Tis the season for skeletons and other Halloween traditions, but did you ever wonder about the origin of the phrase “skeleton in the closet?”
The prevailing view implies that someone has skeletons in said closet if the person in question has something nefarious to hide, but historically, there’s a bit more to the story.
In England, until the early 1800s, physicians were not allowed to collect and dissect bodies other than those of executed criminals. Even after an Act of Parliament was passed to allow other bodies to be used for research, doctors hid the bodies (presumably in closets or cabinets) from the squeamish eyes of the public. The bodies might still have had a great deal to reveal medically and might have been kept until all that remained was the skeleton.
Hiding a skeleton might have cast a bad light (from a legal as well as a squeamish perspective) on the keeper of same, but as time went by, humorous and/or serious references to deeds or activities not related in any way to skeletons, arose.
But skeletons don’t always get a bad rap. They have been included in Halloween celebrations all over the world for thousands of years for the purpose of warding off evil spirits.
How many skeletons do you have in your closets?
Stay safe and have a Happy Halloween!
*Thanks to Toni L.P. Kelner (Leigh Perry) for many hours of fun with her Family Skeleton series. “The Skeleton Haunts a House” is the book appearing in two of the photos.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
Clowns creep me out. They always have. Not the rodeo clowns with fun painted faces and red ball noses, but the clowns with masks and fixed artificial smiles, as well as the clowns that paint faces that are intended to scare or horrify. That’s probably a subjective statement, because what may be scary to me might make you laugh or the other way around. I always thought that clowns were meant to be cheerful or goofy, but that has not been the case in certain parts of the country in the last couple of months. When the cops have to get involved, definitely not laughable.
Now, most likely as an unfortunate reaction to recent horror movies, clowns are being used for nefarious reasons. Since the end of August, people dressed up as clowns have been reported luring children into the woods with the promise of money, heard banging on doors, and standing on the road in the dark, looking creepy to passersby. The police are taking the threats/reports seriously, and actively follow up on the leads.
Some schools have banned the use of masks and even face paint for this year’s Halloween celebrations, and many have banned clown costumes altogether.
Target and Wal-Mart have put away the clown costumes and/or masks for this year in reaction to the rise of menacing clown sightings. Their reasoning? Halloween is supposed to be fun, not dangerous, and neither company wants to fuel the actions of some misguided individuals. Other sources for costumes are selling out the clown outfits, however.
The clown craziness continues to make news as people posing as clowns take to social media, with tweets, hashtags, and Facebook pages that make threats, cause school lockdowns, and otherwise create havoc. Parents and school officials alike are perplexed as to the motivation behind the social media attacks, but are taking action to avoid any possible actual harm. Several arrests were made after people reported sightings or crimes involving a clown and they turned out to be hoaxes.
Law enforcement continues to investigate each new sighting, because as one officer said, “This is neither funny, nor cute.” Sadly, one teenager lost his life in a stabbing as a result of a clown related incident.
Stay safe this Halloween and be aware of your surroundings. As always, don’t send the children out alone, even in supposedly safe neighborhoods. A trusted adult should be in sight at all times.
Our town has a ‘no mask’ policy for the younger skeletons and princesses. That’s a great idea, because the little ones are less likely to trip and fall if they can actually see where they’re stepping.
Every year, our community center holds a Halloween party after school for kids who don’t walk the neighborhood. A couple of police officers stop by to help out and show the crowd that cops are the good guys. Some local churches now host gatherings for the families in their congregations. Children hear the hype on TV, see the candy in the store, and want to join in, so supervised parties can be fun in some areas that aren’t really right for trick-or-treating.
Best tip? Make sure the kids look both ways before crossing the street to get to the ‘best candy’ house on the other side. Getting hit by a car tops the list as the most dangerous thing that happens to children on Halloween.
*No clown photos included, on purpose.
Worried about your personal safety on Halloween? Afraid to leave your house unguarded, because of potential break-ins while you’re at the party across town? Think crime spikes on Halloween?
Seriously? That may depend on where you live, what day of the week Halloween occurs and whether or not it’s cold that night. Apparently, criminals don’t like to go out on cold and rainy nights any more than we do.
A Columbus, Ohio, TV program – Crime Tracker10 – looked into safety on Halloween in 2013, wondering if there were more break-ins while people were out trick-or-treating. And they found nothing remarkable at all, just some underage drinking, and occasional theft. They had to look back at statistics from several years ago to find anything as serious as disorderly conduct on the books. They did find that the area police departments traditionally put on extra patrol officers that night. A visible cop presence may be enough to keep the unfriendlies at home for the night.
Boston area residents don’t seem to have the same experience. The numbers on this chart published by the Boston Globe shows violent crime rates in the city during a four-year period. “The evening violent crime count on October 31 is about 50 percent higher than on any other date during the year, and twice the daily average.” Pretty grim. I would stay home or drive my kids to a party, walk them to the door, and not do any neighborhood trick-or-treating.
A website devoted to information about forensics colleges found that certain areas of the country focus on prevention of specific Halloween crimes:
Halloween is celebrated all over the world, and in 2013, a reporter in the UK looked into Halloween crime in the USA. He found some pretty nasty cases, but I’ll only chat about two. You can read about the rest by clicking on the link.
1) A nine-year-old girl dressed in a black costume, complete with black hat and white tassel, was accidentally shot by a relative who thought she was a skunk. She was outside her house in Pennsylvania when he fired a shotgun, hitting her in the shoulder, arm, back and neck.
I don’t know about you, but all the nine-year-olds I ever met were at least four times the size of the biggest skunk I’ve ever seen. The report did not mention whether alcohol was involved.
2) When people in Delaware saw a body hanging from a tree in 2005, they assumed it was a Halloween decoration. Nope. By the time anyone realized that it was actually a dead woman, she had been there for three hours.
I doubt that I will be able to pass an outdoor Halloween display again, without checking to see that the scarecrows really are made of straw.
Stay safe everyone and have a Happy Halloween!