Halloween soon will be with us once again.
In our own way, we continue to celebrate an evening of raucous behavior in advance of the coming of All Saints Day on the morning after All Hallows Eve.
For several centuries, Halloween simply was an evening to stay home comfortably, as it was said that all sorts of ghosts, hobgoblins and other creatures of the night were out and about.
After all, no one wanted to meet a banshee before breakfast.
But over the years, we began to believe less in ghosts and more in fun. On Halloween night, it became fashionable in the English-speaking world to hold parties and other gatherings for purposes as simple as "bobbing for apples" or as debasing as overindulging in the hard cider made from those same apples.
At the same time, children began dressing in costumes and going house to house, seeking "treats" in return for not playing "tricks" on local residents. The tricks played on people thought to be deserving included "soaping" of windows with a bar of homemade cleanser or stealing one's gate.
A century ago, most houses in either city or country had a fence around their premises and a gate to enter. On the morning after Halloween, a mean-spirited or simply hapless homeowner might awaken to find the gate missing. A search typically would find the gate suspended in a nearby tree.
Halloween was something of a haphazard holiday for most of our urban past in Columbus. Few employers gave their night workers the evening off, and while schools might throw Halloween parties, school itself continued to be in session. Young people -- and Halloween revelers tended to be young -- had to find ways to celebrate in their own time and in their own way.
One way celebrants passed their time on Halloween night was to gather together at a backyard bonfire and take a look at the candy or other treats acquired over the course of the evening. As food and drink were shared, it was not uncommon to tell a few ghost stories.
In the years after World War II, it became increasingly easy to prepare oneself for Halloween. A wide variety of stores and shops carried inexpensive Halloween costumes and candy. One of the more interesting aspects of the marketing of Halloween is to watch the progress of something one might call "candy creep."
In the 1950s, one usually did not see the appearance of Halloween candy and costumes in local stores until about a week before the holiday. By the 1960s, candy and other accoutrement were out for display a full month in advance of the holiday. Today, one might observe that Halloween candy appears in local stores immediately after Labor Day in early September
Then, once Halloween is behind us, Christmas items will be on display -- also about two months in advance of the holiday.
But to return to the fireside, it might be fortuitous for us to inquire about those ghost stories. Sometimes the story told would be one of the classics. But on other occasions, one might hear of encounters with local ghosts.
Most of the best of local ghost stories in Columbus come from the older parts of town. One does not hear of too many ghosts in the subdivisions of split-level and ranch-style homes built in large numbers as the city grew in size and influence.
But in most parts of the "old city," it was not difficult to find a ghost or two -- or even more.
The few blocks along Town Street in the Town Street Historic District from Deaf School Park to Parsons Avenue were a common setting for spirits. In this small area, many of the old houses have a story to tell.
The Snowden-Gray house was for many years the home of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity -- which actually is a sorority. Now it is a bed-and-breakfast. Given the tale that ghosts are said to walk the halls, a night in the house might prove to be interesting.
The same might be said of Kelton House a few doors down the street. Fernando Cortez Kelton built the house in 1852, and it served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Fernando died after falling several stories from his downtown office. He is said to continue to make himself known to the staff of what is now a house museum.
Then there is North Market, built in 1876 on the site of the Old North Graveyard. Many bodies were moved to other cemeteries, but many were not. The first two mayors of Columbus -- Jarvis Pike and John Kerr -- were buried there. Their graves were lost and their bodies remain somewhere near North Market.
Those walking in the area at night who encounter a man dressed in a frock coat and a top hat might be well-advised to stay out of his way. He might be one mayor or another, going about his business.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.