A Hobo Halloween Tree

The Spook House
by Kevin Ridgeway

the lights of the carnival lead us there
we quickly chug down what remains of our hot apple cider,
toss our half-eaten cotton candy in the over-flowing trash heap
and sit down in the first available buggy that takes us on a track
into the depths of an aluminum dungeon

a dollar store horror sound effects tape plays,
monsters grunt and people scream,
the roar of wind amplifies in our ears
rickety skeletons fly out from the darkness
and slowly retract back from where they came from
a half dozen of what appear to be Mexican Dracula’s rise
from various web-covered coffins,
and flea-bitten werewolf dummies grimace in corners,
their red eyes glowing next to steaming pots of
lord-knows-what and then:


everything stops, the ride has broken down
a whiskey soaked voice tells us to remain seated
the Mexican Dracula’s are still,
the werewolves’ eyes dim to nothingness
and Frankenstein’s monster stands vibrating in mid lurch
this house of horrors is only a cheap tin machine
that is packed away on trucks and taken from
town to town,

and as the glowing lights come back on
the monsters groan once more
the buggy moves forward on its track
almost to the final double doors that lead
us to the brisk autumn air outside
when a tremendous spider is suspended
from the ceiling just above our heads
and despite the fact that we saw through
the illusion of everything else on this ride
we still scream bloody murder
with the appearance of that spider,
horrified children once again
Kevin Ridgeway hails from Southern California, where he resides in a shady bungalow with his girlfriend and their one-eyed cat. Recent work has appeared in Zygote in my Coffee, Gutter Eloquence Magazine and Red Fez, among others. His chapbook of poetry, Burn through Today, is now available from Flutter Press. 
"Laughing at Death" photos by Kristin Fouquet.

Noah Cicero

Grew up in a town called Vienna, population less than a 1,000: the town aint’ nothing but forest, corn fields and dirt bike tracks.

Fall, always came, bringing new school clothes and colored leaves. Vienna only offered two small neighborhoods to trick or treat. There was one, in the center of town, but I went to the one called Karen Oval off of Smith-Stewart Road. Another track of land, etched out of a forest, when walking down Smith-Stewart on a fall day it is easy to have visions of pioneers holding axes, wearing overalls, chopping down trees to make this little obscure street called Smith-Stewart. Smith-Stewart is so old it can be seen on the 1856 map with three or four families, in 156 years it has only gained 40 to 50.

To me, growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, Karen Oval was the epicenter of Halloween. The older kids would take toilet paper rolls and fling them into the trees, so it seemed like ghosts were dangling from the branches and colored leaves. Kids and parents could be seen driving on their four wheelers, making sure everyone was all right. Vienna’s four cops were on the road that night making sure everyone was safe. Older boys in high school would carry chainsaws acting like badasses. And the oldest boys, like my brothers, would be driving their Camaros and pick-up trucks around stealing pumpkins from front yards, then they drive around probably smoking weed, drinking a few beers, then they would throw the stolen pumpkins onto each other’s driveways. You’d wake up on the day after Halloween to see pumpkin guts smashed on driveways all over town, but no one got in trouble, they were just pumpkin guts, and the rain, eventually, would wash the pumpkin guts away.


Noah Cicero lives in Korea teaching English to sad tired children. He wrote Best Behavior and The Insurgent.

Dena Rash Guzman

1993. I lived in a house of poets. The apartment was clove cigarette and fried egg sandwich scented. Books were everywhere, and bootleg videotapes. Video games. Elvis or Cowboy Junkies on the stereo, some other vinyl, sometimes Black Flag. We bickered over media. That again? Come on, dude.

Monsoons came regularly then, late in the summer. Monsoon nights we'd troll the desert in my car looking for UFOs. One night we saw a car on fire in the pouring rain. No one was near it. We drove past, dazed by the blaze, and then turned around to make sure no one needed our help. When we drove back again, it was gone. There was no car on fire.

I dressed as Amelia Earhart for Halloween. When I came downstairs, there was a knock on the door. I answered, expecting to greet my friend, but small children were standing there in costumes. Trick or treat, they said. I looked at their father, shocked. I said, oh my God. I forgot it was Halloween. He looked confused. I realized I was wearing the Amelia Earhart costume, flight goggles and gunne sack jumpsuit. Hold on, I said. Let me go see what I have. I came back with one brand new bag of dried apricots. I didn't know to which child to give them? How do you choose?

