On any day of the year, Calico Ghost Town, in Yermo, California (just outside of Barstow on Interstate 15) is, well, a ghost town. On Halloween, all the skeletons come out of the closet and dance in the streets. Residents and vendors alike enthusiastically decorate with creepy cloth, dusty curtains, skulls and other scary stuff, in anticipation of two wild weekends of “Calico Ghost Haunt“. Apparently, campers at the adjacent campground also decorate, and the Ghost Haunt is supposed to include all kinds of family style Halloween activities, including the recently revived Ghost Tours. We were unable to make it, as we were there the weekend before.
In the 15 or so years since I last visited Calico, the town has added museums and attractions that weren’t previously available. Apparently being named California’s Official Silver Rush Ghost Town has been good for Calico and for San Bernardino County Regional Parks, which operates it.
The Maggie Mine tour is a kick. For $2 adults and $1.50 children over 5, we got to walk through one of the few stabilized mines anywhere. Every room has a mining scene, depicting the daily operation of a silver mine.
Just below the Maggie, Chinatown lies in ruins. One tiny stone hut is fitted with a cot, fireplace, and table to show the cramped quarters. Nearby lies a ruin that must have been a multi-family dwelling. We spent several minutes going in and out of all the rooms.
Another fun stop is the old schoolhouse, with desks
neatly lined up and slates at the ready. That little building out back (can’t see it in the picture) is the outhouse. My son was appalled when I told him about the wooden seat and the newspaper TP.
Other restored and/or rebuilt buildings include a blacksmith shop, firehouse, restaurant/hotel, saloon, post office/general store, newspaper office and several others. Many of these house gift shops, including one with lots of brain teasers, and a couple real leather shops.
Outside the sheriff’s office stands a jail cell and hangin’ tree.
Though there are several gift and souvenir shops, my
favorite has to be the old time general store. Complete with “unmentionables” hanging from the rafters, displays of bulk goods and old fashioned candies for sale. We got a couple of stick candies, and the licorice flavored one tasted more like real licorice than most of what passes for that particular candy on today’s market. With many items of antique clothing and other household goods on display, the general store is part museum, part convenience store, with propane, canned goods and other camping supplies, and part souvenir shop.
I frequently hear people refer to Halloween as a wicked or evil celebration. In fact, it is only in the past several centuries that some people have made it so. For most, it is merely a day to dress up in silly costumes and visit the neighbors begging for treats. The smiles I see on the faces of some of my neighbors, old and not so old, when the little ones come trick-or-treating, are priceless. They joyfully dole out sweets as parents silently calculate cavities. Or maybe that’s just one of the pleasantries of small town life.
Granted, there are those who like to make this night a “high feast to the devil”. All I can say is that there is and always has been sinfulness since the fall of Adam. Halloween, in the Catholic Church, began with trying to convert the various non-Christian peoples. Many had some kind of harvest festival involving the warding off of evil spirits. The church merely moved the Solemnity of All Saints to the following day, allowing the potential converts the practice of their custom on “All Hallows Eve” and then educating them about salvation with the Feast of All Saints the following day.
On All Saints Day, the Catholic Chuch celebrates the entering into eternal life of all those persons who, when on earth, strove to follow Christ. Including “canonized” saints like Francis of Assisi, and others, like perhaps someone you know.
The very next day is the Feast of All Souls, in Mexico, the “Day of the Dead”. On this day, we Catholics pray for the souls of all who have died, especially those dear to us. It is said that with God there is no time, so prayers said even after a person’s death can influence that dying soul’s decision to accept Christ’s mercy and attain final salvation.
What a blessed thought. What unfathomable mercy has our God! Praise and Glory to Him!