This story refers to Native Americans, but I’ve used terminology that would have been appropriate for the time period the story takes place to make it sound more authentic.This is not a political statement and I hope no one is offended.
I lived in Keystone, South Dakota until I volunteered to join the army at the start of World War II.I’d married my high school sweetheart just before Pearl Harbor was bombed, and even though I hated to leave my wife, I felt compelled to defend the country.Since she couldn’t afford a place on her own, she decided to move back in with her parents until I returned from the war.
After Basic Training, I was among the troops sent to fight in North Africa, and when that campaign ended, we were sent to England to prepare for the D-Day invasion.After a rough landing on the beach and losing many of those who went ashore with me, I fought my way through Europe.When the war ended, I was surprised that I wasn’t completely jaded and emotionally destroyed by what I’d seen and done.In fact, it was a good thing that I didn’t get to return to the U.S. until several months after the war ended, because it gave me time to get my head straight before returning home to my wife. I didn’t get my discharge until April, 1946, and now that I was a civilian again, I couldn’t wait to get back home to my bride.
I loved Loretta more now than the day I married her.Part of the reason for that is because she wrote to me the entire time I was overseas and I can’t adequately describe how important her letters were to me.It was almost as if I was getting a brief break from the war as I read them.
When I finally returned home, Loretta and I moved into my old bedroom at my parent’s house and I didn’t leave her side for the first few weeks.Although we both enjoyed being together, she eventually pointed out a harsh reality.
“Hank, you’re going to have to get a job soon, because we can’t keep livin’ here with your folks.We need to get our own place.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’ll start lookin’ for work.The problem is, there aren’t many opportunities in Keystone, so we may have to move away from here in order for me to find a job.”
“That’s ok, as long as it’s not too far away.I want to be able to return and visit our parents once in a while.”
I eventually got a construction job in Rapid City, which was a half-hour drive from my parents’ house, so I commuted back and forth for the next couple of years.The company I was working for was developing a housing subdivision to accommodate the GIs who’d already returned home and those who were just getting back.Most of them had gotten married and were starting to raise a family as they enjoyed the post war economic boom.
This also created a baby boom, and Loretta and I were a part of that as well, because we had three sons since I’d returned home after the war.Bobby and Danny, our fraternal twins, were born in February, 1947, and they made a crowded living situation even worse.When Jimmy was born in May 1948, the bad living situation became unbearable.
Fortunately, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly referred to as the G.I. Bill, provided many benefits for returning World War II veterans.Due to the G.I. Bill, I was able to buy one of the homes we’d been building in Rapid City, because I was eligible to take out a VA (Veteran Affairs) mortgage.I’d also saved up enough money from my job to furnish the house, so we moved in during the first week of July, 1948.It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Fourth!
By the late 1950s, the construction boom had started to die out and the company I’d been working for began to reduce the number of employees on its payroll.After talking it over with Loretta, I decided to look for another job before I got the axe.I applied for a civilian position at the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base, and due to my military service and Honorable Discharge, I got the job.Our future was now secure.
The 1950s was a great time to have children or to be a child.It was good for the parents because there were so many other young couples we could relate to and discuss situations with as they arose.It was great for the kids because they had plenty of others in the neighborhood to play with.
Due to the vast number of children suddenly part of the population, that group quickly became an economic phenomenon as well.The country was prosperous, the middle class was exploding, and new schools were being built to accommodate the burgeoning school age population.Companies also began taking note of this and targeted the baby boomers with all sorts of products and services.There were cereals with prizes inside the packages, clothing trends that were different from those of previous generations, and there was an influx of new toys.There were also plenty of TV programs designed to cater to the younger age group.In fact, the television quickly became a built-in babysitter for most families.
The programming included ‘family values’ shows such as Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, and Ozzie & Harriet.There were also plenty of educational programs, such as DingDongSchool, Romper Room, and You Are There, as well as numerous westerns and adventure programs.Those included The Roy Rogers Show, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Broken Arrow, The Rifleman, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Zorro.
There were a number of cartoons as well, such as Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, and Popeye. There were other programs geared toward the children and these shows included Captain Kangaroo, Andy’s Gang starring Andy Devine, The Howdy Doody Show, The Mickey Mouse Club, and The Wonderful World of Disney.In fact, it was the latter program that introduced our children to Davy Crockett and the coonskin cap.
Our boys, and their friends, were mostly into the westerns and played Cowboys and Indians nearly every day.They each had a cowboy hat, a pair of chaps, and cowboy boots, and they also had six-guns with holsters, rubber Bowie knives, and either a Rifleman rifle or Davy Crockett’s ‘Old Betsy’.