The children walked away with their angry father, without the apricots in either of their pillowcases.


Dena Rash Guzman is the founding editor of Unshod Quills and is the managing editor of H.A.L. Publishing.

Sarah San

In the fall. I return home. Travel across the sea. Swim in the deep blue sky. Arms outstretched. Ohio Autumn. I have the pleasure of being. What lucky timing.

I'll be home in time to watch the leaves change. Home in time to see shy girls dress in the bare minimum on Halloween to give erections to loud men dressed as Captain America. Home in time to cancel out my dads vote in this year’s presidential election. Ohio Autumn.

Eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day until I explode. then flying back to a country that doesn’t understand me.


Sarah San is a poet living in South Korea trying to understand. She is 24 years old and is from Kent, Ohio.

Jason Hardung

I’ve never been one for dressing up or begging for free stuff, so Halloween has never been a big deal for me. Back then it was about being scary but now it’s a holiday where it is acceptable to dress as slutty as you want, and I’m fine by that. I don’t beg for candy, but I will go out and watch the parade of skin. It’s the day when the most prudish girl in town feels it’s okay to dress up in thigh high stockings, her tits hanging out with electric tape over her nipples, and furry handcuffs on her belt. Halloween seems to get more and more popular and I think that is because people get tired of being themselves. Halloween is one day where we can be whoever we want to be, we can hide behind our masks and get drunk (every holiday is an excuse to drink) and we can be the slut we always wanted to be, if just for a night. What happens on Halloween, stays on Halloween, because it really wasn’t you.


Jason Hardung's work has appeared in a bunch of journals and magazines including:  3AM, Chiron Review, Evergreen Review, Word Riot, Thrasher Magazine, New York Quarterly.  He has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of The Web.  His first full length book of poetry, The Broken and the Damned, came out on Epic Rites Press in 2009.  His second, The Names of Lost Things was released in June of 2012 on Lummox Press.

Annmarie Lockhart

An editor’s conflicted feelings around autumnal festivities: Perhaps the most irritating thing of all is the inevitable cliché of it. I want to bake an apple pie, bathe in leftover
trick-or-treat candy to take the chill off graveyard air. The dancing bones of Dia de Los Muertos do not move me to motion; they put the fear of the grave in me. Jack-o-lanterns
distract from the pull of mortal consignment. But reading Poe is extra delicious in late October.


Annmarie Lockhart is the editor of vox poetica.

Nastia Lenkova

I was born in the Ukraine, but I've been in the States since I was a baby, so I consider this my home. Some of the earliest memories of my childhood were playing in massive piles of leaves in my backyard that my father would painstakingly rake. I would be outside in my warm, pink jacket jumping into his perfect piles and throwing the brown, yellow and red leaves above my head and laughing while my father would yell in his thick Ukrainian accent "Anastasia!!" from the back door of the house. Halloween was my favorite holiday. My mother would make all of my costumes and I would be out all night collecting candy. I would wear the costumes for at least a week afterwards. These days, walking through the woods in the fall for hours makes me happy. Being able to wear my hoodie while clutching a hot cup of coffee or cider is bliss. And yes, I still find a pile of leaves and jump in when I can. It's important to keep that little girl in me alive.


Nastia Lenkova is the co-editor of Decompression.

Christopher Higgs

1986. Third Grade. I choose to be a Soldier of Fortune. Deep jungle camouflage.  Ninja bandana.  Boot polish as face paint.  Plastic survival knife with serrated edge and compass on butt-end. President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev fail diplomatically in Reykjavík, Iceland.  We are bombing Libya.  We are one month away from the revelation of the Iran Contra Affair. Two months earlier, in Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S. Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill guns down fourteen of his co-workers before committing suicide.  Six months earlier, the Chernobyl disaster kills at least four thousand people.  Nine months earlier, Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates seventy-three seconds after launch, killing the crew of seven astronauts, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, an event I watch happen in real time, the same way I watch the second plane hit the South tower on the morning of September eleventh, two thousand and one. 

