Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 20, 2013

Lifelines: More than ghost stories on Halloween

Poet bard

---- — One night late at Stone Circle a young woman told a story about her grandfather’s funeral, or rather the dinner at her grandparents’ house after the funeral. The place was in the country not far from a small town. Family and guests were gathered in the living room eating.

Someone noticed a medium-sized buck walk out of the woods. Everyone started watching. For some reason people never tire of watching deer. Normal conversation stopped.

The buck crossed the field, walked through the yard right up to the picture window. The animal put his face to the glass, and looked in at everybody for a long time. Then the buck turned and walked back across the yard and field into the woods.

The young woman who told the story believed it was her grandfather saying goodbye. A lot of her family members did too. That’s my ghost story for the upcoming Halloween.

“Devil’s Night” is a tale I used to hear my dad tell when I was growing up. I embellished the ending a little bit. Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that helps you see the truth.”

The last poem is one of my favorite Halloween love stories. It came out of the Elk Rapids Elders Project. Audrey Kaiser told it to two Elk Rapids High School girls, but I wrote the poem.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 29 years. He is also the creator of Stone Circle, a triple ring of boulders featuring poetry, storytelling and music on his property north of Elk Rapids. Learn more at


Devil’s Night

A deep ravine,

an old glacial scar,

cut through the east side of town.

It was full of trash

and discarded toys

that never made it to the village dump.

At the bottom

a poor little creek gurgled

through everybody’s stray garbage.

All the decent, upstanding trout

had moved out.


The old man who owned the pool hall

presided at the edge

of this crevice.

He constantly smoked big cigars,

and didn’t seem to be interested

in anything except poker.

He hardly ever stepped outside

during the day.

If he did

he’d just scowl at the sunshine.

His skin was pale as a corpse

and tinted with tobacco smoke.


Every Halloween

the big kids pushed his outhouse

over into the ravine.

It was a local teenage tradition.


One early October

while knocking pool balls around,

the teens overheard this scary old man

growl to his coven of poker buddies

that his outhouse problem

wouldn’t happen again.

Naturally they took it as a challenge.

Devils Night

they crept up quiet as demons

and quickly slammed against his toilet

pushing it over the edge

with supernatural strength.

As the outhouse rolled out of sight

into the dark abyss,

a terrible howling SCREAM


from the tumbling two-holer.

The kids ran off

scattering like scared rabbits.


Next morning

when the school bus

full of reformed devils

passed by,

the outhouse was back in place

as if no one had ever touched it.


The kids never found out

who was in there.

It could have been the pool hall owner,

some strange Halloween being,

or the devil himself

taking a rest stop.


Just to be safe,

the kids stayed away

from the pool hall after that,

and the owner’s outhouse too.

— Audrey Swain Kaiser (84)



I met my husband while running away

from the police.

It was Halloween,

and someone was shooting streetlights


in Ellsworth.


The police were catching anybody

running around.

I don’t know how many kids

were locked up.


Irene, and I and two girlfriends

hadn’t done anything wrong,

but have fun.


On the outskirts of town

I crawled under a barbed wire fence,

caught my britches

and ripped a big hole in the rear end.

I tied my jacket around my waist,

and we ran across this cow pasture.


A car drove up

with a bunch of guys.

“You girls want a ride?”

We sure did.


They were two Kaiser brothers

and a friend.

All four of us girls piled into the car

and went riding around.

One of the brothers

would become my husband.


William graduated

from the old Elk Rapids High School

they tore down.

He was five years older than me,

and had been in the Army

stationed in Germany.

World War II was just over.