They also had a feathered Indian headdress, a bow with rubber-tipped arrows, and a tomahawk with a rubber blade.Nearly all of their friends had the same items as well, so they could change which side they were on when they played Cowboys and Indians.That’s because none of the kids wanted to be Indians all of the time and always be on the losing side. And yes, during their fake battles the Indians always lost.
In fact, the boys and their friends were so into this that they decided to dress up as cowboys and Indians when they went trick-or-treating on Halloween.The previous year my sons were Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and the year before that they were the cartoon characters Tweety, Popeye, and Yosemite Sam.
I agreed to take two of their friends with us, because their dad had been killed while riding his motorcycle a year and a half earlier.As it happened, an older couple was driving quite slowly along a two-lane highway when another car came up on them very quickly.The driver of the second car decided to pass the slower vehicle, but he didn’t notice the motorcycle coming in the other direction.When he pulled into the other lane, their dad didn’t have time to react or anywhere to go.
Unfortunately, he crashed into the front of the vehicle and was catapulted into the air, and since he wasn’t wearing a helmet, he died from traumatic head and brain injuries. Since our families were neighbors and our sons were friends, I did my best to fill the void and included them in our activities whenever possible.
As we headed out, my youngest son was dressed up as Rusty from the Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.On the show, Rusty’s parents had been killed in an Indian raid, so he and his dog, Rin Tin Tin, were adopted by the soldiers of Fort Apache, Arizona.Rusty was always wearing a soldier’s uniform geared to his smaller size, so my son now appeared as if he was a soldier from the old west.
One of the twins was dressed as The Rifleman, complete with the special lever-action rifle with the oversized lever.The other twin was dressed up as Cochise, the Chiricahau Apache leader from Broken Arrow.The older of their two friends, Davy, was dressed as the Lone Ranger, and his younger brother, Dicky, was dressed as his trusty companion, Tonto.
I went out with the boys as we walked around the streets of our development and went from house to house knocking on doors.I saw many of the other fathers doing the same thing with their sons and daughters, and those kids were dressed in a variety of different costumes.It had become the father’s duty to take their children trick-or-treating, since the mothers preferred to stay at home and hand out the treats.Even though it was a duty, I think we all enjoyed doing it.
After stopping at a couple of houses, I heard one of the twins scream out.“Did you see that guy?” Danny asked no one in particular while pointing across the street at the open area between two houses.“It was a grown-up dressed like an Injun and he looked real!”
“Yeah, I saw him too,” Dicky confirmed, but none of the rest of us saw this person.
“Was he trick-or-treating with his kids?” I asked.
“Nah, it was just him and he looked mad.He had long black hair and black and red war paint on his face and chest, cuz he wasn’t wearin’ a shirt.It looked like he was wearing buckskin britches too, and when he saw me lookin’ at him, he raised his tomahawk and I thought he was gonna attack us.”
“Yeah, he was really scary lookin’,” Dicky added.“He’s not there now, but maybe we’ll see him again if we keep lookin’ around.”
“Yes, maybe we will,” I agreed.
As we were moving down the street, we noticed another man opening his door to welcome another group of trick-or-treaters, but then he ran past them and started shouting as he reached his driveway.
“Did anyone see who did this?Did anyone see who used a knife to slash the tires my car?”
No one admitted that he’d seen anything and the guy looked really pissed.I couldn’t blame him, though, because it was an awful thing to do to the guy’s car.We continued on and didn’t stop at his house, and before long my youngest son started tugging at my pant leg, so I stopped to see what he wanted.
“I saw the Injun that Danny told us about, but he was wearin’ a headdress with lots of feathers in it,” Jimmy told us.
“No, he wasn’t.He just had long hair,” Danny countered.
“He did so!He was wearin’ a war bonnet with lots of feathers in it, and he was wearin’ a shirt too!” Jimmy insisted defiantly.
“Was he with his kids?” I asked to interrupt their verbal battle.
“Nah, he was by himself and he was sneakin’ around like he didn’t want anybody to see him.”
“Did he have on war paint and was he carryin’ any weapons?” asked Bobby.
“Yeah, there was war paint on his face and he was carryin’ a bow.”
“Then it obviously wasn’t the same Indian,” I stated so they didn’t start arguing again.Even though I’d just said this, I couldn’t imagine why two men would be running around dressed that way if they weren’t with their children.
We hadn’t gone much farther when we began hearing a drum beat and rhythmic chanting.
