There was so much to do over the Halloween weekend. I’ve always loved Halloween. For one thing, it was my dad’s birthday and I used to take off the day to make a stab at baking a cake for him. Nowadays, my dad is gone and I don’t “do” costumes so much anymore but I still like to take off Halloween and enjoy it. When I lived down near Waxahachie, I used to go to the Boys Scout’s haunted house every year. Reindeer Manor is not particularly scary to an adult, but it’s cute. Whoever played the mad scientist or Chief Bad Guy when I went always had the air of a sixth-grade science teacher. Not particularly frightening but usually very entertaining and, to me, sort of funny while also feeling safe and somehow familiar. It would probably, however, be scarier the smaller you get. There are fire-breathing dragons on the gate entrance outside. (Claustrophobics beware, it did have a dropping ceiling in one room).
We may not have anything like Reindeer Manor here, but McKinney is a perfect place to enjoy Halloween and I don’t even have to really leave the square. If anything, there was more than any one person can do leisurely. My first stop was Howl-a-ween, a dog costume contest sponsored by Canine Cookie Company and held at the final Summer Farmer’s Market. (Winter Farmer’s Market starts November 19th.)
I knew it was going to be a great weekend as I walked up to Farmer’s Market and heard the music. According to the Market’s website, the band is called Flashpoint but were previously Lone Star Leprechauns. They are very good and they have been playing for awhile, practically growing up before our eyes on YouTube.
I took a lot of pictures at the Howl-a-ween event and put them up on the blog’s Facebook page, but here are a few of my favorites. There were only about a half a dozen dogs entered this year, but one of the owners of Canine Cookie Company said that people were unusually late to the market too, probably because of cool temps. This was the event’s fourth year and I’d love to see it grow.
This Longhorn Bulldog took cutest costume. I think. There were a lot of awards and I got distracted watching the dogs during the awards ceremony. He most definitely won an award.
The first award announced was for the Chihuahua in the stegosaurus outfit. Everyone thought he was a lizard at first. Understandable, I think, given his size. He may have won Best Costume, I’m not sure. I took pictures that showed his costume better but this serendipitous shot shows his face and the most amazing expression as he takes in the huge bumble bee.
The goat costumes probably would have taken the day but it turns out that they actually are goats and don’t qualify for the contest (the prerequisite being that you have to actually be a dog). These two goats are Collin and McKinney and play an active role in Chestnut Square’s Living History Days.
That night was Ghost Walk. With Ghost Walk, they have storytellers at each location and you can choose which ones to go to and in which order. The stories are supposed to start on the hour, quarter hour, half hour and three-quarter hour (in other words, every fifteen minutes). We headed down to the square right at six and the groups that gathered at the beginning of the evening were much smaller than they would be later. Our first stop was at the McKinney Performing Arts Center where they told us the story of a lady in white that haunts the courthouse, thought to be a young woman who committed suicide by hanging nearby (presumably a love affair gone wrong).
All the storytellers are in character, some more than others, and our storyteller at the Collin County Prison was a jailer at the prison back in the 1920’s. He told of famous men who had been held there, including Ray Hamilton of the infamous Barrow Gang (Bonnie & Clyde) and Charles “Tex” Watson of the Manson family. While we couldn’t enter the building (it’s a CPA office now), we were able to enter the back area outside of the building where he explained how they had setup impromptu gallows from the second floor windows. Some people have reported seeing the shadow of a hanging man in this courtyard and, as recently as when it was being converted into a restaurant about ten years ago, the work crew scheduled to work overnight walked from the job due to the paranormal activity. In this case, both the building history and the ghost story are intriguing. The iron bars that prevent unauthorized entry to this space are actually the prison bars from the old visiting area.
At 7:00, we had tickets for the trolley tour of Pecan Grove Cemetery so we mosied over to Chestnut Square. The trolley is so pretty. We can’t tell if it is new or just expertly redone but it is comfortable and beautiful. The ride to the cemetery was short and the route and presentation had changed considerably from their dry run. The focus is heavy on history, not just of the people but of the times that they lived and died in. The docent did an excellent job and was actually related to one of the survivors from a building collapse downtown in McKinney’s early history. Guy Giersch, our Historic Preservation Officer, used a powerful spotlight to point out the tombstones being mentioned. While educational and entertaining, it really wasn’t too spooky. Though the cemetery was beautiful under the limited light of a crescent moon, I think that this would also have been fun during the day when it is easier to see all of the tombstones.
The lines for the Dulaney House and Cottage seemed long when we got back and we were hoping to wind down by checking on the Ghost Walk spots along Louisiana Street, possibly ending up at Churchill’s for a drink. As we walked back from Chestnut Square, the McKinney soundstage was set up in the greens and the McKinney Community Band was playing big band sound. Just recently, there was an excellent article in The Star Local News about the band, which is an amalgam of musical community members and continues to grow. The band was great and it seemed very romantic to stand and listen to them as people buzzed by, coming and going between Chestnut Square and downtown.
