it was and got a kick out of all the excitement.
Dallas said their house was always the scariest house in the neighborhood. Mike would have a block party for the kids. Dry ice made fog, and lights strung around the room made weird shadows. Strobe lights distorted everyone’s movements. The masks would be on stands, like heads on display.
Some of the smaller children were afraid to go to the door by themselves, because there was a “monster” giving out candy. The older kids loved it. This was back in the days before every other organization had haunted houses or “trick or trunk” events in parking lots for Halloween thrills, so kids looked to the Floyd house to have scary fun.
There was an unfortunate incident at work, however. Mike just happened to be wearing a mask and walked around a hallway corner, meeting a female co-worker. She screamed and fell to the floor. Mike thought he had killed her, but she was just stunned. No one was seriously hurt.
In later years, Mike calmed down a little. In his years of umpiring softball for the City of Wichita Falls, he volunteered for the City’s “Halloween in the Park” thrill walk. His contribution was the “death wagon,” a cart he made, covered with hay, where a “dead” body would rise up to spook the passers-by.
He would pull the wagon and explain to the thrill seekers that the bodies on the wagon were supposed to be dead, but were they? Then the bodies (our kids, dressed in torn, fake-bloody clothes) would jump up to spook everyone.
The death wagon was also parked in front of our house a couple of years to give trick or treaters a scare. Spooky creaks and groans, rattling chains and cackling laughter all came from a tape recorder hidden in the hay.
Through the years, Mike and his employees in the Panhandle have given the community a few laughs instead of scares. Customers would go in the post office to do business and be greeted by mad surgeons, cows, clowns or Farmer Jones.
Mike’s masks deteriorated a long time ago. The death wagon met a fate like that of its cargo — dismemberment. Now he’s content to have me be the one to hand out the candy while he relaxes in his chair, with his own face on. I think it’s a handsome face, but he says some people might think that’s scary enough for them.
First published in The Journal of North Texas, “Life with Mike” column, 2003.