I am ejected from class, sent to the principal’s office for threatening another student with my knife.  To this day, I have never revealed the reason why I pinned Jeffery Lemon to the ground and held my blade to his throat.  Not to the principal, the school counselor, the police officers, my parents, not to anyone.  Nor will I confess my reason to you now.  I intend to keep the knowledge of what he did and what he said and why I would have gladly ended his life a secret. 

You may say to yourself, “an eight-year-old is incapable of murder.”  But I assure you, my only regret is the tenacity with which the gym teacher extracted me from the situation before I could puncture Jeffery Lemon’s jugular.  I can still see him, dressed as Superman, his cape bunched up over his head and his red shorts soaked with piss from fear.  I wish I could have extinguished his life in that moment.  I really do.  But then, I never saw him again.  He disappeared, or I moved away, that part of my memory is hazy. 

One month later, the actor Cary Grant dies.  Two months later a fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, kills ninety-seven and injures one hundred and forty.  Four months later, Andy Warhol dies.


Christopher Higgs wrote The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney, a novel (Sator Press), and assembled ONE, in collaboration with Blake Butler & Vanessa Place (forthcoming from Roof Books). He teaches literature at Florida State University, and curates the online art gallery Bright Stupid Confetti.

Katie Barnett

Apple picking was a pretty big deal in the Barnett house, so every late September or early October, we would head to the closest orchard and walk row after row. I remember finding the perfect apple, at nearly the top of a tree. It was a shiny, glistening red piece of perfection that I had to have. So my father reached as far as he could with a pole and managed to swing it into the netting at the end. He wanted to make sure that his efforts were worth it and made me eat that apple on the spot. It definitely was! He and my mom giggled at me as the juice from that Cortland apple streamed down my face, but it was as perfect as I imagined. It was sweet and delicious and to this day, no apple has ever come close to being as good. With our baskets of apples in the trunk, my father drove us to a diner to have dinner, while my mother would tell my sisters and I about all the things she planned to make with them. I definitely miss the simplicity of those days!


Katie Barnett is the co-editor of Decompression.

Brian Eckert

Halloween may have its origins in European pagan tradition, but nowhere today is the holiday celebrated more vigorously than in the United States. I’ve spent Halloween on four continents and can confidently say that America is the unofficial capital of Halloween celebrations—or, at least, those that involve getting wasted and dressed up. Not surprising in a country where most people are desperately trying to be something they’re not. Don’t let the disguises fool you, though. Underneath those elaborate getups are still Americans. With their American beliefs. Their American Outrage. Their American Self-Righteousness.

October 31, 2001. I’ve been invited to an off campus Halloween house party hosted by the brother of a friend of a girlfriend from the dormitory. I aim to be out the door in an hour and still don’t have a costume picked out. I down a couple of shower beers and decide to go as a terrorist, on account of a pretty solid beard I’ve been working on and the fact that I anyway, through some genealogical twist of fate, resemble a Paki.

The look is achieved by wearing my much larger roommate’s long sleeved tan oxford—which on me looks like a tunic—and wrapping a green scarf around my head. A novelty bandolier fortuitously scored from the dude next door, a pair of Jesus Sandals, and a Middle Eastern accent (which actually sounds Indian) provide the finishing touches.

It’s a mile or so walk to the single story ranch house on Mill Pond Road. I slip in the back past some people smoking butts on the patio. “Hey, fuckin bin Laden is here,” one of them says. Daft Punk’s “Around the World” plays at high volume. Bud Light, Keystone Light, and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum the drinks of choice. Also a veritable trough of that mixture known as “Jungle Juice,” an ubiquitous feature at college parties that’s super sweet and super strong and, for all intents and purposes, meant to radically increase the chances of young women making bad decisions.

The décor is typical of guys who want to show they’re above dorm room posters but not quite ready for a Magritte. Photos of Boston sports heroes dominate: Bobby Orr’s dive. Carlton Fisk waving his shot fair in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Bird choking Doc J. Havlicek stealing the ball. There’s also a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush in the corner near the keg. His teeth have been blacked out and a blunt, drawn-on with a Sharpie, is dangling from his left hand.

