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I've never been much of a fan of Halloween. It probably stems from being forced to watch "Frankenstein" as a 5-year-old and never getting a good night's sleep thereafter until sometime in high school.

Actually, now that I think about it, "Halloween" the movie came out while I was in high school, and I didn't sleep after that, either, so it must have been college when I was able to chase away the nightmares. Probably thanks to the discovery of beer.

As a little kid, Saturday night sleepovers were especially traumatic for me because my friends loved watching the horror films on "Shock Theatre." The films would end, the lights would go off and then I'd lie there with the sheet over my head imagining that every creaky floorboard or branch against the window was the Mummy himself coming for me.

Of course, I tried to play it off, but the music always got me. Same with "Halloween." Who doesn't look over their shoulder when they hear that creepy music?

But even with that, Halloween and the witches and ghosts and goblins never really bothered me. People in masks bother me. A lot. I very much dislike people in masks. It doesn't matter if it's a smiling clown offering hamburgers, a grinning baseball looking for a hug or a guy in a Michael Myers' mask looking for my heart, they are all the same to me.

What I really dislike is when someone comes up to me in a mask and acts all smug because I have no idea who they are.

That said, we did all of the usual stuff as kids on Halloween growing up. I remember as a small child going around our neighborhood in Rossville, Georgia, with sportswriter Lindsey Young. He lived across the street, and I remember we had to return to our homes at least once to empty our pillowcases of all of their candy.

A few years later, after we moved to Brainerd, my parents hosted a Halloween party as a way for us to meet kids in our new school. My dad dressed as some sort of headless ghoul with a plastic sheet over his head and handed out peeled grapes telling kids they were his eyeballs.

It seemed kind of innocent at the time, but now seems extra creepy when you actually see it in written form like that.

I was pretty good at conceiving what I thought were hilarious ideas and then chickening out. In high school, I suggested to my best friend and brother that it'd be funny to go trick-or-treating a week early and without any costumes. Just knock on doors and ask for candy to see how people reacted.

My brother and friend had a great time and came home with candy to boot. I stayed home with a sheet over my head.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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