Halloween in PHV

After moving back to the States after 4th grade, I always found trick-or-treating to be somewhat of a disappointment.  I think that’s because most of my early Halloween experiences were spent in Patrick Henry Village.   It’s possible that my memories could have become somewhat sugar-coated over the decades, but I think really PHV was a special place to be during this holiday.

Surely because of the high concentration of families with young kids, participation in Halloween was really high in PHV.  I recall that as you walked down the street, in all directions you would hear ominous music and haunting laughter as well as eerie lights and flashing strobes.  There was always something happening just up ahead which would make you urge your parents to walk faster so that you could experience the next thing.   I also remember smaller things in between the big attractions, such as a string tied from a 2nd-floor window to a tree on the other side of the sidewalk, and someone would slide a little tissue ghost down in front of your path just to give you a little scare.

The apartment buildings were generally set up with three entrances leading to interior apartments, and I don’t recall ever climbing the stairs to hit individual apartments.  My guess would be that in many cases the occupants of a particular stairwell (six apartments) would get together to plan how their entrance would be decorated.  I particularly recall one doorway where a witch bathed in purple light sat beckoning with a bowl of candy on her lap and I had to be convinced to approach her.

Each unit had a long hallway in the basement running the length of the building, and some buildings would turn this hall into a haunted house–enter through one end, exit through the other.  These hallways were lined with doors to storage areas, giving them ample opportunities to jump out at you or set up grisly displays for you to pass by.  The laundry room was also down there, and I recall this larger room often being turned into the main attraction of the haunted basement, or the place where you got your candy reward for braving the scares.

In addition to all the resident-created scares, I recall that there were official events happening in one of the buildings in the northern part of the village.   My guess would be that it was in the recreation center just south of the Officers Club, or at least I remember that building as a rec center.  In this building I can remember bobbing for apples and also searching for needles in a haystack, only the needles turned out to be butterscotch candies.

One year I chose a costume off the rack just because I thought it looked neat — it was one of those cheap plastic pullover sets with equally flimsy plastic mask that was held on by a rubber band and hard to breathe through.  It was a Martian, that’s all I knew about it.  I recall getting a lot of questions and confused looks from adults because nobody knew what I was dressed up as.  I actually had to dig around a bit to find the answer, since this creature comes from a film I’ve still yet to see: 1955’s This Island Earth:

From the Halloweens I’ve observed in other places I’ve lived, including my current neighborhood, it seems like a rather reserved affair where most of the time it’s just adults in everyday clothing sitting at the end of their driveway with a bowl of candy.  Houses that are actually converted into attractions–smiling ghosts and pumpkins in the window don’t count–seem to be a real rarity, and you have to travel to a dedicated haunted house to get any proper Halloween atmosphere.  Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times, since it seems to be becoming increasingly taboo to actually scare children on Halloween, but I think at least in part the residents and staff of PHV worked to make it a true experience and memory for their collective kids.

Since it’s been well over 30 years since I lived in PHV, I’d love to hear any confirmation of the experience I remember, and would be delighted to learn that this is still a PHV tradition today!

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11 thoughts on “Halloween in PHV

  1. tatiana

    OMGG…..You have described my PHV EXPERIENCE TO THE FULLEST!!!….It just brings back some of the BEST MEMORIES EVER. I see lots of things have changed but looking at some photos i’ve seen I still recognize a lot of places…..SMILE…THANKS AGAIN…..PHV FOR LIFE!!!!

    • Brent B.

      This is amazing. Me and my brother grew up here and recently discovered this. We had a blast growing up here. Everything is exactly how I remember it from looking at the Google map. We first lived in Bruhl then moved to PHV. We lived right behind the football field. I remember there was a huge mat for pole vaulting in the football field but it was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. So me and my brother would go under it or climb it and jump on it like a trampoline. I do remember a burger king being on base that doesn’t look like its there now along with a half pipe for skateboarding that they must of got rid of. Also looks like they took all the sand out of the playground. Wow this is great!

      • The Burger King would have definitely been after my time; I think I also read somewhere that there was an Applebee’s in PHV for a time. When I was there, which I think may have been around 1977-1981, give or take a year, there weren’t really any “name brand” shops like that as far as I can recall. I’m also pretty sure there wasn’t a skate park there at the time, since I didn’t really become aware of skateboarding until I was in high school.

  2. joey

    oh yeah-the haunted cellars… I know that we had at least one during my time there- on san juan circle. and most definitely I remember the ‘communal’ dispensing of candy at the entrance to each stairwell – it spread out the work and kept kids (and their parents) from having to climb all those stairs in our costumes.

  3. If such a thing still happened on PHV, I didn’t witness it while I was there. I know around here people in townhouses do the door to door thing while people in the stairwells who wanted to participate went down to the parking lot to hand out candy. On PHV the only thing I recall hearing about was a ‘trunk or treat’ where kids went from car to car getting candy.

    • It’s possible that my memory is exaggerating just how active PHV was during Halloween, just because I was so young and can’t really remember any Halloween before living there. However, the fact that I’m always disappointed with trick-or-treating here in the States makes me think PHV really did go all out. It’s a shame if that got lost sometime after I moved away, but maybe the more indifferent attitude got imported from the States.

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  6. Monika

    No, I also remember insane Halloweens, everyone going ALL OUT, kids in costumes everywhere. PHV! Loved it! We were stationed there when I was in middle school and one year of high school (when I took the bus to Mark Twain Village) in the late 70s. This blog is amazing. Military kids have the BEST childhoods!! 🙂

  7. Shawn

    I just found your blog. It brought back so many memories I thought were long forgotten. Thank you. Halloweens were the best there and you described them exactly how I remember them. I don’t think Ive found another place in my time similar to halloweens in PHV.

  8. dwaynetanner

    I was just reminiscing about taking my kids around PHV in the 2005-2007 timeframe. It was pretty much exactly as you described it still even then. The community command always set the trick-or-treating times (usually from 5-7 PM) and you were not allowed to go door-to-door in the apartment buildings. Instead, all the families who wanted to participate would decorate at the ground floor entrance and pass out candies and treats. There were hundred of families participating and our kids always got more candy than they could eat (or so we adults convinced them 🙂 ). Oh yeah – that building you described as the rec center was most likely the Village Pavilion. That place saw time as the Officer’s Club, community center, and great place to eat over the years. As for an Applebee’s on PHV, that never happened – but there WAS a Chili’s restaurant there from about 2000-2005. It was located in the building right next to the Shoppette. The building was later condemned and Chili’s was closed for health reasons.

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