October 31st, 2009
07:40 AM ET

Dear President Obama #285: Can we trick-or-treat at the White House?

Reporter's Note: The White House has supposedly been home to several ghosts. We’re expecting a few at our place tonight too. Some haunting thoughts in my daily letter to President Obama.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I’m still wearing the pirate hat! You may recall that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that while we were getting out our Halloween decorations I found a pirate hat in a box and stuck it on my head. Well, in the spirit of “if it’s only a little funny the first time, keep doing it; it will get funnier” I have worn that hat every morning and evening at home ever since. I even took the garbage out with it on, and snarled at some little kids who happened by.

At first my family was amused, then puzzled, and then they grew bored with it. But now they are back to being amused. My wife and younger daughter even went to the pet store and surprised me by dressing up our dog, Nola, in a Jack Sparrow costume. It was hysterical. (As an aside, do you think dogs get embarrassed? We’ve dressed her up in an awful lot of goofy outfits over the years. She’s been an Easter bunny, a soccer player, an elf, a bumblebee, and she always acts as if she is afraid that the Golden Retriever down the street is going to see her.)

I’m getting off track. I love Halloween. Always have, and I want to tell you a story about that.

When I was a little kid in South Dakota, I had the coolest Frankenstein costume ever made. It had these green, satiny pants (yes, yes, I hear you giggling,) a matching top with a yellow front and this wild picture of a raging monster on it, and one of those strap on plastic masks with the eye holes about an inch too far apart for any kid who was not the offspring of close cousins. You know: the kind of mask with the little elastic band that would eventually give way, zinging your ear with the metal tip as it zipped past. (And I’m not being snarky, but that really had to be a problem for you, eh?)

Still, I loved that outfit. I was convinced that when I stepped out of 9922C Leed Avenue on Halloween night to stalk the streets of Ellsworth Air Force Base, the other kindergartners, grade schoolers, and well, heck, everyone would run in terror. Even at that young age, I had a notion that the winter coat my mom made me wear against the autumn chill would take a little edge off of the knife as it were, but otherwise I was Boris Karloff and Glenn Strange rolled into one. “Behold my horrificness!”

My older brother wanted to go as a mummy that night, so my parents had wrapped him head to toe in Ace bandages. He could barely walk and I’m pretty sure his circulation dropped to the level of certain arctic explorers just before they freeze to death. He looked great though; lumbering along with his arms outstretched (he couldn’t have lowered them on a bet,) and periodically groaning. Not so much for effect, but because the bandages were pretty darn tight near the base of the Nile, if you know what I mean.

I’m pretty sure my sister was a witch. A cute one. She is six years older than me, and was always one of the prettiest girls in the school, so I don’t recall her ever leaning too hard into the “terrifying” department with her costumes. Which is a little odd, because she loved scary movies. She would huddle down deep into the couch with her hands clamped over her eyes during even the most schlocky fright flick. Being a little brother, I would invariably grab her ankle in the midst of the more tense scenes just to hear her scream and then I’d dodge the pillows she heaved at me. Good times.

Back to Halloween night. As is so often the case with childhood ambitions, they did not play out quite as I expected. My friends immediately identified me as the mere mortal behind my monstrous façade, and no one seemed the least bit frightened. No speechless gasps. No fleeing mobs. No rallying of the peasants with pitchforks and torches to save themselves from my unspeakable ugliness. It didn’t occur to me at the time, that even the best costume ever could not trump the natural humor of a three-foot tall Frankenstein in a corduroy coat.

Nonetheless, I gradually accepted my disappointment, and got into the spirit of candy collection; racing to ring the doorbells and chanting “Trick or treat!” with the dedicated rote of a monk. At each stop my paper bag bulged a little more. (Mind you, this was the early 1960’s when this annual ritual involved a good bit more work than it does now. Most houses gave out only small pieces of candy. No one was tossing full size candy bars like they would later in the willy nilly ‘90’s. Seriously, modern trick or treaters have it so easy …)

We were due at a neighborhood Halloween party with all the other kids of enlisted families on our block, and our group was moving faster and faster trying to fit in a few more stops. As the youngest one in our pack, I was shifting my mask from eye to eye, straining to see in the darkness, and struggling to keep up. No doubt it added to my comic appearance to have the short Frankenstein yelling, “Come on, guys, wait up!” Then disaster.

Leaping down from a curb, the monster stumbled. For a moment, an undead foot shot forward to arrest his fall, but it was too late. His great bulk was off-balance and could not be righted. All his horrifying energy; all his massive weight; the collected parts of corpses, meticulously stitched by the demented doctor, and shocked to life by a bolt from the heavens was lurching. With a blood curdling, tormented roar, he went down.

I tore the knee of my green satin pants. Tore my own knee too. The mask flew off, utterly exposing for once and for all my true identity. My candy went all over the street. I cried. My brother and sister helped me to my feet and took me home for some bandaids. They picked up my candy for me. I still went to the party. But now I was no longer a ruler of the preternatural world. I was just a kid in torn pants with watery eyes.

Now that was a great Halloween.

Hope yours goes well. Don’t call tonight, please. We’ll be oohing and ahhing over three foot tall Frankensteins. And it’s hard to hold the phone to my ear when I’m wearing my pirate hat.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Kim

    The little ones are to cute for Halloween ! We had one mad scientist and he knew about the reassortant ! Trick or treat !

    October 31, 2009 at 8:12 pm |
  2. Norva

    Tom, can you please write a letter to the President and ask him why is he turning a blind eye to the tens of thousands of homeowners who are being forced out of their homes by the greedy financial institutions who refuse to write down the principal balance of the homeowners thus making the home affordable to the current owner, but is willing to take the write off in a short sale and force the current owner out of their home. This is a crime against the American taxpayers, and should not be allowed to continue... Where is the oversight and accountability? Where is the compliance with the provisions of the TARP funds/ were there any provisions under which they received their bail-out money?

    October 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  3. Floridian

    BOO! It's Halloween and it's 88 and sunny. Not as creepy as I hoped.

    October 31, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  4. Lori

    Happy Halloween.

    October 31, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  5. Michelle

    I wish my kids could trick or treat at white house would be great fun

    October 31, 2009 at 9:23 am |