The Pantry Restaurant was one of my favorite stops along the Ghost Walk. We went in, sat down and enjoyed a cup of coffee while two of the employees explained the unexplained behavior there at the restaurant. Their’s is one of the most interesting stories, I think, because they have a third floor to the building that no one will enter due to suspected paranormal activity.
The Morning Star Treasure building next door also had an excellent storyteller and is a definite “must stop”. If you know the building, you know that the second floor is more like a wrap-around balcony. Here, the story teller stands on the second floor landing at the back of the building where she can be heard by a fairly large crowd below. She is a natural storyteller and she’s got a great story. She’s had several psychics in the store to find out about her spirits and has had numerous personal experiences. People can’t help but shop so I recommend putting this stop earlier in the evening so that you can get space up closer to the speaker.
The storyteller at Churchill’s British Pub was continually thronged and, though we did manage to stop by for a brew, we missed hearing the story there, opting to stop at Landon and come back. A tip for next year, I think that these storytellers are continuously surrounded by people. Either put them early (as in first) on your stops or hang with them until you can work your way up to hear their story.
I’ve thought a lot about the story at Landon Winery since Ghost Walk. I never thought about it before but before there was plumbing, the city businesses used wells. If you are like me, you might be picturing a cylindrical well, a deep and narrow shaft – a separate one for each business. Apparently not. Landon is the ony business on the square that has not capped their well and you can look down through a grate to see the water below. In Landon’s story, one of a pair of argumentative brothers mysteriously disappeared. Could he have gone down the well? Could there currently be a skeleton laying in the murky water beneath the square? I asked if they had looked down the well, you know, with equipment, and they said it wasn’t really that easy – that there are something like 15 wells down there – so I guess that they are all connected in some way. (If anyone knows a link to somewhere that explains how this kind of system worked, please let me know). Personally, I would love to see someone with one of those submersible robotic cameras check it out. If nothing else, it would be nice to know that there isn’t a skeleton down there needing burial.
We never made it back to Churchill’s that night. I guess we’ll have to get tickets again next year. 🙂 We swang by Main Street Magic on our way home but caught him already towards the end of his story. He invited the brave back to witness something akin to a séance (sorry, that’s not the lingo he used but I can’t remember what he said exactly). Main Street Magic was recently host to Eugene Burger, who spoke about Spirit Theatre which was tremendously popular (venturing on mainstream) until relatively recently. I know, its heyday was in the 19th century but have you recently watched The Ghost & Mr. Chicken with Don Knott? I know, it’s a comedy and a nutty one at that but the banker’s wife is the leader of a ladies’ spiritualism group and the acceptance then of that plot device shows how recently the interest was widely acceptable.
I did make it to Scare on the Square but I didn’t manage to come back with a single picture. Well, I did take one of my Raspberry Lemon Drop from Churchill’s. Churchill’s patio, by the way, was the perfect spot for people watching. All the children scooted by our table as they stopped for a piece of candy at Kick Up Your Heels. Star Local News put out a great write-up on the event in their paper Tuesday and said the Rick’s Chophouse gave out 8,000 pieces of candy.
There were so many children. We usually have a good number of trick-or-treaters in the Historic District. I think the fact that Scare on the Square fell on the actual day of Halloween led to a big increase in the number of children trick-or-treating the neighboring residential areas. Church Street, one of the most accessible from the square, saw a steady stream beginning as soon as Scare on the Square ended.
It was still pretty light as we were walking back home and I snagged these photos. There were just a few trick-or-treaters then.
Once we got back home and it got dark, I overheard a neighbor who’d been down to see Church Street in the dark say that it was just wall-to-wall. Judging by my street, I can only imagine. I thought it was over several times, even went to a neighbor’s porch at one point and was trying to get over to another neighbor’s, and then another wave of children would come. I gave out all but a few pieces of my candy and I had probably at least eight bags of different kinds.
I think, depending on when Scare on the Square falls in future years, this is going to be the pattern. Whenever Scare on the Square falls on the actual day of Halloween, I think we in the Historic District will see a bumper crop of miniature spidermen and princesses holding up plastic pumpkins and smiling.
While several houses in the Historic District get all gussied up for Halloween, no one shows the spirit like one house on College Street. I wholly intended to get a shot of it with its lights on this year but I missed my opportunity. I had taken a picture last year as they were setting up. Believe it or not, the shot below is not of the finished scenery – they were still putting it together.
I don’t know about doing all that decorating. Honestly, it’s a big deal just to get me to weed. But I think I could get into this. Maybe a costume. I could do a costume. I remember liking costumes.
Until next time,