“I bet it’s those guys that was dressed up like Injuns,” stated Bobby.“I bet they’re tryin’ to scare us kids.”
“It’s possible,” I responded, although I thought it was a little cruel for them to continue doing this.I could see teenagers pulling this stunt, but not adults.
When the drumbeat and chanting ended, we heard whooping sounds like they were getting ready for something big.
“That’s the sound the Injuns make when they’re getting’ ready to go into battle,” Davy informed us.
“Yeah, It’s kinda like the injun war cry, but they only make that when they’re gonna attack,” Danny announced.“Do you think they’re gettin’ ready to attack us?”
“I doubt it, although I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”
When we arrived at the next house, I began to suspect this was some sort of a ruse to either entertain or scare the kids out trick-or-treating because there was a hatchet embedded in the front door.I knocked on it and an older gentleman opened the door to greet us.
“Trick-or-treat,” the boys all screamed.
“Nice touch,” I added, while pointing at the hatchet.
The man’s head jerked up to see what I was referring to, and after looking at it closely, he spoke.“It’s my hatchet alright, but I didn’t put it there.I’m not even sure how anybody got his hands on it, but now I’m going to have to repair the damage.”
“I’m sorry.I thought you put it there as a Halloween decoration.”
“No, and I can’t imagine when they did it either, because I’ve been inside the entire time and didn’t hear a thing.Sticking the hatchet in the door must have taken a great deal of force, and I never heard when it happen.It couldn’t have been there for very long, though, because none of the others that stopped by pointed it out to me.”
He then gave each of the boys some candy and we were just about ready to leave when the drum beat and the chanting began again.
“How long has that been going on?” the man asked.
“It’s been happening off and on for the past fifteen or twenty minutes,” I replied.
“And we heard a war cry too,” added Dicky.
“And we saw two different guys dressed up like Injuns,” said Jimmy.
“What did they look like?” the man inquired.
The boys explained what they’d seen, and I told him about the guy with the slashed tires on his car.The man’s face seemed to drain of all color and went deathly pale.
“I think I know what’s going on and it’s not good,” he stated.
“Why?What do you mean?” I demanded.
“Let me introduce myself first.I’m Ivan Williams, the director of the Rapid City Historical Society.After I moved here from the other side of Rapid City, I did some research on this area and discovered some shocking information.In the 1870’s, before the Sioux were forced onto the reservations, the tribes that lived on this land saw the futility in trying to drive off the settlers and tried to live peacefully with them instead.
“The tribe would even trade buffalo hides for the things they either needed or wanted, but all of that was about to change.Late one night while they were sleeping, they were attacked by a group of white settlers.The settlers killed all of the braves, squaws, and children during the attack, and the reason they did it was because they wanted the land for themselves.Before the chief died, however, it was claimed that he placed a curse on any whites living on this land from that day forward and swore they would never be permitted to live here in peace.”
“Then why is this just happening now?” I wondered.“This subdivision has been here for a few years already, so why now?”
“I have no idea, but something must have provoked it.”
“Do you think it’s because of the way the boys are dressed tonight?”
“No, I don’t think that would do it, but until this housing development was built here, this land was undeveloped and no one had been living on it since that happened.”
“We’ve been playing cowboys and Injuns with our friends every day after school, so do you think that coulda made them mad?” Bobby asked, causing the man to think about what he’d just been told.
“And the Injuns always lose and get killed,” Danny added before the man had a chance to respond.
“Yes, I imagine that might have been enough to provoke the spirits.They might have seen it as a repeat of what happened to them, and seeing how the kids are dressed up like this now, it might have made the spirits feel as if it is going to happen again.”
“Do you think we’re in danger?”
“I certainly hope not,” the man replied.“I suspect most of the trick-or-treaters will be heading home soon, because it’s nearly 9:00 and they have school tomorrow. Their parents should be putting an end to the trick-or-treating shortly, and once there’s no one out on the streets, hopefully things will quiet down again.”
“Yes, I suppose we should be returning home as well, since the boys have more than enough candy already.”
Before I left, I introduce myself and told him where we lived, and then we took Davy and Dicky home first.Their mother thanked me for taking her sons with us tonight, and then the boys began telling her about everything that we’d seen and done over the course of the evening.
After they went inside we continued on, and the drum beat and chanting stopped just as we reached the house.The neighborhood seemed eerily quiet now and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end just as we were walking through the front door.Once we were inside, I urged the boys to take off their costumes, wash up, and put on their pajamas so they could hop into bed.
