Bluffton Packet

Jean Tanner: Back in the day, Bluffton teachers used to be mighty scary at Halloween

Cahill's Market in October 2007 with its Halloween display of pumpkins.
Cahill's Market in October 2007 with its Halloween display of pumpkins. Submitted photo

How many "Blufftonians" drawing Social Security checks and on Medicare can remember back to the Halloween Carnivals held at the original Bluffton High School and who was actually brave enough to go through Mrs. Ruth Niver's Horror House?

Raise your hands!

If you raised your hands, maybe they've quit trembling by now, because Mrs. Niver could cast quite a spell on a young mind, all dressed up in witches garb.

Back during the '40s and '50s the local PTA. sponsored an annual Halloween Carnival at the school with each classroom, featuring different decor, representing the deviltry being offered for a 10 cent entry fee.

There were long lines trailing down the hallway with youth of all ages waiting their turn to enter each room, but seems like Mrs. Niver's line was always the longest. When you entered, you were escorted to your seat in a "darkened" room where the only light seen came from behind draped white sheets on one side of the room.

Eerie music played while Mrs. Niver, decked out in her witch costume, could be seen silhouetted against the sheets with a saw in hand, fixing to perform radical surgery on a profile of what looked like a human being lying on the table.

You could hear the grating sounds of the saw as it cut through bones in the midsection of the person issuing screams of pain.

The children in the audience gasped in horror, also uttering screams of their own, then just as suddenly, there was total silence for just a split second before another wave of screams. "Ughs" and "ow-whees" were sounded as the witch groped down into the stomach area of the dummy, bringing up his intestines, then his heart and liver, and lastly, his eyeballs.

Oh, horrors! Much to the children's relief they later found out the intestines were sausages linked together, the heart and liver were beef sweetmeats from a local butcher shop and the eyeballs were large peeled grapes.


Mrs. Eugenia Pinckney, the third- and fourth-grade teacher had the "fishing pond" set up in her room and as many times you would pay 10 cents for a fishing pole, you could fish for a prize from behind the cardboard decorated wall of her aquarium tank.

Another interesting room dimly lit and with Spanish moss hanging here and there, as you entered, was a table covered in a floor length green velvet cloth with candles and incense burning on top.

In the center sat a lighted crystal ball with the gypsy Fortune Teller, Mrs. Lila Peeples, seventh-grade teacher, sitting on a stool with her colorful scarves wrapped around her black hair and draped across her shoulders, looking so much like an authentic gypsy.

Reminiscing over past Halloweens, Anne Heyward also remembers going to the carnivals when she started school in 1942. In other grade school years she remembers some high school boys would take you for a dark and bumpy ride in a wheelbarrow using the hallway behind the stage in the auditorium. There were always costume contest and of course the carved pumpkin contest, the scarier, the better.

Covering a rendering on the subject of ghost, goblins and witches, in the past, much more than now, superstitious persons believed that ghosts, or spirits of the dead, came back to "haunt" the living.

Then there were the goblins that belong in the fairy family, small imagery creatures that interfere in human affairs. It is believed the good ones perform noble deeds, while the naughty ones are full of mischief and resort to tricks.

Now, enter the witches. For some reason, witches got tagged as being a woman gaining her power from the devil, playing her havoc while flying through the air on a broom.

All of these are imagery creatures that seem to come to life each October on Halloween. The word "Halloween" means "hallowed" or "holy evening," because it comes the day before All Saints Day, a religious holiday celebrated by the churches in the 600s.

The Druids, an order of priests in ancient Gaul had an autumn festival called Samhain or "summers end," an occasion for feasting on all the kinds of foods, which had been grown during the summer.

That was then, but now, in modern times, Halloween is celebrated with pranks and parties, and with customs that are a mixture of many beliefs.

Regardless, allowing "sense and sensibility" to prevail, fun can be had by all and with October's full moon falling on the 27th, four days before the 31st, there will still be enough light to bathe the paths of all the little trick-or-treaters.

After all the Halloween parties and celebrations come to an end and before turning in for the night, remember to set your clocks back one hour because Daylight Saving time ends at 2 a.m. Nov. 1.

That's your TRICK for the night!