LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — The Spook House

As Halloween approaches, I remember one year as a young girl growing up on a farm outside of Ashby, Minn., when we decided to create a “Spook House” in an old abandoned house on our farm. And charge admission.

My two older sisters joined in. We were about 5, 7 and 9.

We had different “spooky” experiences set up in different rooms of the shanty as we called it. There was no glass in any of the windows of the shanty, so the wind blew through adding an undercurrent of “spooky” sounds. I doubt if there were working doors either.

We charged 10 cents to “Enter.” We probably had three paying customers in total. I like to think it was an early example of the entrepreneurial spirit that ran in our family and continues today.

One of us would lead the unsuspecting visitor through by the hand while the others made spook sounds in the background in other rooms like Eeeeeeeee, Ooooooouuuuuwwww and Aaaaahhhhhh!

But I remember Mother’s dear friend, Lena Hoff, the best. She was a jolly, neighbor who lived a couple of miles south of us and would come over to have my Mother color her hair every few months. Mother (Elva Evander) had been a hairdresser in California before marrying Dad (‘Bud’ La Valleur) in Las Vegas and moving to Minnesota in the 1940s.

Lena was probably in her 70s and, of course, I thought she was incredibly old. Having turned 70 on July 7 of this year and being much wiser myself, I now know that is certainly not true.

To our delight, Lena “squealed” when we placed her hand in a bowl filled with “eye balls” We told her after she was all through with the tour, it was really pealed grapes. Did I mention we blindfolded all who entered? After all, it “was” a “Spook House.”

Somehow, we had climbed up to cover the holes of the shanty’s roof so it would be darker. The shanty’s floor boards were old and creaked to add more authentic sound effects.  For added impressions, we placed dead twigs along the floors telling our visitors they were stepping on dead people’s bones. Wooooooooww!

We set up a makeshift table, probably made from an old unhinged door on boxes, that contained a large bowl. We had placed a water and flour mixture in the bowl and when they placed their hands in the thin goo, we squealed, “It’s blood!”   Eeeeeeeeee!

When they touched another container of old chicken bones, we cried out, Oooouuuuuuuu! “You’re touching a dead man’s knuckles.”  Aaaaaaaahhh!

A large bowl of cold spaghetti served as “worms,” another questionably disgusting experience. Yuuuuuke!

Two other rural neighbor “victims” who remained lifelong family friends also toured Spook House. They were Eivor Jedlund, a native of Sweden, and Gladys (Fisher) Soland, whose hand made doll clothes I still cherish.

Sharon remembers Mother’s concern for Lena, “You could have given her a heart attack!”

It puts a smile on my face to remember those fun times growing up on the farm. I’d like to think there are still young entrepreneurs out there doing something like that today.

As to the spooky sounds, I’m sure there’s an app for that.

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