When my wife and I went to say goodnight to them a couple of minutes later and made the boys promise that they’d only have two pieces of candy before dinner tomorrow and two more after they ate.It was our attempt to make sure they didn’t get sick from eating their entire haul all at once.As soon as they agreed, we bid them pleasant dreams, turned off the light, and closed their bedroom door.
When we were leaving the house the next morning, we immediately noticed a bunch of different problems as we were getting ready to go to work and school.The first thing I noticed was that more cars had their tires slashed, including mine, and a handful of the houses had arrows sticking out of the siding.There was also an old-fashioned wooden spear with feathers tied around the top of the shaft that was sticking out of the ground in my front yard.Surprisingly, I didn’t see any broken windows or discover any dead bodies, so I went to speak with Mr. Williams, since I couldn’t go to work with flat tires on my car.
“Do you think someone else found out the information that you told us about last night?If so, could they be trying to scare us?”
“No, because I observed what was happening after the rest of you went home.After we talked, I turned off all of the lights in my house, went upstairs, and looked out one of the windows.Once the streets were empty of everyone else, I began seeing the ghosts of those killed by the settlers as they roamed the streets and started attacking some of the houses.”
“So, you saw them do it?”
“Yes!Some of them were no more than puffs of smoke or patches of fog, while there were others that I could make out a definite body shape.They were primarily translucent, but I could make out what they looked like when the moonlight shone on them and highlighted their features.Others were even more substantial, like the two your sons and their friends told me about, and I suspect those were the spirits of the chief, the shaman, along with a few other more powerful members of the tribe.”
“How do you account for the differences in how they appeared?”
“The lesser developed forms probably belonged to the women and children, but during the intervening years it seems the warriors have been working on how they can control their appearance.Some have obviously had more success at it than others, and it’s apparent that only a few of them have progressed to the level of the two figures the boys saw.I suspect they were the fiercer warriors and it was their spirits that did the majority of the damage.”
“Then why didn’t they break any windows or doors or do more damage?”
“Possibly it was just a warning this time and they were merely hoping to scare us off this land.”
“So do you think they’ll do it again and do even more damage next time?”
“It’s possible.They might be waiting until more of them have developed their skills to the point where they can actually do more damage.”
“It’s obvious that some of them must have been able to do those things, because there are a number of slashed car tires and arrows sticking out of some of the houses.There’s even a wooden spear sticking out of the ground in my front yard, not to mention the hatchet that was in your front door.”
“Yes, I believe the ghost warriors with more substantial forms were able to do those things, but it must’ve drained their energy so they weren’t able to do more damage.It’s possible that manipulating solid objects used up all of their strength this time and they’re trying to find a way to do these things without losing the ability to continue. I guess we should consider ourselves fortunate that they weren’t able to start a fire and there wasn’t anywhere they could get it from or this might have proved deadly.”
“Damn, that’s a terrifying thought?”
“Don’t worry, because I’m going to do whatever I can to make certain this doesn’t happen again!I’ll go to the local reservation to speak with the shaman and I’ll tell him about all of the things that happened last night.Once he understands the situation, I’ll ask him to perform a ritual to put the spirits of his ancestors to rest.”
“Do you think he’ll do it?”
“Yes!The tribe has had a fairly good relationship with the local community in recent years and I doubt they’ll want to jeopardize it.I’m sure he’ll be agreeable to doing what I ask.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
I then returned home and called into work.After I explained what had happened to my car, I told the secretary I’d be in as soon as I was able to have a flatbed come to my house and take my car in for new tires.She made a comment about it being terrible that vandals had been out doing those things on Halloween, and then she agreed to pass along my message.
Needless to say, the business I had my car taken to was pretty busy, because they were already working on the other cars that had been brought in from our neighborhood.I waited my turn and was able to make it into work after lunch, and I thanked my boss for being so understanding.
There wasn’t a repeat of the incident over the next few months, so whatever Mr. Williams got the shaman to do must have worked – at least I hope so.Even though nothing else of that nature has occurred since Halloween, my heart still skips a beat whenever I hear the members of one of the tribes performing a ceremony at one of the local schools.The hair on my arms and the back of my neck also stands on end whenever I hear the war cries on a television program or if I take the boys to see a movie with Indians in it.I even go outside to check on the boys whenever I hear them whooping it up while playing, because I’m afraid their antics might provoke the spirits again.
Needless to say, when the following Halloween rolled around, we didn’t let any of our kids dress up as cowboys and Indians. Instead, we had them choose other costumes, because none of us were willing to take the chance that this might happen again.