Years ago, when my adult children were little, many families from their classes planned a Halloween party at our farm.
Everyone needed to be in costumes. Parents made or purchased the costume their child wanted to wear. My boys wanted to be glow-in-the dark skeletons. That was a simple homemade costume of black sweat pants and shirts with glow in the dark paint. I went as a scarecrow, using an old patched up jacket and a straw hat.
We needed to put up decorations in the shed. Orange lights were strung from one side of the shed to the other. Spider webs with plastic spiders were stretched over windows, black lights over the neon snakes, plastic blow up hanging ghosts and little witches hung down from the ceiling. We had foam headstones that had funny names that made everyone laugh. Even a fogger was used when the spooky story was told.
Other parents and I planned the freaky feast with fun snacks that looked like gross things that would be fun to eat. Mini hot dogs with bloody barbecue sauce, licorice spiders, cookies with teeth, cherry-soaked rice for maggots, meringue ghosts, witch fingers and a witch’s brew with floating eyeballs.
The parents brought in cookies with many spiders, peeled grapes that looked like eyeballs, Jell-O intestines and candy corn cupcakes. Every family brought in a bag of candy to be added to the caldron that would be divided up at the end of the party. The creativity was amazing.
Games were planned and were not in short supply. We played musical chairs with spooky music; pin the nose on the witch; bean bag toss into plastic pumpkin pails; hula hoop challenges; and the favorite game of identifying fake body parts. Spooky sounds played in the background, and the lights were dim to set the mood for the hayride.
The corn fields had been harvested, and the round bales were in the field. All of the kids and some parents sat in the middle of the wagon on bales of hay looking outward. The wagon was pulled through the field slowly and close to the bales.
It was a perfect evening for a wagon ride, warm with a little breeze to blow up the corn leaves from the ground. The smell of dry corn in the air and the hay on the wagon filled everyone’s senses with anticipation. As the kids and parents loaded onto the wagon, they giggled and felt the excitement that was to come.
Some parents and I went into the field to scare the kids. We had planned where the wagon would go, so we knew where to hide behind the round bales. Chattering and still planning how we were going to scare our children, we all walked our separate ways. We stepped carefully through the chopped corn stalks which crunched under our feet. The moon was bright, and it was easy to see where to go.
Waiting to hear the tractor in the distance, we were giddy with a rush of anxiety, knowing it would be a fun but scary thing for our children. I could see the tractor and wagon coming out, as a few of the kids had flashlights that were radiating out and searching to see into the darkness. As the wagon got close to the hay bales, one parent, who was dressed as a witch, jumped out and cackled a loud and wicked sound. The kids all screamed; the fun had begun.
The driver drove around the field, and the kids knew with each bale coming up that something was going to happen. I was the scarecrow that stood in a frozen pose and waited until the wagon was right next to me, then I turned my head and looked at them. It was the best feeling ever to hear the screams. The kids then figured out it was only Mrs. Hinchley.
After the ride, we all rejoiced in the wonderful time we had with our children. We made memories with all of the families from Cambridge. As our children grew older, we made it into an annual event and eventually had a haunted barn too. Many late nights were spent spooking and running through the corn stalks to make people scream. The barn was taken down when the highway was expanded. I don’t miss all the work that went into the haunted barn, but we still have people who mention they came to our farm to be scared.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.