Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Put a little bite in your jack-o'-lantern

This Halloween, carve something truly scary

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It's Halloween, a time of joy, a time when even hardened journalists like to eat their weight in miniature chocolate bars and share grisly stories in hopes innocent readers will have an unfortunate accident on their living room carpet.

And that's what Uncle Doug plans to do right after he gives you an update on how he fared this week at Carving for a Cause, the annual pumpkin-carving contest at Kildonan Place Shopping Centre, wherein local media personalities make jack-o'-lanterns in support of their favourite charities.

Uncle Doug had hoped to inform you that, once again, he had covered himself in glory and pumpkin guts, but that would be a lie. Like most Halloween horror movies, things ended badly for Uncle Doug.

Not that he wants to make excuses, but Uncle Doug did not get much sleep before the contest due to the fact his 13-year-old basset hound, Cooper, kept him up all (bad word) night by wandering around on the hardwood floors -- "Click! Clack! Click! Clack!" -- like a ravenous zombie in hopes Uncle Doug would get out of bed and make him pancakes.

Still, Uncle Doug did his best to carve a pumpkin in the likeness of his restless hound but, unfortunately, being the last media person to arrive, he ended up with an extremely wobbly pumpkin, which, just as the contest was ending, toppled over, causing Uncle Doug to frantically grab for it and, by accident, punch its little pumpkin face into smithereens. In the final seconds, Uncle Doug had to rebuild his pumpkin's mangled mug using toothpicks donated by the generous women from CTV Morning Live.

When the judges examined Uncle Doug's battered pumpkin, their first question was: "What is it?" (For all you novice carvers, that is not a good sign.)

"It's my basset hound," Uncle Doug tried to explain.

"Oh," one of the judges grunted, frowning. "It looks like a llama."

So Uncle Doug's pumpkin really sucks, but he can still win some cash for the Winnipeg Humane Society if you visit the mall's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kildonanplace) before midnight tonight and click the "vote" button under the photo of his ill-fated gourd.

As a reward for doing that, Uncle Doug will now share a horrifying Halloween story that happened to him when he was a dorky 12-year-old boy in West Vancouver. He would also like to stop referring to himself as Uncle Doug.

It was Halloween 1968 and I was best buddies with two brothers who lived in the house across the street. Even then, we realized there was something seriously odd about these kids.

For example, the older brother was in the habit of running into his bedroom every night, leaping into the air, then landing like a swan, flat on his stomach, on top of the bed. Knowing this, the younger brother decided to peel back his older brother's blankets, line the bed with weights from their barbell set, then remake the bed and wait for his brother to make a crash landing and whimper like a wounded woodland creature.

Getting back to our story, on this Halloween, the plan was to celebrate by having a sleepover at their house and staying up all night watching monster movies featuring giant spiders, which, in the special effects of my day, were typically portrayed by Volkswagen Beetles covered in shag carpeting.

So there we were, three kids jacked up on Halloween candy about an hour into watching The Mummy, when I innocently dangled one arm over the bed we were lounging on and felt something gently brush my arm. I peeked over the bed. Nothing. So I dangled my arm again and, moments later, felt something brush my hand once more.

I mentioned this to my friends. "It's just the fringe on the bottom of the bedspread, chicken!" they cackled. So I bravely peered over the edge... which is when A HUGE HAIRY HAND SHOT OUT FROM UNDER THE BED AND GRABBED MY ARM!!!

Then a blood-curdling coyote howl -- "OWOWOOOOO!" -- erupted from under the bed. I collapsed, frozen with fear, while one of my whimpering pyjama-clad buddies curled up in the fireplace and the other, scared witless, stood ramrod-straight on the bed, mutely running in place like a demented jogger.

It seems their dad, a dentist -- which accounts for my lifelong fear of having my teeth cleaned -- had hidden under the bed for well over an hour, patiently waiting for a chance to scare the living daylights out of a group of hapless kids.

I'd like to tell you more about that frightful night, but, sadly, there are two gigantic pumpkins waiting to be carved and put on our porch to delight trick-or-treaters.

This year, I'm going to turn them into something really scary. Like a llama and a dentist.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2012 A2

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