Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beyond salad, a Minnesota Halloween horror story October 31, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I’M NOT A BIG FAN of scary anything. Reality is scary enough. So if you want to talk about things that go bump in the night, exclude me from the conversation.

Yet, when Halloween rolls around, it’s pretty difficult to avoid that which frightens. Right now, as I write, I look out my office window across the street to a Scream face. I’ve never seen the movie, or whatever, that features this character. But I recognize the image as something meant to frighten.

I can’t exactly stride across the street and yank the cloth from my neighbor’s front yard tree. That wouldn’t be nice. But if I had little kids…

Kid talk brings to mind a particularly memorable Halloween from my youth. As a member of the Junior Legion Auxiliary, I attended a Halloween party held in the basement of the local veterinarian’s house. Can you see where this is going?


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of grapes in a Minnesota vineyard. Grapes used for wine, not salad.


The vet’s daughter blindfolded me and then asked me to touch something. “Cow eyeballs,” she said. Now you can only imagine how horrifying that experience to an impressionable elementary-aged girl. As my fingertips landed on the cold orbs and those frightening words were uttered, I shrieked. Cold grapes feel an awful lot like cow eyeballs, let me tell you. Not that I’ve ever touched a cow’s eyeballs.

Likewise, cold spaghetti feels like guts. I don’t know that I touched anything else in that vet’s basement after that. But the experience has stuck with me as a particularly memorable Halloween.

And, yes, I eat grapes.

TELL ME: I’d like to hear your memorable Halloween stories. Keep in mind that I’m not a big fan of scary.

NOW, IF YOU’RE WONDERING about the title of this piece, flash back to November 2014 when a New York Times reporter wrote an article listing the Thanksgiving recipes that “evoke each of the 50 states.” For Minnesota, he chose Grape Salad. That unleashed The Grapes of Wrath from Minnesotans who found that an absurd choice for our state. Most of us, but not all, had never heard of, let alone eaten, Grape Salad. Oh, the horror of eating cow’s eyeballs.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “Beyond salad, a Minnesota Halloween horror story”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Halloween has gotten really popular over the past 10 years and I too remember they eyeballs and guts that you mentioned. I am not a really scare easy gal so they didn’t really bother me that much because I knew it wasn’t really that. But then I did not experience it in a vet’s basement. 🙂

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    I recall something similar in elementary school. There were grapes and spaghetti and a whole bunch of other things. What a fun childhood memory. I wonder if this is still done these days.


  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    You had fun titling this one! My favorite halloween memory from my own childhood is probably carving the pumpkin on the dining room table of my parents’ old house on Polk Street in NE Minneapolis when I was in first or second grade. We had this big old oak table and there were no pumpkin carving kits then – just my dad selecting the best knife for the job from our kitchen and then my mom spreading the newspapers all over the table so we would not make too big a mess. And, of course, trick-or-treating down our street, looking at other kids in masks in the dark and trying to figure out if they were kids I knew from school. And watching It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Those are my own favorite memories and I made a whole bunch more with my own kids.

  4. I’ve never been a fan of Halloween or dressing up and still don’t like it much–I just can’t get into dressing as someone or something other than who I am. I do, however, like to entertain stories of things that go bump in the night, but not slasher bloody horror films. I agree with your assessment that reality is scary enough.

  5. Jackie Says:

    No particular scary stories about Halloween for me. I just remember filling a pillow case with candy, and how we could just run from house to house with not a worry in the world. Now days you hate to let your kids out of your site. Happy Halloween my friend. 🙂

  6. I am the type that if you scare me you better be ready for what may come – I either will fight back or run for the hills. I also am the type of person that tends to laugh when certain inappropriateness takes place. For instance, mister man tried on a scary mask while in the store and I laughed. Later on at home he scared the wits out of me and I almost threw what I had in my hands at him, but kept it contained – no damage done. I prefer treats over tricks and scares. Happy Halloween 🙂

  7. Don Says:

    Growing up my uncle lived a couple of blocks from our family and being a doctor he would administer our family flu shots. For some reason this always occurred on Halloween. I hated shots and was apprehensive /scared to get them . I remember dreading the walk to his house, and once there the smell of rubbing alcohol, and the tinkle, tinkle, tinkle sound of hypodermic needles bouncing around inside a pan of boiling water on the stove sterilizing the needles. Halloween was always a scary time for me, not because of the things normally associated with Halloween but because of these flu shots!

  8. That must have been a 70’s thing as I had the same experience at a Halloween party I attended in the 70’s before the internet seems to tell all before hand. Then we dunked for apples. Do people even do that anymore?
    Maybe your neighbor will take and replace the decoration with something else in the coming years that isn’t so disturbing. If my brother is your neighbor I wouldn’t count on it. As he has the most bizarre yard every year.

  9. melirey96 Says:

    I too not a big fan of frightening things, especially anything that looks evil. One of my memorial Halloween as a child was when I was in elementary school and we use to go to school dressed in our Halloween costumes . I was dressed as Strawberry Little Shortcake and I remember dunking for apples . That was the best part of Halloween for me growing up.

  10. Valerie Says:

    I’ve forgotten about the grapes in a bag trick, and the spaghetti.

    I think my favorite costume when I was a little girt was dressing up as a scarecrow, straw and all…

  11. Claudette Says:

    I grew up without Halloween (in Switzerland) and never really understood the whole thing. I mean, I get it, kids like candy, but the rest of it? I was confused more than anything (I was 11 when we moved to Canada). Fast forward to having a daughter who is SOOOO into it, it’s hard not to get caught up in her enthusiasm! As far as the scary stories stuff is concerned? I’m not really into any of them. The kids think I’m weird for watching The Walking Dead, so there’s that. lol 🙂

  12. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Your story reminds me of a similar experience in elementary school. We were given treats on Halloween with dirt & worms (chocolate pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy worms) in the dark and expected to eat them. Nope not me I wouldn’t touch it!

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