Saturday, November 04, 2017

Halloween Memories: 1992

Halloween may be over this year, but the memories of it, and Halloweens past, remain. Like the time I got kicked out of a German Castle for trespassing on Halloween.

It was 1992, and I was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, at Rhein-Main Air Base, a member of the 435th Security Police Squadron. I rarely went off-base--the Germans in Frankfurt made it painfully obvious they didn't like G.I.s--not even when I tried to speak their language, putting those GPA-killing three years I'd studied in High School to use. 

This particular Halloween, one of our new Sergeants, who had been stationed in Germany years before, told everyone how we should, as a group, go out together and celebrate Halloween properly--in a haunted castle. Our Sergeant explained that yes, we could drive south, past Darmstadt, to "The Frankenstein Castle" where a big Halloween party happened every year, or we could go to a better castle he knew of with a slightly smaller crowd. 

Our Flight voted and agreed to go on this journey, those with wives or girlfriends bringing along their companions (I brought my camcorder). We chipped in and rented three big vans and managed to fit every one inside. And then, we set out into the night...

It had been years since our Sergeant had been to the castle we were seeking, so what should have been a quick drive turned into a several-hour excursion, full of narrow, dark backroads, wrongturns and lots of griping. But eventually, somehow, we reached our destination: an old German Castle tucked away in the middle of nowhere. But there were no signs of life: no party, or group of paranormal tourists gathered. So what do thirty or so liquored-up G.I.s decide to do? Why, we went exploring. 

Fortunately, we had brought two of our German Nationals with us--these were local Germans the Air Force hired to work alongside the Security Police, offering translation services for those of us who didn't speak the local tongue. And, as luck would have it, one of our Germans was a big history buff. He knew all about castles. 

Somehow, we made our way around the exterior of the castle to some stairs leading up to an upper level. It was a broad landing, probably where archers had once stood, or maybe guys with vats of bubbling oil or something. As we stood around, talking, I happened to look over to the side wall--which had large windows installed. 

The castle was not deserted. It was full of people. People in very fancy clothes, all seated at tables, having some kind of fancy dinner. It was all very black tie, with what looked to be tuxedos, ladies in evening gowns, that kind of thing. And all of them were looking towards the unruly G.I.s outside with utter disdain. It was like we had stumbled across the awards banquet of SPECTRE or some other insidious, international organization of evil. 

Everyone laughed it off, several of us speculating that they must have turned the castle into some kind of restaurant or lodge in the time since our Sergeant had been here last. Several folks decided to go back to the ground level and find the front door to see if we could get reservations--dinner in the warm interior of the castle-restaurant sounded pretty good after our long drive from Frankfurt. 

The rest of us split up into groups, spreading out to explore the exterior more. I ended up with several folks ascending stairs into a tower. I struck my head several times, commenting that my German ancestors must have been some tiny little guys. 

Once we reached the top, we actually found a shaft for pouring hot oil down--or so our local told us. It had been covered up with a metal grating. He gave us a long story about the defenses such a castle had and we descended down to the landing with the windows into the restaurant. Then we got a good scare...

The Castlemeister, or whatever they called him, was furious and demanding we all leave. He was threatening to call Polizei (German police) and have us removed. This wasn't a restaurant, it was a private castle and we were not invited! (Reinforcing my theory this was a dinner for members of dastardly order of dubious origins, or maybe vampires or something). 

And thus, ended our night, with our group rounded up, packed back into our vans, and facing another hour or so drive back to base. My alcohol was fully burned off by the time we got back. It was late, and I was tired and cold. While most of the group decided to set back out and try to make it to the Frankenstein Castle before the post-midnight activities died, I (and several others) just went back to the dorms to sleep off our disappointment. 

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