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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Overcast
The Paper
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My earliest and most vivid Halloween memory goes back many years, to grade-school days in the gritty mill town of Donora, Pa. My mom, having labored with needle and thread to outfit me as a squirrel for a fall school production, was determined to get more mileage out of her wardrobe endeavors and signed me up for our town's Halloween parade.

I was a minor hit, for a solo rodent, especially among my classmates sprinkled along the parade route. "Hey, Vince is wearing his play costume," they exclaimed jealously. Why hadn't such a simple concept occurred to them? Because they didn't have my mom doing their thinking for them like I did.

It's a long way from Donora, Pa. back then to Madison, Wis. now, no matter what route you take, but when you read this week's cover story, "Wild Things" by Kent Williams, you'll realize it's not as far as one might think. As you'll learn from Williams' research, Halloween has a long tradition, going back as far as the druids and probably even farther. You'll also learn that mayhem and anarchy have often marked the holiday's observance. That may even be its purpose, but I'll let Williams parse that one out for you.

That we visit the topic at all is, of course, in anticipation of the upcoming celebrations leading up to the hallowed evening. The major event will be the Oct. 27 State Street bacchanal, Freakfest. Once again the city will fence off State Street, charge a cover and provide copious amounts of entertainment on three stages in order to short-circuit the riotous behavior that has marred past celebrations. The powers that be were successful with this formula last year. Time will tell whether this becomes a trend.

Isthmus will be there, sponsoring the activities on the Isthmus Stage at Peace Park. We'll be hosting Gomeroke and the winner of the Battle of the Bands contest, as well as the official Freakfest costume contest. There'll be a live blog as well at

The Daily Page Halloween is not limited to Freakfest. Go there right now and you'll find a Halloween page with related stories going all the way back to 2006; there's even a retrospective on 2005. As the week progresses, you'll find listings and reports of other Halloween-related events such as "The Death of Fashion" show at the Majestic and the sci-fi B-movie series at the Wisconsin Historical Museum Oct. 24-31. We talk Halloween around here.

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