Photo by JOE Planas via Unsplash

As I get older, one of the Halloween memories that still haunts me to this day is from when I was 12 years old; I was a runaway. While I was roaming the street by myself one evening, I recognized my father’s van pulling up to the main street about five blocks away from our home. I hid behind some bushes so my father wouldn’t be able to see me. That’s when I saw my father come out of the van to go trick-or-treating with my little sister. I was crushed. I still feel the same way today because I should have been a good boy and have been there for my little sister.

I asked six other residents at California Substance Abuse and Treatment Center about their Halloween memories.

Pablo Adame, lifer

Q: What kind of memories about the fall or Halloween does this time of year trigger?

Pablo: I remember being raised by a poor, single mom. We had to go out to rich neighborhoods to trick-or-treat in order to get plenty of good candies.

Q: What was your favorite costume?

Pablo: Horror movie costumes like Freddie Krueger or Jason Voorhees.

Q: Tell a story about a time you went trick-or-treating.

Pablo: I remember one time I told my mother to take me trick-or-treating real late
at night so the homeowners would give us more candy because there was no one else left. I was right. If people ran out of candy they would give us gifts or money.

Q: How do you reflect on those memories from behind bars?

Pablo: I’m both happy and sad. Another time, when I was little, I asked my
grandmother to buy me a Halloween costume. She didn’t buy me one
because we were poor. I was upset, so my grandmother made a statement
out of me by dressing me up as a girl. I went to school like that and I was
embarrassed. My teacher was kind-hearted. She told my classmates that I was dressed up as Punky Brewster. The kids thought it was cool, and that made me feel a little better. We even had a costume contest and my teacher declared me as the winner. Ha ha! My kids are 14 and 15. I wish I could take them out trick-or-treating.

Rafael Marquez, inmate

Q: What kind of memories about the fall or Halloween does this time of year trigger?

Rafael: I always remember that Halloween was my grandfather’s favorite holiday, and that he wished to die on Halloween. His wish came true when he passed away in old age.

Q: What was your favorite costume?

Rafael: Our family was poor, so I never got any costume for Halloween.

Q: Tell a story about a time you went trick-or-treating.

Rafael: When I got older, I bought expensive matching Halloween costumes for me and my son, for when we go trick-or-treating together.

Q: How do you reflect on those memories from behind bars?

Rafael: We both were dressed up as monkeys. I was very happy because I heard a lot of compliments. That was my best Halloween moment ever.

Juan Cantu, lifer

Q: What kind of memories about the fall or Halloween does this time of year trigger?

Juan: I have a lot of Halloween memories. I can go on forever telling you all kinds of stories.

Q: What was your favorite costume?

Juan: An animal costume.

Q: Tell a story about a time you went trick-or-treating.

Juan: I can remember the first time I found out what trick-or-treating was about. When I was five, my older brother put on his costume and got a paper bag to collect candies from people’s doors. I got myself a paper bag and went to knock on people’s doors and got a lot of candies. It was fun.

Q: How do you reflect on those memories from behind bars?

Juan: Halloween is my favorite holiday because it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, you can still go out trick-or-treating and get candies.That’s cool, man.

Khaisean Smith-Love, inmate

Q: What was your favorite costume?

Khaisean: When I was a kid, I liked dressing up as a football player.

Q: Tell a story about a time you went trick-or-treating.

Khaisean: Shoot! One time, I went to knock on someone’s door. Two people in wolverine and vampire costumes chased me with a chainsaw. That scared the hell out of me.

Q: How do you reflect on those memories from behind bars?

Khaisean: Sad. Cause I can’t be with my kids and take them out trick-or-treating.

Kyle Tackett, inmate

Q: What kind of memories about the fall or Halloween does this time of year trigger?

Kyle: Decorating the house and going out trick-or-treating.

Q: What was your favorite costume?

Kyle: I liked dressing up as a giant pumpkin or a zombie.

Q: Tell a story about a time you went trick-or-treating.

Kyle: My mom drove me and my brother around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, and we got a bunch of candies. It was fun!

Q: How do you reflect on those memories from behind bars?

Kyle: I reflect on all of the good times we had. I miss that a lot.

Dawone Finnell, inmate

Q: What kind of memories about the fall or Halloween does this time of year trigger?

Dawone: Happy memories with my cousins.

Q: What was your favorite costume?

Dawone: I always liked to dress up as the Scream character from the Scream movies.

Q: Tell a story about a time you went trick-or-treating.

Dawone: Me and my cousin were going trick-or-treating one night. We were walking across the park at night in the dark and we both fell into a water pond.

Q: How do you reflect on those memories from behind bars?

Dawone: Damn. What can I do to be a kid again. I wish I can make different choices, so I don’t have to be in prison right now.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Tue Kha

Tue Kha is a writer incarcerated in California. He is working on a novel titled "Kormic."