Debbie Braun has always loved spooky things, so it was only natural that Halloween would become her favorite time of year.
As a child, she would stay up late with her father watching old Alfred Hitchcock movies, and she loved to create haunted houses in her bedroom for her brother and friends to walk through. “I would have them touch ‘eyeballs’ (peeled grapes) or ‘guts’ (cooked noodles),” she said.
One year she dressed up her brother as a bloody werewolf, attached a dog collar with a leash and walked him around the neighborhood, trick or treating.
“How can you not love a holiday in which you get free candy?” she asked.
Her most vivid childhood memory, however, was visiting the home of Mary Forster, a neighbor who lived down the road. There were ghosts in the trees and spooky decorations all about. “I had to walk around the side of her house, go underneath a dark carport and knock on her sliding glass door,” Debbie remembered. “When she opened the door, she was dressed like a witch.”
Debbie’s Halloween goal was to someday be the “Mrs. Forster” of her neighborhood — and with that, she has most certainly succeeded. She even scared the dickens out of her own grandson, who didn’t want to get out of the car once he saw her creepy decorations.
“I told him, ‘It’s OK, it’s not real, these are just Gramma’s toys,’” she said. “But he yelled, ‘I DON’T LIKE YOUR TOYS!’ and went into meltdown mode.”
Gramma’s “toys” include an assortment of animatronics that light up, move and speak; motion-sensor dog and cat skeletons; ghosts that talk to each other; and six storage boxes full of costumes, wigs, hats, props and makeup.
Retired from a 30-year career as an English, speech and drama teacher, Debbie established a theater program at Oxford High School that became so popular, she was assigned to teach it full time. “My students produced three shows a year and competed in competitions,” she said.
Is it any wonder that she would put those theatrical talents to good use, dressing up and acting out every October? One year she might be a vampire with fangs, another the wicked witch from “Sleeping Beauty.”
Her husband, Eric Braun, also enjoys dressing up. “His creepy clown is pretty scary,” she said.
Eric’s hobby is painting, and for Halloween he uses his artistic skills to create a graveyard of tombstones scattered about their front lawn in Golden Springs.
What do the neighbors think?
“It’s a mixed reaction,” Debbie said. “Some give a ‘thumbs-up’ as they drive by, and others look like they’re not too sure what to think.”
In addition to putting the fright to neighborhood visitors, Debbie enjoys a good scare herself. Her favorite haunted house is the Terrortorium in Oxford, especially since they added the old Miracle Strip Haunted Dark Ride. “I grew up riding it down at the beach in Panama City,” she said. “I think it’s neat it ended up here.”
Debbie also loves all the classic horror movies such as “Dracula,” “Van Helsing” and “The Conjuring,” to name a few, but her favorite is the original “Halloween” starring Jamie Lee Curtis. “The newest one was great,” she said. “I loved all the nods to the original.”
Debbie’s obsession with Halloween isn’t limited to just decorations. She has fun in the kitchen, too, with a variety of spooky recipes. “I have a whole file of food and drink ideas,” she said. “Some of my favorites are Guacamoldy Eyeballs, Mummies on a Stick and Witches Brew.”
(From Taste of Home)
2 cups apple cider
2 cups vanilla ice cream
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into glasses and sprinkle with additional nutmeg. Makes four 6-ounce servings.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.