Aware that my terrorist garb could very well elicit some bad blood in the post-9/11 patriotic fervor, I am relieved to find that two other guests are going to be the main outlet for Islamic blood lust.

Using large boxes wrapped in tinfoil save for face holes, two guys are dressed as the World Trade Center Towers. They’ve used action figures attached to the sides of the boxes with fishing line to simulate victims jumping to their deaths and pushed toy planes through the top portions of the boxes.

I suck down a few Bud Lights, play the wall, and look for a familiar face. I recognize another guy form the dorm. He’s there with a new girlfriend, one of those girls who I refer to as “well maintained;” not necessarily good-looking, but nice hair, skin, clothing, teeth like Chiclets, physically fit, etc. A biological product of East Coast money.

Getting into character, I joke about her boyfriend being an “infidel.” He laughs, but I can tell she doesn’t like it—and generally doesn’t approve of my outfit—so I kick it up a notch. In my Paki/Indian accent I say I’m going to slit the throat of her American Pig boyfriend. She slaps me.

People start to look our way. I diffuse the situation by walking away and chatting up another acquaintance. We sign up to play a game of beer pong. Our team name reads: “Pink Panther and bin Laden.” Elvis and the Incredible Hulk, the current table champions, are killing it. “Thank you, thank you very much,” says Elvis as he seals the victory by nailing the last remaining cup.

A commotion in the corner turns my attention away from the game. The North Tower and three guys dressed as American Gladiators are getting into a little brouhaha, egged on by the same hysterical bitch who slapped me.

“I could see if you lost somebody in the attack…” says the man in the box.

“What does it matter?” she yells, cutting him off. “This tragedy affects every American. Don’t you have any compassion? It’s just…it’s too soon!”

As I write this more than 11 years later, it’s still “too soon.” It’s always too soon to talk about things that induce us to behave irrationally.

The Gladiator Turbo cracks his knuckles and puffs his chest out, says to the North Tower, “Yeah, I think you should take it off, or else just get out of here.”

“Fuck you, Turbo. Why don’t you go run the Eliminator and leave me alone. I’ll wear what I want to wear. You fucking morons want to talk about how the terrorists attacked us for our freedoms, but I don’t even have the freedom to dress up the way I want to without some macho dickheads giving me shit.”

Laser steps in and whacks the North Tower on the side of the head with his pugil stick. Gemini gets into an athletic position and holds his stick at the ready. A guy dressed as Hugh Hefner starts to imitate the American Gladiator theme song (dum dum da dum dum dum, da da da dum…).

Turbo shoves the North Tower, who stumbles back into the crowd. People hold him upright, push him towards the Gladiators. The South Tower forces his way through bodies and enters the fray, trying to stand up for his buddy. Gemini thumps him in the vicinity of the crotch with his pugil stick and then delivers a crosscheck that sends him to the ground. The Towers can barely move their arms, never mind fight back.

“The South Tower is down!” shouts somebody. “Fuck ‘em up!” yells another person.

The North Tower tries to make a run for it but trips over his fellow edifice and goes down. With both Towers fallen, the Gladiators start to kick them. Laser delivers an elbow drop to the South Tower that collapses one side of the box.

Random bystanders now start to kick the Towers, who are yelling, pleading, for people to stop the attack. The bodies roll into the vicinity of my feet.

I don’t intend to join the violence. The girl who slapped me glares at me as if to say, “Well, who’s side are you on, Mr. Terrorist?” I don’t doubt that she set this whole thing off, nor do I doubt that she’d like to, and very well could, turn the mob against me.

I rear back, kick clear through the box of the closest body to me. My toes bend painfully back as they meet rib. Turbo high-fives me. I am a good American this night.


Brian Eckert dispatches manifestos about all and sundry from Denver, Colorado. Read and learn more at www.brian-eckert.com.


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The views and opinions expressed throughout belong to the individual artists and may or may not coincide with those of the other artists (or editors) represented within the magazine. Hobo Camp Review supports a free-for-all atmosphere of artistic expression, so enjoy the poetry, fiction, opinions, and artwork within, read with an open mind, and comment wisely. Thanks for stopping by the Camp!